Edmond Sumner SO (6-6, 186) vs Mitchell Wilbekin JR (6-2, 175)
Wilbekin is a small point guard with a lower usage rate. He's similar to a Dee Davis type of player, though he has a little more confidence in his shot and doesn't distribute the ball as well as Davis did at X. Most of his possessions have been used for spot-up jumpers or ball screen situations. He's also a very good defender for his size. He's averaging 7.5 points, 2.1 assists, 1.3 rebounds, and 0.5 turnovers in 26.2 minutes per game. Wake Forest doesn't have a good answer for Sumner defensively. Unless the Demon Deacons go to a packed-in zone, the Musketeers need a nice boost from him in this matchup. He's averaging 14.2 points (45.3% FG, 22.7% 3PT), 4.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.8 turnovers in 34.3 minutes per game.
Moderate Edge Xavier
JP Macura JR (6-5, 203) vs Bryant Crawford SO (6-3, 200)
Crawford is an athletic combo guard that technically plays off the ball, but he has the ball in his hands a ton. He does the majority of his damage in ball screen situations or in transition. He's Wake's best playmaker, with the ability to create shots for himself or his teammates. He's averaging 13.1 points (47.1% FG, 28.9% 3PT), 5.8 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 2.0 turnovers in 29.3 minutes per game. Despite his shooting struggles from deep, he's still attempted the second-most threes on the team (38). Macura shot the ball well against Utah (6-11 FG, 5-7 3PT) after going a combined 5-for-25 at Baylor and Colorado. Xavier needs him to be more consistent. He's been pretty great at the Cintas Center throughout his career, though, so that should bode well for this game. He's averaging 15.0 points (39.3% FG, 33.9% 3PT), 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.2 steals, and 1.7 turnovers in 34.7 minutes per game.
Malcolm Bernard SR (6-6, 202) vs Austin Arians SR (6-6, 230)
Arians is a classic high IQ spot-up shooter with a hint of deceptive athleticism. He mostly sprints to one of the wings and stands at the perimeter raising his right arm every five seconds to signify that he might be open. Occasionally, he'll sneak to the rim for a backdoor cut or an offensive putback when the defense totally forgets about him. He's averaging 8.9 points and 2.2 rebounds in 23.6 minutes per game while shooting 48.4 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from three on 47 attempts. Bernard didn't make a field goal for two straight games, going a combined 0-for-7 from the floor at Baylor and Colorado. He ended the drought against Utah, hitting 3-of-9 from the floor, including 2-of-5 from deep while scoring eight points and pulling down four rebounds with an assist, a steal, and no turnovers. He's averaging 5.0 points (35.3% FG, 35.7% 3PT), 4.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.5 turnovers in 29.1 minutes per game.
Trevon Bluiett JR (6-6, 198) vs John Collins SO (6-10, 235)
Collins is a long big man that moves fluidly and scores well around the basket. The majority of his points come on post-up buckets. He likes to duck-in hard on the block and he has good feet when maneuvering with his back to the basket. He draws a ton of fouls. When he faces his man up to drive the ball, he almost always looks to spin. He's also a good rebounder on both ends. Defensively, he's really good at blocking shots when coming from a help position or chasing an opponent down, however, he's actually a below average defender on the ball in the post. He's averaging 18.0 points (64.7% FG), 10.7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 24.1 minutes per game. Bluiett usually does well when defended by actual post players, but Wake Forest doesn't have any better options to put on him. This is another reason to think the Demon Deacons may play some zone. He's averaging 19.2 points (43.4% FG, 34.7% 3PT), 5.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 34.3 minutes per game.
Slight Edge Xavier
RaShid Gaston SR (6-9, 239) vs Dinos Mitoglou JR (6-10, 255)
Mitoglou is a big-bodied post player that's very comfortable facing the basket and handling the ball. He can dribble, pass and shoot out to the perimeter. Wake often initiates its offense with Collins and Mitoglou setting a ball screen on either side of Crawford's defender, giving him the choice to go left or right, and then Collins rolls to the rim while Mitoglou pops to the top of the key for a shot or to play a high-low game with Collins. He's an interesting offensive piece, but he's a poor defender. He's averaging 10.4 points (40.0% FG, 31% 3PT) and 6.8 rebounds in 23.9 minutes per game. Gaston is coming off a second consecutive strong performance. He put up 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting and grabbed 14 boards in 28 minutes on Saturday against Utah. He's now averaging 7.3 points (54.7% FG) and 7.5 rebounds in 18.8 minutes per game. This could be another really good matchup for him when Mitoglou is in the game, but he'll have to be aware of Collins coming from the weak side looking for blocks.
Slight Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Wake Forest Bench
Sophomore Keyshawn Woods (6-3, 205) is a stocky guard and Wake's most dangerous shooter. He's more than just a spot-up shooter, though. He has some playmaking ability off of ball screens or in transition too, despite his lack of athleticism. Defensively, he's similar to Myles Davis in that opposing teams go after him a lot, he does pretty well for himself, but occasionally athleticism and length overwhelms him. He's the team's second-leading scorer at 13.3 points per game on 56.6 percent shooting from the field and 55.9 percent from 3-point range (19-for-34). He's also averaging 4.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 28.7 minutes per game. Freshman Brandon Childress (6-0, 190) is the backup point guard for the Demon Deacons. Nothing about his game really stands out at this point on the offensive end, but he's averaging 5.9 points on 30.2 percent shooting with 2.6 assists and 1.6 turnovers in 19.4 minutes per game. Sophomore big man Doral Moore (7-1, 265) isn't playing a ton (10.2 mpg) and isn't much of a factor when he is playing, but he could have a bigger role in this game because of his length. He's not known for being the toughest player or having the highest motor, but he can change the game around the rim on defense when he's at his best. Given Xavier's bigs struggles with length earlier in the season, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him get a few extra minutes. He's averaging 2.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. Sean O'Mara has struggled lately. He was 0-for-3 against Utah with one point and three rebounds in seven minutes of action. He's only played seven minutes in each of the last two games. When Mitoglou is on the court, that should be a good opportunity for him to be aggressive on offense and gain some confidence back. He's averaging 6.6 points (57.1% FG) and 3.1 rebounds in 14.8 minutes per game. Quentin Goodin continues to have his ups and his downs, but he made some big plays in key moments in the second half against Utah. He's averaging 3.7 points, 1.8 assists, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.6 turnovers in 16.3 minutes per game. Kaiser Gates is shooting just 27.8 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from 3-point range (only three of his shot attempts have come from inside the arc), while averaging 3.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in 14.8 minutes per game. The Musketeers need him to be more than just a jump-shooter.
Slight Edge Wake Forest
In terms of offense, these teams are pretty comparable. However, Xavier has been a much better defensive team to this point in the season. Wake's defense has struggled against ball screens and defending the post. Look for Xavier to be aggressive with Sumner and Gaston early. Wake has played 95 percent man so far this season, but has shown a 2-3 zone and a 1-3-1 zone over the last few games. Other teams have used a zone defense successfully against X, so don't be surprised to see that thrown in there. Another area where XU could gain an advantage is on the offensive glass. The Musketeers rank 29th in the country in offensive rebound rate while the Demon Deacons rank 142nd on the defensive end. Unless Wake shoots lights out from the perimeter or Crawford and Collins are both unconscious, Xavier should match up pretty well with this Wake Forest team, allowing the Musketeers to pull away in the second half for a comfortable win.
Predicted score: Xavier 82 Wake Forest 70