Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchups: Xavier vs Providence

Before every game, Rick provides a position-by-position look at what to expect. This edition focuses on Wednesday night's Big East battle against Providence at the Cintas Center.

Edmond Sumner FR (6-6, 183) vs Kris Dunn JR (6-4, 220)

Sumner has averaged 13.0 points per game over the last four games, including Saturday's 12-point effort (4-6 FG) with four rebounds, three assists and two steals against Butler. He's 3-for-8 from 3-point range during that stretch. He had his worst game of the season on January 26 at the Dunkin Donuts Center when the Musketeers beat the Friars 75-68. He finished with one point, and was 0-for-9 from the field. He did have eight rebounds, three assists and two steals in 31 minutes, but it just wasn't his night, particularly on the offensive end. He'll likely matchup with Cartwright when the Musketeers are in their man-to-man defense. Dunn was 6-of-15 from the field with 16 points in that first game against XU. He also added eight rebounds, seven assists, and seven steals in 38 minutes of action. For the season, he's averaging 17.1 points, 6.6 assists, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.0 steals in 33.7 minutes per game, while shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from three on 82 attempts. He's coming off a 20-point performance (5-11 FG, 0-1 3PT) with six rebounds and five assists in Saturday's win over Georgetown. 

Significant Edge Providence

Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs Kyron Cartwright SO (6-0, 185)

Davis ranks top 10 in the Big East in several categories, including ninth in assists (3.6 apg),  second in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.4:1), third in free-throw percentage (86.6%), eighth in 3-point field goals per game (1.8), and 10th in 3-point field goal percentage (38.0%). He finished with 13 points on 5-of-10 from the field, including 1-of-6 from deep, last time against Providence. He also had seven assists, five rebounds and three steals in 35 minutes against the Friars. He's been a little quiet on the offensive end over the last two games, laying a goose egg at Creighton and following that up with a nine-point effort at Butler (granted he only played 17 minutes). He'll likely matchup with Lomomba when Xavier is in its man-to-man. Cartwright went 2-for-11 from the floor, including 1-for-6 from three, with seven points and five rebounds in 34 minutes in the first game against Xavier. For the season, he's averaging 5.0 points, 3.8 assists, and 2.0 rebounds in 23.4 minutes per game, while shooting 35.6 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep (14-35 3PT). Over the last three games, he's hit just 2-of-15 shot attempts and has averaged 2.0 ppg. 

Moderate Edge Xavier

Remy Abell SR (6-4, 197) vs Junior Lomomba JR (6-5, 205)

Abell looked like a different player on Saturday as he broke a two-game scoreless streak by knocking down 5-of-8 field goal attempts for 12 points. He was assertive on offense, looking to attack the rim when he had an opening. Last time against Providence, he had six points on 2-for-2 shooting from 3-point range. He'll draw the challenge of guarding Dunn again when the Musketeers are in their man-to-man, but expect to see a lot of 1-3-1 zone. Lomomba scored seven points (2-6 FG, 1-4 3PT), grabbed three boards, and dished out three assists in 33 minutes in that game against Xavier. For the season, he's averaging 6.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 27.2 minutes per game, while shooting 42.1 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from 3-point range on 36 attempts. He's scored in double figures just twice during conference play, but one of those games was last Wednesday against Marquette when he went 4-of-5 from the floor and finished with 11 points and six assists. He's 6-of-8 from the field over the last two games. 

Even

Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 207) vs Rodney Bullock SO (6-8, 225)

Bluiett leads Xavier in scoring at 15.0 points per game (ninth in Big East) and ranks third on the team in rebounding at 6.6 boards per game (12th in Big East). He's coming off two of his weakest performances of the season, after finishing with four points (2-10 FG) against Creighton and 11 points (5-12 FG) against Butler. He was just 1-for-11 from three last week, after nailing 5-of-6 from disance three games ago against Marquette. Last time against Providence, he was 6-of-10 from the field with 15 points, three rebounds, and three blocks in 27 minutes before fouling out. Bullock was awful in that first game against X, finishing with three points on 1-of-9 shooting, including 0-for-3 from deep, with three rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 28 minutes. Plus, he struggled to defend pretty much everyone he matched up against in that game. For the season, he's averaging 12.3 points and 7.1 rebounds in 32.5 minutes per game, while shooting 45.5 percent from the floor and 33.8 percent from 3-point range. He had a double-double on Saturday in the Friars win over Georgetown with 23 points (7-11 FG, 4-6 3PT) and 10 rebounds. He's 7-for-11 from three over the last three games, so the Musketeers will have to make sure to find him when they're in the 1-3-1 zone. 

