Edmond Sumner SO (6-6, 186) vs Derrick White SR (6-5, 200)
White is the engine that powers Colorado's offense. He's averaging 14.0 points per game (52% FG, 31.6% 3PT), 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.1 blocks, and 3.1 turnovers in 30.1 minutes. He does a good job of making plays for himself and his teammates, but he consistently struggles with turnovers. He's a good driver and a great finisher. He often initiates the offense by using a high ballscreen, but he's actually not very efficient in those situations, too often settling for a jumper off the dribble. He's better attacking the rim in isolation or even posting up opposing guards on the block. He's great in transition. Sumner had 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting (1-3 3PT) on Saturday with three rebounds, two assists, and four turnovers. He's averaging 15.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.8 steals, and 3.1 turnovers in 34.6 minutes per game. It's not Colorado's style to sag off the ball on defense. It will be interesting to see if they push up on Sumner well beyond the 3-point line like they typically do or if they tweak their defense and dare him to shoot like most teams have done. White is stronger and will likely try and be very physical with Sumner.
Slight Edge Xavier
JP Macura JR (6-5, 203) vs Josh Fortune SR (6-5, 212)
If this name sounds familiar, you're probably remembering Fortune from his freshman and sophomore years spent at Providence before he transferred to Colorado. He's averaging 10.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in 25.6 minutes per game this year for the Buffaloes. He's been their top 3-point threat so far, knocking down 10-of-29 (34.5%) from the perimeter. He gets the majority of his points on spot-up jumpers or in transition. He doesn't have too much game off the bounce, but he's capable of getting to the rim and finishing on occasion. Macura is coming off his worst performance this season as he finished just 2-for-16 from the field (1-of-6 3PT) at Baylor. The hard part about evaluating his shot selection from that game is that one of the two shots he made was the toughest shot he attempted the whole afternoon, a beyond deep three while heavily guarded late in the first half. The good news for Xavier is that his confidence never wavers. He'll be aggressive in looking for his shot again tonight. It will be interesting to see if his motivation to make up for Saturday's performance drives him to a big night or causes him to force the issue a little bit too much. He's averaging 15.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.4 steals, and 1.9 turnovers in 34.8 minutes per game.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Malcolm Bernard SR (6-6, 202) vs George King JR (6-6, 225)
King is a nice player that looks like he could be a star. He's big, athletic, and has an intriguing skill-set. Despite his imposing frame, he does a lot of spot-up shooting. He'll occasionally post-up against smaller opponents and he also has the handle to drive defenders from the perimeter. He's a strong rebounder, especially on the defensive end, but his turnover rate is way too high. He's averaging 10.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 turnovers in 25.8 minutes per game. His two best games this year have come against the two best opponents Colorado has faced. He scored 17 points (7-16 FG, 3-6 3PT) and grabbed 13 boards in an 89-83 loss to Notre Dame and he had 12 points (5-9 FG, 1-2 3PT) and 13 rebounds in a 68-54 win over Texas. Bernard had his worst game of the season on Saturday at Baylor. He was 0-for-4 from the field, including a missed wide-open layup and three attempts from long range, two of which were bad looks. He had three rebounds and two turnovers in 25 minutes of action. He needs to turn it around soon or Kaiser Gates will start eating into his minutes quickly. Bernard is averaging 5.1 points (38.5% FG, 36.4% 3PT), 4.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.6 turnovers in 29.4 minutes per game.
Moderate Edge Colorado
Trevon Bluiett JR (6-6, 198) vs Xavier Johnson SR (6-7, 225)
Johnson is an athletic face-up forward that plays with a lot of energy. It's hard not to like his game. He's efficient on the offensive end because he takes care of the ball and takes high-percentage shots. He also draws a ton of fouls and is at the free throw line constantly where he's a 67.9 percent shooter. He's averaging a team-high 14.4 points per game on 45.6 percent shooting, including 36.8 percent from three (7-of-19) to go with 6.3 rebounds in 27.1 minutes per game. When he posts up, he's a great finisher and he uses his quick feet to maneuver and make up for his lack of size against bigger defenders. He's also tough to defend in face-up isolation situations. I'm guessing Bernard starts out defending him because of his penchant for drawing fouls. The Musketeers can't afford to have Bluiett in early foul trouble on the road again. Bluiett played really well against Baylor except for the minutes he had to miss in the second half due to foul trouble which led to the Bears' big run. He finally got hot from the outside, going 6-of-10 from deep to finish with 23 points and seven rebounds. After a slow shooting start, XU would love to see him keep the momentum rolling during this tough stretch of games. He's averaging 18.4 points (42.1% FG, 33.3% 3PT), 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.8 turnovers in 33.8 minutes per game.
