Edmond Sumner SO (6-6, 186) vs Avry Holmes SR (6-2, 195)
Holmes is a stocky but quick guard that scores a lot of his points on spot-up jumpers but is also a strong playmaker in ball-screen situations. He typically looks to score more than he looks to pass. He went 6-of-12 from the field, including 4-of-7 from deep, with 22 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 37 minutes against Davidson. He scored 10 points (3-10 FG, 1-4 3PT, 3-4 FT), grabbed two boards and dished out two assists in 39 minutes last Friday in the season-opener against Georgia. As a junior, he averaged 10.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 30.9 minutes per game, while shooting 37.4 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from 3-point range. This is a key matchup for Xavier. The Musketeers need their ultra-talented, NBA prospect point guard to play like he's capable. Sumner has been scoring points but hasn't been efficient or composed, particularly at the end of Thursday's win over Missouri. If X doesn't gain an edge in the point guard battle, it could end up spelling trouble against the Tigers.
Slight Edge Xavier
JP Macura JR (6-5, 203) vs Gabe DeVoe JR (6-3, 210)
DeVoe is a well-built guard with decent length. He mostly looks for spot-up jumpers on offense but is a decent finisher when he attacks. He scored 16 yesterday on 6-of-8 shooting, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range, dished out four assists, and had three steals. He also played well against Georgia, pouring in 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-5 from deep. As a sophomore, he averaged 5.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 19.5 minutes per game while shooting 34.1 percent from the field and 30.1 percent from 3-point range. This could be a wildcard matchup that swings the game in favor of either team. Both of these players are capable of boosting their team with big shooting performances. Macura is just 2-for-14 from deep over the first three games of the year. However, he's found a way to manufacture points for himself and his teammates, including sinking 18-of-18 free throw attempts.
Slight Edge Xavier
Malcolm Bernard SR (6-6, 202) vs Jaron Blossomgame SR (6-7, 220)
Blossomgame is one of the most well-rounded players in the country. He's a really good spot up shooter, he can make plays off the bounce in isolation or pick-and-roll situations, he's great in the post, and he's a solid rebounder. He had 17 points in the first round against Davidson on 6-of-16 shooting (1-4 3PT). He also had six boards and two assists. As a junior, he averaged 18.7 points, 6.7 boards, 1.5 assists, and 1.3 blocks in 34.2 minutes per game, while shooting 51.3 percent from the field and 44.6 percent from 3-point range. It will be interesting to see if Bernard or Bluiett draws this assignment defensively. It's likely the Musketeers will try multiple looks against him. Bernard played solid against Missouri with five points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks, and one turnover. The Musketeers are still waiting for him to break out with a big scoring game.
Significant Edge Clemson
Trevon Bluiett JR (6-6, 198) vs Donte Grantham JR (6-8, 215)
Grantham is a hybrid forward with a face-up game but frontcourt size. He had 12 points (5-8 FG, 2-5 3PT), eight rebounds, four assists, two steals, and a block in 36 minutes of action on Thursday afternoon. He struggled in the opener going 4-for-13 from the field and 0-for 6 from 3-point range. As a sophomore, he averaged 10.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 32.6 minutes per game, while shooting 38.4 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from 3-point range. He did most of his damage as a jump shooter last year. Bluiett is just 4-for-16 from 3-point range to start the year and has posted back-to-back point totals of 13. He's more talented than Grantham but he'll have to play better than he's been playing so far to give Xavier much of an advantage.
Slight Edge Xavier
Sean O'Mara JR (6-10, 244) vs Sidy Djitte SR (6-10, 240)
Djitte isn't the most skilled player, but he's a center with legit size that moves fluidly and rebounds well. He's finishing well around the rim so far this season too. He played 23 minutes against Davidson and posted 12 points (2-3 FG, 8-12 FT), six boards, and two blocks, after scoring eight points (4-5 FG) and grabbing nine boards in 19 minutes against Georgia. As a junior, he averaged 5.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per game. O'Mara was solid in the win over Missouri, finishing with 13 points (5-7 FG, 3-4 FT) and five boards. That's now two out of the three games that he's played pretty well.
Xavier Bench vs Clemson Bench
Both teams lack depth. It would seem Clemson coach Brad Brownell is only comfortable with his top six at the moment. His first option off the bench is sophomore transfer Marcquise Reed (6-3, 185), a guard from Robert Morris. Reed is looking to get buckets every single time he touches the ball. He's a confident shooter with some craft to his game off the bounce. He scored nine points (2-5 FG, 0-1 3PT, 5-5 FT) and dished out two assists in 16 minutes on Thursday after leading the Tigers with 19 points in the season-opener against Georgia. He averaged 15.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 27.8 minutes per game as a freshman at Robert Morris. Freshman guard Scott Spencer (6-6, 195) is an inexperienced wing shooter with size. He played 12 minutes against Davidson and finished with two points (1-4 FG, 0-1 3PT) and two rebounds after only playing one minute in the win over Georgia. Seven-foot, 260-pound junior Legend Robertin is a project big man from London, England. He's on the court to screen, rebound, and block shots. He scored five points in six minutes against Davidson after failing to score in 13 minutes against Georgia last Friday. For Xavier, RaShid Gaston (6-9, 239) played his best game so far on Thursday against Missouri, finishing with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Tyrique Jones (6-8, 237) was his disruptive self for his brief time on the floor on Thursday. He had four rebounds, a block, and an assist, but fouled out in only nine minutes of action. Quentin Goodin (6-4, 194) is riding the freshman roller coaster right now. After a strong bounce-back game against Buffalo, he had a rough afternoon against Missouri, missing his shots (0-3 FG) and struggling to defend Terrence Phillips.
The Tigers were 9-of-22 from beyond the arc on Thursday against Davidson. XU was 2-of-22 against Missouri. Perimeter shooting is always a key stat to watch, but particularly so in this game with the way this Xavier team is shooting to start the season. Clemson is a good defensive team that plays mostly man-to-man, but, if the Musketeers continue to struggle from the outside, the Tigers have an effective 2-3 zone they'll use as well. This isn't a bad matchup for Xavier. If the Musketeers play well, they are the more talented team. However, this could also be the game where their slow start to the season catches up with them. They need the big three to play much better than they did on Thursday. Then again, Clemson also celebrates their 2014 NIT "Semifinalist" finish with a banner at the top of their men's basketball page on their official athletics website, so...
Predicted score: Clemson 77 Xavier 73