Moderate Edge Xavier

Jalen Reynolds JR (6-10, 238) vs Ben Bentil SO (6-9, 235)

Reynolds is averaging 9.7 points and 6.6 rebounds in 19.8 minutes per game. He played really well in the last game against Providence, finishing with 15 points (7-10 FG) and 11 rebounds. Last week, he put up a team-high 17 points (5-15 FG) and nine rebounds in the loss to Creighton on Wednesday, and then followed it up with six points (3-4 FG) and two rebounds in just eight minutes of action against Butler. Bentil had 25 points on 8-of-18 shooting, including 2-of-6 from 3-point range, with six rebounds and an assist in 39 minutes in that first game against X. For the season, he's averaging 20.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 33.8 minutes per game, while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from 3-point range on 94 attempts. He was named to the Big East Honor Roll after averaging 29.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in two games last week, including a 42-point, 12-rebound effort in a double-overtime loss to Marquette on Wednesday night. He's 9-for-22 from three over the last three games. 

Moderate Edge Providence

Xavier Bench vs Providence Bench

Senior big man James Farr (6-10, 244) didn't score score against Butler on Saturday, but he was dominant on the glass in the second half, finishing with 12 boards. He had 11 points (5-7 FG, 1-1 3PT) and eight rebounds in 18 minutes the last game against Providence. He ranks third in the Big East in rebounding at 8.4 rebounds per game to go with 10.1 points and 1.1 blocks on the season. Sophomore wing JP Macura (6-5, 203) has been on a roll over the last six games. During that stretch, he's averaged 12.3 points, including a career-high 20 points against Marquette, while shooting 11-of-24 (45.8%) from 3-point range. Last time against Providence, he finished 3-of-6 from the field with 10 points, three rebounds, and two assists in 22 minutes, and provided one of the more memorable moments of the season when he buried an ill-advised three to seal the win with just over a minute to play. Freshman big man Sean O'Mara (6-10, 247) saw eight minutes off the bench in the last game against the Friars. He made his only shot attempt to finish with two points and a rebound. Expect Coach Mack to give him a few minutes to bang on Bentil and potentially draw a foul in the post, as the 1-3-1 zone allows X to play two big men at the same time. Providence coach Ed Cooley essentially used a six-man rotation in that first game against the Musketeers. Freshman Ryan Fazekas (6-8, 205) saw seven minutes, but for the most part the only other serious contributor to worry about off the bench is sophomore wing Jalen Lindsey (6-7, 210). He had eight points (2-6 3PT) and seven rebounds in the first game against X. For the season, he's averaging 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 23.8 minutes per game, while shooting 35.6 percent from the field and 26.2 percent on 103 attempts from 3-point range. Fazekas is strictly a 3-point shooter that needs to be watched when X is playing its zone. He's knocked down 28-of-79 attempts (35.4%) from distance so far.

Significant Edge Xavier

Overall

The best strategy for beating Kris Dunn and the Friars is to keep them out of transition, and keep the ball out of the lane in the halfcourt - turn them into jump-shooters. They are scoring 16.7 points per game in transition, which ranks second in the conference behind Creighton. Xavier executed half of that gameplan well in the first game against Providence at the Dunkin Donuts Center. While the Musketeers' 19 turnovers allowed Dunn and company to get out in transition for some easy points, their 1-3-1 zone in the halfcourt encouraged the Friars to jack up 34 attempts from 3-point range - they only made seven of them (20.6%). Dunn and Bentil are both special individual talents. The Musketeers need to make those two work for their points, while not allowing them to collapse the entire defense which makes their other unskilled players viable offensive threats. If someone like Bullock, Lindsey, or Fazekas happen to be knocking down shots, then defense will become a lot tougher for X. Last time against Providence, the Musketeers spent 50 of their 75 defensive possessions in the 1-3-1 zone. On the other end of the court, Providence started out in its 2-3 zone last time against X and stuck with it until the final four minutes of the first half. The Friars then switched to their man-to-man for the rest of the game. When they're in the zone, look for the Musketeers to work the ball into the middle at the free throw line with their guards/wings, something they had success with last time. The key is to make jumpers, otherwise long rebounds lead to transition opportunities for Providence, the same way they did for Creighton. XU can't settle for too many early threes. When the Friars go man-to-man, look for Xavier to exploit mismatches in the frontcourt, particularly with Bluiett. Also, the Musketeers should be able to gain an advantage on the offensive glass if they make that a focus, especially when they're playing with a second big man in the game due to the 1-3-1. Last time, they scored 13 second chance points on 12 offensive rebounds against this Providence team that does a poor job of keeping opponents off the glass. 

Predicted score: Xavier 80 Providence 68


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