Edmond Sumner FR (6-6, 183) vs Haanif Cheatham FR (6-5, 190)
Sumner was a problem for Marquette's defense last time these teams played, both in transition and in the halfcourt. He finished with 20 points (7-12 FG, 3-4 3PT), five assists and two turnovers. Marquette doesn't have a defender capable of stopping him, and he played like he was well aware of that fact. The Musketeers need him to be aggressive and carve up Marquette's defense by consistently driving the ball into the lane. Fortunately for the Golden Eagles, Cheatham was nearly as productive as Sumner the last time these teams met up with 21 points (7-9 FG, 2-3 3PT), two rebounds and an assist. For the season he's averaging 11.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 29.1 minutes per game. He's great at slicing his way into the lane off the bounce as well.
Slight Edge Xavier
Remy Abell SR (6-4, 197) vs Duane Wilson (6-2, 185)
Abell is averaging 6.3 points, 1.6 assists and 1.5 rebounds in 24 minutes per game, while shooting 40.8 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from 3-point range . On the defensive end, he has to be aware of Marquette's guards making their own reads in ball screen situations. Last game, there were a few instances where he was too worried about how he was supposed to defend an oncoming ball screen action, and the Golden Eagles exploited it by rejecting the screen and driving to the rim. Abell is coming off a 15-point performance (5-8 FG, 1-3 3PT) against Creighton, which is tied for his second most points in a game this year. Wison is a decent outside shooter, hitting at a 34.4 percent clip on 141 attempts, but last time he played against X he was on fire. He finished that game with 16 points, while going 4-of-6 from 3-point range. He's averaging 11.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 28.5 minutes per game. He was 4-of-6 from the field and 2-of-3 from 3-point range with 14 points before fouling out against St. John's on Wednesday.
Slight Edge Marquette
JP Macura SO (6-5, 203) vs JaJuan Johnson SR (6-5, 185)
Macura got the start in place of Myles Davis last time against the Golden Eagles for matchup purposes, and he responded in a major way by scoring 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. The Big East's Sixth Man of the Year is averaging 9.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and a steal in 22.7 minutes per game, while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 33.7 percent from 3-point range. After struggling on the defensive end in the Creighton game, look for an inspired effort out of Macura. Johnson is averaging 9.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.5 steals in 23.2 minutes per game, while shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 39 percent on 59 attempts from 3-point range. He finished with eight points (3-6 FG, 1-1 3PT) and four rebounds in 19 minutes. He's particularly effective against Xavier's 1-3-1 zone defense, but don't expect to see the Musketeers play much of their zone in this one. He had a big opening night at Madison Square Garden as he finished with 23 points (7-13 FG, 1-2 3PT), five boards, and four assists.
Slight Edge Xavier
Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 208) vs Henry Ellenson FR (6-11, 245)
Bluiett played liked he wanted to prove a point against the projected lottery pick Ellenson last time these teams met up. He finished with 23 points (7-14 FG, 5-6 3PT), five rebounds, and eight assists with no turnovers. He can't settle for tough, defended jumpers against Ellenson. He has too much of an advantage when making him run around screens or attacking him off of the dribble to shoot over top of him and play into his strength. Ellenson is averaging 16.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.5 blocks in 33.6 minutes per game. He poured in 27 points and grabbed 14 boards against St. John's Wednesday night just hours after being named Big East Freshman of the Year, This was a great battle last game, but Bluiett actually brought a little more to the table for his team by creating plays and distributing. These two players dictate the matchups between these teams by forcing the opponent to adjust their defensive strategy around them.
Jalen Reynolds JR (6-10, 238) vs Luke Fischer JR (6-11, 245)
Reynolds is averaging 9.5 points and 6.4 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per game. Despite seeing a lot of one-on-one defense in the post against Marquette, he hasn't been able to get much going on offense in two games against the Golden Eagles so far. He had just five points (2-5 FG) in the first game against them, and seven (3-9 FG) in the second. Fischer is capable of having the big game, but so far he hasn't given X a lot of trouble either. He's good for a couple scores in the post and a putback or two each game, but he hasn't threatened more than that against the Musketeers' frontcourt. He had 10 points (3-4 FG) and one rebound in 18 minutes before fouling out against St. John's on Wednesday. For the season, he's averaging 12.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in 28.6 minutes per game.
Xavier Bench vs Marquette Bench
Junior Myles Davis (6-2, 195) came off the bench and instantly started distributing last time against Marquette. He had 11 points (3-9 FG, 1-4 3PT), six assists, and one turnover in 31 minutes. He's averaging 11.3 points, 4.1 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in 29.3 minutes per game. Senior James Farr (6-10, 247) is averaging 10.5 points and 7.9 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game. After getting left off of all the Big East awards and honors lists, look for Farr to be playing with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. He had 16 points and 19 rebounds in the game at Marquette, but only played 11 minutes against the Golden Eagles at the Cintas Center, finishing with four points and no boards. Freshman Kaiser Gates (6-8, 205) played 11 minutes in the last game against Marquette. He scored five points on 2-of-3 shooting and grabbed two boards. Freshman Traci Carter (6-0, 175) is averaging 5.4 points, 4.7 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 23.9 minutes per game, while shooting 35.1 percent from the field and 31.9 percent from the outside. Sophomore forward Sandy Cohen (6-6, 180) is averaging 6.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 23.7 minutes per game, while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from deep.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Xavier has to defend ball-screens well, and that includes being ready for when Ellenson goes off script, such as him slipping a screen. The Musketeers only played the 1-3-1 zone for six out of 71 halfcourt defensive possessions last game against Marquette. On the other end of the court, Xavier saw 100 percent man-to-man. The Musketeers did a great job of pushing the ball in transition at all opportunities the last time they played Marquette. Look for them to try and exploit the Golden Eagles transition defense for easy buckets again. When they're in the halfcourt, Sumner and Bluiett isolating bad matchups and creating offense seemed to be their best attack last time. Marquette applied a lot of pressure to St. John's in Wednesday night's first round game. The Golden Eagles' intensity and active hands on defense led to eight steals in the first half (10 for the game), and allowed them to score 26 points off of 17 turnovers by the Red Storm.
Predicted score: Xavier 91 Marquette 81