Jasen Vinlove - USA Today Sports

The Matchups: Xavier vs Weber State

Before every game, Rick provides a position-by-position look at what to expect. This edition focuses on Friday night's NCAA tournament first round matchup against 15 seed Weber State.

Edmond Sumner FR (6-6, 183) vs McKay Cannon FR (6-0, 185)

Sumner played aggressive and confident in his first Big East tournament, which was a good sign for X, even though he finished 7-of-23 from the field against Seton Hall. If he plays with that same type of aggression against Weber State, he should have a big game as the Wildcats don't have anyone to matchup with him. He's averaging 11.3 points, 3.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.2 steals in 25.6 minutes per game. Cannon is Weber State's primary ballhandler and a knockdown 3-point shooter. He's averaging 5.4 points, 2.7 assists, and 2.0 rebounds in 21 minutes per game, while shooting 38.6 percent on 101 attempts from 3-point range. He's not a dynamic playmaker or scorer, and he lacks athleticism and length. On the defensive end, he's not great at keeping the ball in front of him, and has a tendency to foul. 

Significant Edge Xavier

Remy Abell SR (6-4, 197) vs Jeremy Senglin JR (6-2, 195)

Abell was just 2-for-10 from the field in the Big East Tournament, including 1-of-6 from three. Regardless of how well he's playing offensively, he's likely going to be a huge key to the Musketeers' gameplan in this one because of his defense. Senglin was named to the All-Big Sky Conference First Team, and also earned Most Valuable Player honors at the conference tournament last week. he's averaging a team-high 18.2 points per game to go with 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 34.8 minutes.  He ranks 14th in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage at 44.2 percent on 239 attempts. Most of the Wildcats' offense runs through him. They're very patient and will run him off of several screens before taking a shot late in the possession. He takes and makes all types of difficult jump shots, and he has range that extends several feet beyond the arc. He doesn't possess exceptional athleticism, nor does he try to attack the lane off the bounce. When he puts the ball on the deck, he's almost always looking to stepback and shoot a tough jumper. There's no guarantee anyone can shut him down when he's shooting well, but Abell has excelled against these types of matchups (think Kellen Dunham) in the past. 

Moderate Edge Weber State

Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs Ryan Richardson SO (6-4, 185)

Davis played well in the first game of the Big East tournament against Marquette, but then struggled in the semifinals loss to Seton Hall. While Seton Hall is a terrible matchup for him, Weber State should be a really good one as the Wildcats' backcourt isn't very long or athletic. He's averaging 11.1 points (40.5% FG, 38.7% 3PT), 4.2 assists, and 3.6 rebounds. Richardson is another shooter in the Wildcats' lineup. Nearly 82 percent of his shot attempts have come from 3-point range this year. He's connecting at a 36.4 percent clip, while averaging 6.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 20.4 minutes per game. 

Moderate Edge Xavier

Trevon Bluiett SO (6-6, 208) vs Joel Bolomboy JR (6-9, 235)

Bluiett could be a major difference-maker in this game. If Bolomboy is guarding him as expected to start, then he needs to make the big man prove he can move his feet on the perimeter without fouling. If Bolomboy can't guard him, then the Wildcats don't really have a great answer. Bluiett is averaging 15.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 30.5 minutes per game, while shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 39.9 percent from 3-point range. If both teams start out with their normal lineups, he'll have his work cut out for him keeping Bolomboy off the glass. Bolomboy was named the Big Sky Conference's Most Valuable Player as well as the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. He's also one of five finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award. He's averaging 17.2 points and 12.7 rebounds per game, which ranks third in the nation. He's light on his feet and quick off the floor. He runs the court well, and is a tremendous rebounder, especially on the defensive end. When operating in the post, he likes to make quick spin or rip-and-go moves and then dunk on opponents. If he catches the ball away from the basket, he's not hesitant to let a jumper fly all the way from 3-point range. He's shooting 36.5 percent on 52 attempts from 3-point territory. The Musketeers need to go right at him early and test his discipline on defense, especially if he's guarding Bluiett. He can't get into foul trouble if the Wildcats want to have a chance. 

