Steven Branscombe - USA Today Sports

The Matchups: Xavier vs North Dakota State

Before every game, Rick takes a position-by-position look at what to expect. This edition focuses on Tuesday's night's game at the Cintas Center against North Dakota State University.

Edmond Sumner SO (6-6, 186) vs Khy Kabellis SO (6-5, 185)

Kabellis is a lefty point guard with good size. He's not really athletic and he doesn't generate much offense or ball movement for his teammates, but he does have some individual scoring ability. He uses his height to finish drives and he has a solid mid-range game. He isn't known as a good shooter, but he was 3-for-7 from deep on Sunday against Missouri State when he led the Bison with a game-high 19 points (8-16 FG) to go with 3 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 3 turnovers in 36 minutes. He's averaging 9.2 points (44.7% FG, 26.7% 3PT), 2.8 assists, 2.2 rebounds, and 3.0 turnovers in 31 minutes per game. Sumner played his "best floor game of the season" on Saturday afternoon against Northern Iowa according to Xavier coach Chris Mack. He finished with 14 points (6-10 FG, 2-4 3PT), 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 turnover in 32 minutes. NDSU doesn't have anyone that can guard him ,but the Bison will sell out when helping defensively to keep the ball out of the lane so he has to be careful about picking up charges when plowing over secondary defenders. Sumner is currently averaging 16.2 points (50% FG, 20% 3PT), 5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 3.5 turnovers in 36.2 minutes per game. 

Significant Edge Xavier

JP Macura JR (6-5, 203) vs Carlin Dupree SR (6-3, 190)

Dupree is a nondescript guard that is just kind of there. I didn't see much video evidence that suggested he was a good player and the stats don't do much to change that impression. He's not much of a shooter, he doesn't score a lot, he doesn't pass well, and he turns the ball over too much. Probably the best part of his game is that he defends pretty well without fouling. He's averaging 8.8 points (51.3% FG), 3.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 2.3 turnovers in 30.2 minutes per game. Macura continued his excellent play with an efficient performance on Saturday against Northern Iowa, posting 18 points (6-9 FG, 3-6 3PT), 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists in 33 minutes. Once again, he's likely to have a very favorable individual matchup almost regardless of who is guarding him in this game. He's averaging a team-leading 17.7 points per game (45.3% FG, 36.1% 3PT) to go with 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.2 steals in 35.3 minutes per game. 

Significant Edge Xavier

Malcolm Bernard SR (6-6, 202) vs Paul Miller JR (6-6, 200)

Miller is the Bison's best player. He often operates in one-on-one isolation situations, using his strong handle and smooth shooting stroke off the dribble to score. He's coming off of an awful shooting performance against Missouri State where he went 4-of-16 from the field, including 0-of-6 from beyond the arc, with 9 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 blocks, 1 assist, and 2 turnovers in 37 minutes. He's averaging 15.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 2.0 turnovers in 28.7 minutes per game. He's struggled with his shot this year, connecting on just 8-of-26 (30.8%) attempts from deep, but he shot 41.4 percent on 162 attempts last year, so he should be respected as a shooter. Bernard has played his role well for the Musketeers while still trying to settle into the new system. He' s averaging 5.2 points (42.9% FG, 33.3% 3PT), 4.2 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 30.5 minutes per game. His defense will again be important in this matchup as XU faces another talented wing. 

Slight Edge NDSU

Trevon Bluiett JR (6-6, 198) vs AJ Jacobson JR (6-6, 210)

Against good teams, Jacobson is mostly a spot-up shooter at the forward position for the Bison. However, he's an important piece because he adds some length to their lineup and plays hard. He's a decent rebounder and an average defender at the low-major level, however, he definitely has some struggles against more talented opponents. He's been on fire from long range to start the year, connecting on 13-of-16 attempts from the perimeter, while averaging 12.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.4 blocks, and 1.2 assists in 28.0 minutes. Bluiett had his worst game of the season on Saturday against Northern Iowa as he finished with 8 points on 3-of-12 shooting, including 2-of-6 from 3-point range, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist and 2 turnovers in 33 minutes. He'll definitely have opportunities to get back in the flow offensively in this matchup. NDSU's packed-in man-to-man defense will make it difficult to drive, but it'd be good to see him pick his spots to attack the rim more in this game. He'll have an athleticism advantage against whoever is guarding him and there's no threat of shot blockers on the weak side. He's currently averaging 16.8 points(37.8% FG, 25.6% 3PT), 6.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 34.7 minutes per game.

