Chris Jones - USA Today Sports

The Matchups: Xavier vs Wisconsin

Before every game, Rick provides a position-by-position look at what to expect. This edition focuses on Sunday's second round NCAA tournament matchup with Wisconsin.

Edmond Sumner FR (6-6, 183) vs Bronson Koenig (6-4, 193)

Sumner had a rough start to the tournament as he finished with 2 points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first round win over Weber State. Wisconsin presents another favorable matchup for him as the Badgers' backcourt lacks the length and athleticism that he brings to the table. Koenig is a big-time shooter and the Badgers' best playmaker in an offense that otherwise lacks creators. He's shooting 39 percent from 3-point range on 195 attempts, and he takes some tough shots off the dribble. He's averaging 13.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 34.8 minutes per game. If he's hitting from the outside, he's a very difficult defensive assignment. If he's not, then his lack of athleticism makes it possible to corral him and keep him settling for tough 2-pointers. He was limited to two points on 1-of-8 shooting (0-2 3PT) with seven rebounds, one assist, and no turnovers in the first round of the tournament against Pittsburgh. Sumner is the better talent, but Koenig gets the slight nod because of experience. This will be an interesting matchup to watch.

Slight Edge Wisconsin

Myles Davis JR (6-2, 188) vs Zak Showalter (6-2, 184)

Davis didn't get his shot going from the outside (3-9 FG, 0-2 3PT) against Weber State, but he slid over to the point when Sumner got into foul trouble and ran the show well, finishing with six assists and three turnovers. After shooting really well over the final three games of the season, he's now 3-of-13 from beyond the arc over three postseason games, so he could be due for a big night. Showalter is an athletic wing with great bounce, but he's also a shooter that helps spread the floor. His teammates do a good job of finding him when he's spacing on the perimeter. His game is mostly spot-up threes, or finishes at the rim. Over 55 percent of his shots have come from beyond the arc, where he's shooting 35.3 percent on 102 attempts. He's averaging 7.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 31.3 minutes per game. He was just 2-of-8 from the field (1-4 3PT) with five points and two boards in the win over Pittsburgh. This matchup is one that gets lost in the shuffle when looking at this game, but if either one of these guys get hot from the outside they could be the deciding factor for their team. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Remy Abell (6-4, 197) vs Nigel Hayes (6-8, 240)

Abell was excellent on both ends in the Musketeers' first round win. Not only did he lock down the Wildcats' best scorer, he also nailed all three of his 3-point attempts to finish with 11 points. He'll have another big challenge in this game whether he's matched up against Hayes or Koenig on defense. Hayes is a versatile forward that causes matchup problems. He's the Badgers' leading scorer at 16.2 points per game to go with 5.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.1 steals in 36.3 minutes. He's attempted 124 threes on the season (second most on the team), but is only shooting 29.8 percent. He's a solid athlete with enough handle to drive defenders, and he'll also use his size to post up smaller players. He had a forgettable first round performance against Pittsburgh as he finished 3-of-17 from the field with 12 points and five boards. Abell may start out guarding him, but if he proves to be too small then Trevon Bluiett and Kaiser Gates should be more suitable matchups. Whoever is guarding him will have to be careful not to foul as Hayes draws an average of 6.2 fouls per game on opposing defenders. He does a great job of creating contact, especially when he's operating in the post. 

Moderate Edge Wisconsin

Trevon Bluiett (6-6, 208) vs Vitto Brown (6-8, 237)

Bluiett hit a couple of big threes (2-6 3PT) against Weber State to help spark the offense, but overall it wasn't one of his better performances offensively. He finished with 10 points (4-10 FG) and five boards. If both teams start these lineups, it will be interesting to see who the Badgers put on Bluiett. Hayes is the best option, but then it puts a big man on Abell. Brown is a face-up big man that would rather catch-and-shoot on the perimeter than try and score with his back to the basket. However, he's a legit post player that provides defense and rebounding in the paint. He hit multiple big threes down the stretch to defeat Pittsburgh, finishing with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting (3-5 3PT) to go with three rebounds. He's shooting the highest percentage from 3-point territory on Wisconsin's team at 40.5 percent on 84 attempts. He's averaging 9.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in 25.4 minutes per game. Look for Bluiett to start out on him initially, even though he'll be giving up a lot of size. He did a great job of holding his own against a more post-oriented player in Weber State's Zach Braxton (6-9, 250) Friday night.  

Moderate Edge Xavier

Jalen Reynolds (6-10, 238) vs Ethan Happ FR (6-9, 235)

Reynolds got into early foul trouble against Weber State, but then settled down and was productive in the second half. He finished 6-of-9 from the field with 12 points and five boards in 18 minutes. If he picks up where he left off on Friday night, that would go a long way towards a Xavier win over Wisconsin. Happ was named the Big 10 Freshman of the Year. He's a skilled scorer with great feet and a variety of post moves, and he's confident enough to drive defenders from the perimeter. Like Hayes, he too draws a lot of fouls (four per game), so Reynolds will have to be careful. He's averaging 12.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.3 assists in 28 minutes per game. He's not the most athletic or toughest guy, so XU's size, athleticism, and toughness could give him trouble. He was 6-of-8 from the field with 15 points, nine boards, three assists, and two steals in the Badgers' win over Pitt. 

Even

Xavier Bench vs Wisconsin Bench

James Farr (6-10, 244) was dominant against Weber State, finishing with 18 points and 15 boards. If he and Reynolds bring that same approach against Wisconsin, they could overwhelm the less athletic Badgers' bigs in a similar fashion. JP Macura (6-5, 203) had a fairly quiet performance in the first round (5 pts), but he did bury a clutch three at the end of the first half to put X back up by double-digits. He matches up well with Showalter, and could see a ton of playing time in this one. Kaiser Gates (6-8, 217) showed that he was ready for the bright lights against Weber State, as he came off the bench to make both of his shot attempts in the first half, including a big three to spark the Musketeers' offense. His defensive versatility could be a key in this matchup, particularly against Hayes. Wisconsin only received two points from its bench in its first round win over PIttsburgh. Sophomore guard Jordan Hill (6-3, 178) is a back-up point guard and spot-up shooter. He's averaging 3.0 points and 1.3 rebounds in 15.4 minutes per game, while shooting 34.7 percent on 49 attempts from 3-point range. Freshman Khalil Iverson (6-5, 205) is an athletic, slashing wing that gets most of his points off of baseline cuts or drives. He's averaging 2.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in 13.1 minutes per game. Freshman Alex Illikainen (6-9, 220) is a face-up forward that is averaging 2.2 points and 1.5 rebounds in 9.9 minutes per game. Freshman Charlie Thomas (6-8, 253) is a wide-bodied, space-eating big man that is averaging 2.5 points and 2.0 rebounds in 9.5 minutes per game. He had the Badgers' only bench points against Pittsburgh. 

Significant Edge Xavier

Overall

Wisconsin plays an absurdly slow and ugly brand of basketball, but it's one that Xavier matches up well against. As long as the Musketeers don't suffer through one of their worst shooting nights of the year, they should be able to outscore their opponent. The Badgers only average 4.3 points per game in transition, which ranks dead last in all of Division I basketball. Defensively, they've played man-to-man exclusively all season long. When defending ball-screens their bigs own them without jumping until their guards can recover, which should open up some opportunities for Sumner and Davis in particular. Xavier has the tougher frontcourt and the more talented backcourt. 

Predicted score: Xavier 67 Wisconsin 61 


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