Edmond Sumner SO (6-6, 186) vs Kyron Cartwright JR (5-11, 185)
Cartwright is easily one of the most improved players in the entire Big East conference. He's a small, quick guard that handles the ball a ton, constantly making plays for his teammates. He has the fifth-highest assist rate in the country. He's also a decent 3-point shooter that chooses his spots well, having knocked down 11-of-28 (39.3%) attempts so far on the year. He's averaging 8.5 points, 7.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.7 turnovers in 31.9 minutes per game. Sumner is averaging 14.4 points (48.8% FG, 25.9% 3PT), 4.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.8 turnovers in 34 minutes per game. This Providence team defends really well, but Sumner could be a matchup problem because of his length if he's on his 'A' game. He played really well (14 pts, 9 asts, 0 TOs) in last Tuesday's win over Eastern Washington.
Slight Edge Xavier
JP Macura JR (6-5, 203) vs Jalen Lindsey JR (6-7, 220)
Lindsey is a wing with good size, but he's pretty much just a jump-shooter. Xavier has to chase him off the 3-point line where 56 of his 80 field goal attempts have come this season. He's shooting 44.6 percent from deep and averaging 9.6 points and 4.3 rebounds in 28.7 minutes per game. Macura is averaging 14.4 points (40.1% FG, 32.3% 3PT), 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.2 steals, and 1.6 turnovers in 34.3 minutes per game. It will be interesting to see if this break helped his shot at all. Aside from struggling with his jumper, he put forth good efforts in terms of taking reasonable shots, working hard on the glass, and defending in the last three games of the non-conference schedule. This seems like a good matchup for him on paper.
Slight Edge Xavier
Malcolm Bernard SR (6-6, 202) vs Isaiah Jackson JR (6-6, 212)
Jackson is a role player with decent size that provides some rebounding. On the offensive end, he's not much of a threat aside from hitting an occasional three when left wide open. He's hit 8-of-24 (33.3%) from beyond the arc through 13 games. The Musketeers will need to help off of him as much as possible to provide help in the gap against guys like Cartwright, Rodney Bullock, and Emmitt Holt. He's averaging 3.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per game. Bernard is averaging 5.3 points (35.5% FG, 38.2% 3PT) and 4.5 rebounds in 28.3 minutes per game. He tied his season-high with 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting in last Tuesday's win over Eastern Washington.
Slight Edge Xavier
Trevon Bluiett JR (6-6, 198) vs Rodney Bullock JR (6-8, 225)
Bullock is Providence's best player. He's a bucket-getter with good size that likes to put his head down and get to the rim or shoot it from three, and he's also a strong rebounder. He leads the Friars with 66 attempts from deep where he's a 33.3 percent shooter. He likes to exploit bad closeouts with a shot-fake and 95 percent of his drives are to his right. He's averaging a team-high 19.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game to go with 1.5 assists, 1.4 steals, and 2.8 turnovers in 33.8 minutes per game. Bluiett got the best of Bullock both times last year in terms of head-to-head performances, however, Xavier played a lot of 1-3-1 against Providence in an attempt to contain Kris Dunn. The two will likely be matched up in man-to-man for most of the game this time around. Bluiett is averaging 19.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 34 minutes per game.
Slight Edge Xavier
RaShid Gaston SR (6-9, 239) vs Emmitt Holt JR (6-7, 230)
Holt is a mobile, driving big man that has exceeded expectations for the Friars. Like Bullock, he likes to face up defenders and drive hard to his right. Providence runs a lot of quick-hitters for him where he's able to use his quickness in space against opposing big men. Some of those plays are just quick cuts to the basket, while others are isolation plays where they set him up for a rip-and-go to his right. He's not a passer when he puts the ball on the floor, so the Musketeers need to make sure they slide into help position and take charges or force him to take tough shots. He does a decent job scoring in the post and his teammates do a good job of finding him in pick-and-roll situations. He's also a capable shooter if left open, having knocked down 8-of-24 from distance (33.3%). He's averaging 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in 28.4 minutes per game. Gaston is averaging 7.6 points (56.1% FG) and 6.8 rebounds in 19.4 minutes per game. Foul trouble hasn't really been an issue for him, but he'll have to be careful while defending against Holt's penetration. He should have a size and strength advantage on the block. This is an interesting individual matchup that could have a big impact on the outcome.
Slight Edge Providence
Xavier Bench vs Providence Bench
Sophomore forward Ryan Fazekas (6-8, 215) is a sniper from the outside. He's attempted 41 of his 54 field goals from beyond the arc this season and he's connecting at a 41.5 percent clip. He brings little else to the floor. He's averaging 5.2 points and 1.5 rebounds in 17.1 minutes per game. Freshman Alpha Diallo is a physically tough forward with decent athleticism that defends well. He's averaging 2.7 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.0 steal in 13.7 minutes per game. Freshman big man Kalif Young (6-9, 250) provides some post depth for the Friars. He's not a huge threat but he's a decent finisher around the basket that does a good job of finding garbage points on the offensive glass. He's averaging 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game. Freshman guard Maliek White (6-2, 180) has shown potential as a playmaker for the Friars, but he's also struggled with turnovers. He's averaging 2.4 points, 1.5 assists, and 1.2 turnovers in 10.9 minutes per game. Sean O'Mara had a rough non-conference portion of the schedule, but this break may have given him some time to clear his head and refresh his outlook. Emmitt Holt might not be the best matchup for him on the defensive end, but Providence doesn't have much bulk in the post to stop O'Mara on offense. This could be a good game for him to gain some confidence. He's averaging 5.8 points and 3.1 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game. Quentin Goodin played the most minutes off the bench during the non-conference schedule at 16.2 per game while averaging 3.4 points (50% FG, 30% 3PT), 2.2 assists, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.7 turnovers. The Musketeers would love to see him become more aggressive on offense while taking good care of the basketball. They'd also love to see Kaiser Gates pick up his level of play after the break. He's coming off a career-high 12-point effort in the win over Eastern Washington last Tuesday. He hit 4-of-7 from three and grabbed three boards in 23 minutes and also moved better defensively. XU needs him to be more than just a jump-shooter.
This Providence team struggles to score at times but it can definitely defend. The key for Xavier will be corralling Kyron Cartwright in ball screen situations while still recovering to shooters on defense. He's the type of point guard that has given X trouble. Ed Cooley has established a strong culture in his program so you'll notice a level of consistency in his team's play regardless of how much talent is on the roster. Despite losing Kris Dunn, this Providence team is similar to last years in the sense that they don't play all that fast on offense, but they do a tremendous job running the break. The Friars are currently averaging 19.2 points per game in transition. They do a good job of making quick advance passes up the court, so Xavier will have to make sure it's sprinting back and communicating extremely well on defense. Look for X to gain a big advantage on the glass. The Musketeers are more talented but Providence will definitely be able to test them while presenting some personnel issues.
Predicted score: Xavier 76 Providence 68