Edmond Sumner SO (6-6, 186) vs Lorenzo Bonam SR (6-4, 189)
Bonam is a strong guard that plays downhill and finishes well. He does almost all of his damage in ball-screen situations and in transition. He typically likes to get all the way to the rim, but he's not afraid to shoot off the dribble. He's not always the best decision maker. He's averaging 15 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 3.4 turnovers in 28.4 minutes per game. Sumner was back in a little bit of a rut against Colorado where he couldn't seem to score efficiently while playing an otherwise solid floor game. He had 10 points, five assists, two rebounds, a block, and a turnover in 36 minutes. He's averaging 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.6 steals, and 2.9 turnovers in 34.8 minutes per game. Utah likes to pack it in and give up threes on defense anyways, so expect the Utes to dare Sumner to shoot.
Slight Edge Xavier
JP Macura JR (6-5, 203) vs JoJo Zamora JR (6-2, 170)
Zamora is a combo guard that will often serve as the team's primary ballhandler. He's a good spot-up shooter and scores well in transition. He's quick but he's not very good in ball screen situations. He's averaging 11.4 points (43.1% FG, 37% 3PT), 1.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 24.3 minutes per game. He's also a good defender. Macura is in the midst of an awful shooting stretch. He went 5-for-25 from the field, including 1-for-11 from 3-point range, with 15 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, six steals, and three turnovers over the last two games. He's averaging 14.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.4 steals, and 1.8 turnovers in 34.7 minutes per game. X needs him to find his touch again. It's that simple.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Malcolm Bernard SR (6-6, 202) vs Devon Daniels FR (6-5, 190)
Daniels is a big guard with a pretty well-rounded game. He loves to leak out early and run the floor after a shot attempt by the other team. As a result, he's scored over 35 percent of his points in transition this year. He's averaging 10 points (56.8% FG, 14.3% 3PT), 5.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.7 turnovers in 23 minutes per game, and defensively he's holding opponents to .53 points per possession and 20.8% shooting from the field, according to Synergy Sports. Xavier recruited Daniels when Rick Carter was on staff. He also played at Prolific Prep during his final year of high school. Bernard just flat out needs to play better for X. He's 0-for-7 from the field with one point, nine rebounds, a steal, and four turnovers in 53 minutes of action combined over the last two games. He's averaging 4.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steal, and 1.7 turnovers in 29.1 minutes per game.
Slight Edge Utah
Trevon Bluiett JR (6-6, 198) vs Kyle Kuzma JR (6-9, 221)
Kuzma is Utah's best player. He's a fluid face-up forward with great size and a solid handle. He's capable of grabbing a defensive rebound, leading the break, and finishing at the other end or making a great pass. He likes to drive opponents from the perimeter, using his size to finish over them in the lane. He also finds points on the offensive glass and he's great at running the floor in transition. He's averaging 16.4 points (45.2% FG, 18.2% 3PT), 11 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 3 turnovers in 30.9 minutes per game. Despite his paltry shooting percentage from the perimeter, he's attempted 22 threes on the year. As a defender, he's light on his feet and uses his length well. Bluiett has fared well against bigger forwards in the past, even really talented ones like Henry Ellenson last year. It will be interesting to see how this matchup plays out. Bluiett is coming off a career-high 28-point performance on 8-of-18 shooting, including 6-of-13 from three, at Colorado on Wednesday night. He's been on a roll personally the last few games, but he needs to figure out how to get his teammates going as well. He's averaging 19.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 33.9 minutes per game.
Slight Edge Xavier
RaShid Gaston SR (6-9, 239) vs Tyler Rawson JR (6-10, 225)
Rawson is a skilled face-up big man and a little bit of a deceptive athlete. His two most productive play types are spot-up jumpers and cuts to the basket, which typically occur when his teammates find him slipping to the rim after setting a screen off the ball. He's averaging 11.1 points (51.9% FG, 35% 3PT), 7.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.3 blocks in 24.4 minutes per game. Defensively, Rawson is the weak link for the Utes. This could (and probably needs to) be another big game for Gaston offensively. He's coming off his best performance as a Musketeer after he was inserted into the starting lineup against Colorado and scored 14 points (7-8 FG) while grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking two shots in 25 minutes Wednesday night. He just needs to get on track at the free throw line. He went 0-for-3 at the line in that game.
Xavier Bench vs Utah Bench
Sophomore guard Parker Van Dyke (6-3, 185) is a high IQ spot-up shooter. He's averaging 8.4 points (40.7% FG, 43.3% 3PT), 2.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 24.6 minutes per game. Out of his 54 field goal attempts, 30 have come from beyond the arc. Redshirt freshman Jayce Johnson (7-0, 235) is a gritty big man that rebounds at a high level. He's averaging 4.7 points (45.8% FG) and 7.3 rebounds in 15.4 minutes per game. He's scored more points off of putbacks than anything else so far this year. He hasn't finished well in the post (8 points on 16 possessions), but he's a big dude that's shown decent footwork. Senior wing Gabe Bealer (6-6, 183) is mostly a spot-up shooter with some length, however, he's hit just 4-of-14 3-point attempts so far this season. He's averaging 3.1 points (38.1% FG, 28.6% 3PT) and 2.1 rebounds in 12.3 minutes per game. For Xavier, outside of some post offense from Sean O'Mara and some rebounding from Kaiser Gates and Tyrique Jones, it's hard to expect much out of the bench right now. That unit combined for just six points on 2-for-12 shooting with nine rebounds, two steals, an assist, a block, and four turnovers in 43 minutes on Wednesday night.
Slight Edge Utah
Utah ranks 54th in the country in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. When playing at their best, the Utes get a lot of high-percentage two-point looks around the basket. They run a lot of similar actions that are very similar to what Xavier runs, so XU's players should have a good feel for the concepts and terminology presented in the scouting report. They're not a good 3-point shooting team overall, though they have some guys that can get hot. They do a decent job of getting to the free throw line and they shoot 75 percent as a team once they get there. Turnovers have been an issue for them most of the season. The Utes rank 85th in defensive efficiency and have played a halfcourt man-to-man 87.6 percent of the time this year. On the occasions they've gone to a zone, it's been a standard 2-3 look that has yielded just .58 points per possession to opponents. They do struggle to rebound out of the zone, though. Look for XU to try and find its big men rolling to the rim after ball screens as that's one glaring weakness in Utah's man-to-man. Also, opponents are shooting 41 percent from 3-point range against the Utes, so it might be an opportunity for the Musketeers to get some of their guys back on track from the outside. Xavier matches up pretty well against Utah and one would think the Musketeers would put forth an inspired effort on their home court after dropping back-to-back games on the road, but until I see them start making some shots consistently it's hard to expect they'll pull away and beat a solid high-major opponent convincingly.
Predicted score: Xavier 74 Utah 70