Significant Edge Xavier

Sean O'Mara JR (6-10, 244) vs Dexter Werner SR (6-6, 240)

It's really hard not to love Werner's game. He's a really undersized but hefty center with a solid skill-set. He knows his strengths and his limitations and he's an efficient player as a result. He does a good job on the ball defensively, but he can't really provide any rim protection. He tries to be in the right place on time and succeeds by anticipating well. He leads the team in steals with 14 and is second with 6 blocked shots. He's averaging 8.5 points (64.5% FG), 4.8 rebounds, and 2.3 steals in 21.3 minutes per game. Werner can be entertaining as hell to watch, but he has very obvious shortcomings. This is a matchup that Xavier's bigs need to take advantage of regardless of who is in the game, but there's no guarantee that they will as Werner will make it tough on them. O'Mara found a bit of a rhythm on the offensive end when they threw the ball inside to him against UNI on Saturday. He finished with 8 points (4-7 FG) and 2 rebounds in 13 minutes. If he's patient and keeps his balance while making his moves, he should be able to finish over Werner every time. He's currently averaging 7.5 points (61.3% FG) and 3.2 rebounds in 17.0 minutes per game. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Xavier Bench vs North Dakota State Bench

Freshman Tyson Ward (6-6, 175) is the top guy off NDSU's bench, but he's statistically the Bison's worst player in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency. He's averaging 4.0 points (24.2% FG), 3.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 turnovers in 19.5 minutes per game. Freshman Deng Geu (6-8, 210) is a lanky but fairly athletic forward that does a decent job defensively when he doesn't get overwhelmed physically. He's a good rebounder, particularly on the offensive end, and he'll step outside for the occasional jumper. He's an awful ballhandler and doesn't have much feel, a combination that's led to a high turnover rate. He also fouls a lot. He's averaging 6.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.7 minutes per game. Sophomore Dylan Miller (6-8, 240) is a big body that will rotate in at the five. He's averaging 5.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 10.8 minutes per game. He's also chucked two threes in his limited time, missing both. Sophomore Spencer Eliason (6-9, 240) is a third big that will be used fairly regularly. He's averaging 2.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 9.7 minutes of action. The big storyline on Xavier's bench is the shifting roles with Kaiser Gates returning to the rotation. He played 11 minutes on Saturday and rimmed out his only shot attempt, a 3-pointer, while also grabbing 2 rebounds, blocking a shot, and committing 3 fouls. This is a game where Mack should have enough breathing room on the scoreboard to work everyone in plenty and play with his lineups some. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Gates get a workout in this one to help get him back into game shape. RaShid Gaston played decently on the defensive end and rebounded well on Saturday but he struggled with turnovers and finishing around the basket on offense. The Musketeers will be looking for him to bounce back in this one. NDSU has more bodies coming off the bench, but Xavier has more talent. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Overall

North Dakota State typically plays slow and it's likely the Bison will go even slower against a more talented Xavier team. They want to make it an ugly game and limit possessions. They're just an OK shooting team, with Jacobson and Miller being the two perimeter threats, but they're patient on offense and work for a lot of really high percentage shots. Oddly, they also turn the ball over a ton, which should provide XU with some opportunities to get out and run in transition. Their gameplan is to rotate the ball from side to side while setting ball screens and using dribble handoffs with an occasional backdoor cut thrown into the mix. Even more so than Northern Iowa, NDSU seems to lack the athleticism and playmakers to really penetrate XU's length on defense. On the other end of the court, NDSU is also a sagging man-to-man team. The Bison really pack their defense inside the arc to clog driving lanes, leading to opponents shooting a lot of threes and making them at a reasonable clip. They'll likely keep it even more packed in against a Xavier team with superior athleticism and size in the post. The one thing the Bison have going for them against high-major opponents is their length on the perimeter. The Musketeers have been struggling to shoot the ball from the outside through the first six games of the season. If there was a game to get them back on track, it might be this one due to the amount of clean looks they're likely to have. NDSU is not a good offensive rebounding team and they're susceptible to being taken advantage of on the defensive glass when they face bigger opponents. If Xavier plays with the same type of effort that it did on Saturday, the Musketeers should dominate the boards in this matchup. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which the Bison give the Musketeers much trouble, even if they make make XU's offense look ugly. They just don't possess any of the traits necessary to exploit XU's weaknesses. If X comes out with proper energy and focus, it rolls to an easy W.

Predicted score: Xavier 74 North Dakota State 48


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