Even

Jalen Reynolds JR (6-10, 238) vs Zach Braxton FR (6-9, 250) 

Reynolds is averaging 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in four NCAA tournament games during his career, which leads the current roster. He's had a solid finish to the season, but it'd be huge for the Musketeers if he picked his game up another notch like he did in last year's tournament. Bolomboy plays very similar to him, so look for the Musketeers to go big and slide him over on the Big Sky Player of the Year if X struggles early. Against Braxton, he should be able to use his athleticism as an advantage. Braxton is a big body in the paint that gives the Wildcats legitimate size. He's mostly on the floor to set screens, rebound and defend. Most of his buckets come on dump-offs or garbage points right around the rim, but he also has a few moves in his arsenal when he catches with his back to the hoop. He's averaging 6.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in 20.4 minutes per game. As a freshman big man, he's still a little foul prone on the defensive end. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Xavier Bench vs Weber State Bench

Senior James Farr (6-10, 244) is going to play an important role in this game. Weber State's frontcourt has been strong on the glass and efficient when scoring in the post, but they haven't seen bigs like Xavier's yet this year. If Farr brings his best effort, he should be able to frustrate those guys with his size and strength. He's averaging 10.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game. Sophomore JP Macura (6-5, 203) averaged 11.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals in the Big East Tournament. He was 4-of-8 from 3-point range, which bodes well for the Musketeers coming into the NCAA tournament. Look for him to be aggressive when he gets on the floor as Weber State doesn't have big or athletic wings to matchup with him. Sophomore Sean O'Mara (6-10, 247) played well against Marquette at Madison Square Garden, finishing with six points (3-5 FG) and four boards in 11 minutes. He could see an increased role in this one. The Wildcats like to play two big men, and they have some depth in the post, so look for O'Mara to potentially see some extra playing time if X goes with two bigs for an extended period. For Weber State, junior forward Kyndahl Hill (6-7, 225) was named the Big Sky Conference's Top Reserve. He's a slightly undersized but very active forward, who does most of his damage as a finisher around the basket. He plays hard, rebounds well, and converts high percentage looks around the rim. He ranks third on the team in scoring at 8.3 points per game to go with 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 23.4 minutes. He's shooting 62.3 percent from the field. Sophomore wing Dusty Baker (6-4, 190) is a spot-up shooter that is willing to go inside the 3-point arc, but he shoots a higher percentage from beyond the line (39.3%) than he does from inside it (38.1%). He's averaging 5.5 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 18.5 minutes per game. Junior wing Richaud Gittens (6-4, 200) is averaging 4.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 17.4 minutes per game. He's another spot-up shooter, with over 60 percent of his shot attempts coming from long distance. He's connecting at a 34.5 percent clip. Freshman backup point guard Cody John (6-3, 180) adds a little athleticism to the lineup. He's averaging 4.6 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 17.4 minutes per game. 

Moderate Edge Xavier

Overall

The nightmare scenario for X is that Senglin and the Wildcats' other shooters get hot from the outside while Bolomboy and the bigs more than hold their own inside against Farr and Reynolds. Even still, it's hard to figure out how they stop Bluiett and Sumner. On defense, the Wildcats played man-to-man 96.6 percent of the time this season. They like to keep it tight with plenty of help in the gaps, and they don't apply much pressure at all. They struggle to defend ball screens and athletic guards/wings. They're a really strong defensive rebounding team, but not much of a threat on the offensive glass. Weber State ranks fifth in the country in free-throw rate, which could play a role in the game if Sumner or the bigs get in early foul trouble, negating X's advantages. The Big Sky conference ranks 27th out of 32 in RPI and 28th in KenPom. The best teams the Wildcats faced this season were BYU (L 73-68), which is ranked 55th in KenPom, and South Dakota State twice (L 85-68, W 99-95), which is ranked 77th. Their schedule ranked 291st out of 351 Division I teams. 

Score prediction: Xavier 84 Weber State 70


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