Slight Edge Xavier
Sean O'Mara JR (6-10, 244) vs Wesley Gordon SR (6-9, 245)
Gordon is a below-the-rim center with long arms. He's a strong rebounder at both ends and is also a decent passer for a post player. He's averaging 7.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 26 minutes per game. He scores almost all of his points on post-ups and stickbacks. He roams the perimeter setting screens most of the time in Colorado's offense before slipping to the rim or ducking in while working a two-man game on the backside if the ball gets reversed. He has some of the same struggles that Xavier's bigs do when it comes to finishing around length and athleticism at the rim, however, he does a decent job of working angles or making shots from a foot or two off the block to combat that. O'Mara didn't match up well with Baylor at all and as a result only played 13 minutes. He finished with two points (1-2 FG, 0-2 FT), two rebounds, and a turnover. He's averaging 7.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 16.8 minutes per game. This should be a better matchup for him. It will be interesting to see how much confidence the guards have in throwing the ball inside after the Baylor game.
Slight Edge Colorado
Xavier Bench vs Colorado Bench
Sophomore Thomas Akyazili (6-2, 191) is the Buffs' backup point guard from Koninklijk Antheneum Deurne HS in Antwerp, Belgium. He's done a good job of distributing the ball when he's been on the floor and he likes to do so with a little flair. However, he's been ice cold with his jumper, going 0-for-10 from 3-point range. He's averaging 3.9 points and 2.4 assists in 14.5 minutes per game. Junior Tory Miller (6-9, 242) is a wide body big man. He only plays 13.1 minutes per game but when he's on the floor they give him touches in the post. He's a pretty good rebounder at both ends. He's averaging 5.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 13.1 minutes per game. Freshman guard Bryce Peters (6-4, 195) stands out because of his blonde hair. He's averaging 3.8 points and 1.7 rebounds in 14.5 minutes per game. Freshman Deleon Brown (6-4, 170) out of Brewster Academy gives the Buffaloes a wing shooter off the bench. He's connected on 6-of-13 (46.2%) deep balls so far this season. He's averaging 4.1 points in 12.3 minutes per game. Freshman Lucas Siewert (6-10, 221) is a lean Brazilian-born big man that provides a different look in the frontcourt for Colorado as 11 of his 27 shot attempts have come from beyond the arc so far this season and he's nailed four of them. X will have to be ready for him to step out when he enters the game. He's averaging 2.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12 minutes per game. The Musketeers didn't get much of a lift off the bench against Baylor in terms of scoring production but they did get some rebounding. Kaiser Gates (5), RaShid Gaston (3), and Tyrique Jones (2) combined for only 10 points but 18 rebounds in 36 minutes of action. Gaston grabbed five offensive rebounds but couldn't convert against Baylor's length, going just 1-of-4 from the floor and 1-of-4 from the free throw line. Jones was also just 1-of-4 from the field and 0-of-2 from the free throw line, while Gates was 2-of-7 from the field, including 1-of-6 from 3-point range. This matchup is a better one for XU's post players, but they also need to step their game up.
Colorado is ranked 84th in offensive efficiency by KenPom. The Buffaloes try to be opportunistic in transition and if that doesn't work then they look to draw fouls in the halfcourt. They don't shoot it well as a team, but they do have a few capable shooters that X will have to mind. They also hit the offensive glass hard, averaging 8.0 points per game on offensive putbacks. They set a lot of high ballscreens for White, but they're not actually very effective in those situations, which is something that usually bodes well for the Musketeers' defense. If XU does struggle to contain White and avoid early fouls, don't be surprised to see the 1-3-1 zone used. On the other end of the court, the Buffaloes are ranked 44th in defensive efficiency by KenPom, with length on the perimeter and toughness all around. With no one in their starting lineup under 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, they enjoy being physical and making opponents work hard for their points. They've done a great job of killing their opponents' offensive flow and forcing them to play slow. They use a halfcourt man-to-man exclusively where they extend out to pressure the ball and deny passes. The matchups seem pretty favorable for XU as Colorado's personnel lacks the main traits that give the Musketeers trouble. As long as Xavier's stars outplay Colorado's top players, XU should be able to pull off the road win. Staying out of foul trouble against this Colorado team will be difficult but hugely important.
Predicted score: Xavier 74 Colorado 70