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The Matchups: Xavier vs Creighton

Before every game, Rick takes a position-by-position look at what to expect. This edition focuses on Monday afternoon's game at home against #8 Creighton.

Edmond Sumner SO  (6-6, 186) vs Mo Watson SR (6-0, 175)

Watson is a small, jet-quick point guard that excels in transition and is an excellent playmaker. He's the exact type of point guard that's given XU the most trouble over the last two seasons. He has a high usage rate and over a third of his possessions he uses come in ball-screen situations. The rest is mostly transition possessions with isolations and spot-up jumpers thrown into the mix. He's averaging 13.4 points (50.8% FG, 48.4% 3PT), 8.8 assists, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in 31.1 minutes per game. He has the fifth-highest assist rate in the country. He's also been selective but highly efficient with his jumper, knocking down 15-of-31 attempts from deep. It could be Sumner or Malcolm Bernard matched up on him defensively. Sumner is averaging 15.7 points (48.6% FG, 27% 3PT), 4.6 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.4 steals in 33.8 minutes per game. He was super aggressive and had a brilliant second half at Butler. He'll have to channel that same mindset against Creighton from the jump. The Bluejays will give up straight-line drives if he's opportunistic. 

Slight Edge Creighton

JP Macura JR (6-5, 203) vs Marcus Foster JR (6-3, 210)

Foster is a tough and athletic bucket-getting guard. He's averaging a team-high 18.2 points per game on 50.4 percent shooting from the floor, including 36 percent from 3-point range. He does most of his damage in transition and on spot-up jumpers. He's very aggressive in looking to score on the offensive end and he has a lot of craft to his game. Aside from scoring, he doesn't do much else. Defensively, opposing teams have picked on him more than any player on the Bluejays roster. He's decent when he competes on that end, but he takes too many plays off. Sumner or Bernard, whichever doesn't guard Watson, will likely be matched up on Foster. Macura is averaging 14.5 points (42.1% FG, 34.8% 3PT), 4.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.8 steals in 32.4 minutes per game. He needs to be more sound in his decision-making in big games. He was 4-for-8 from 3-point range and scored 16 points at Butler, but he also had seven turnovers. He was on a four-game streak with no turnovers before committing two at Villanova. 

Slight Edge Creighton

Malcolm Bernard SR (6-6, 202) vs Khyri Thomas SO (6-3, 205)

Thomas is an athletic and versatile defender that has locked down some of the top players in the conference. It seems likely for matchup purposes that he'd be guarding Sumner. He's averaging 12.1 points (56.4% FG, 41.7% 3PT), 5.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.6 steals in 28.2 minutes per game. Offensively, he does a tremendous job of running the floor and his teammates are always looking ahead for him. He scores 5.6 points per game in transition because he has a good enough handle to get all the way to the rim in traffic and he's a good finisher. Bernard is averaging 6.2 points (41.9% FG, 40.4% 3PT), 4.2 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 28.1 minutes per game. He played one of his better games against Butler on Saturday, finishing with 10 points and eight rebounds. He's served his role well and taken his game up a notch in Big East play. He needs to keep playing hard on defense while continuing to be more aggressive on offense. 

Slight Edge Creighton

Trevon Bluiett JR (6-6, 198) vs Cole Huff SR (6-8, 220)

Huff is a skilled face-up forward with decent athleticism. He mostly likes to spot-up on the offensive end and he loves the transition three, but he has enough game to drive his man from the perimeter to the rim. He's averaging 9.1 points (47.7% FG, 48.5% 3PT) and 3.8 rebounds in 21.1 minutes per game. He's taken 68 of his 111 shot attempts from 3-point range. He's also a decent defender. Bluiett is averaging 16.8 points per game, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists while shooting 40.2 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from 3-point range. Clearly, the Musketeers need him to step up and knock down some shots. He's in the midst of a poor stretch right now and he's been struggling with his shot all season. He was just 2-for-10 from the field and 0-for-4 from deep with 10 points, four boards, and three turnovers before fouling out at Butler.

Moderate Edge Xavier

RaShid Gaston SR (6-9, 239) vs Justin Patton FR (7-0, 230)

Patton is a long and athletic big man with great coordination and touch. He gets his points in a variety of ways. His teammates do a great job of looking for him on lobs or slipping to the rim. They also find him often in pick-and-rolls. He has a polished back to the basket game for a freshman with excellent footwork and he's also a threat on the offensive glass. He's averaging 14.0 points (73.7% FG), 6.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 25.7 minutes per game. He's also capable of stepping out and hitting the occasional three. He's 5-for-10 on the year from long range. His presence near the rim makes it really hard to zone the Bluejays. Gaston is averaging 7.2 points (59.1% FG) and 6.4 boards in 19.2 minutes per game. The key in this matchup for him is to battle like crazy on the defensive end and on the glass. 

Moderate Edge Creighton

Xavier Bench vs Creighton Bench

Junior big man Toby Hegner (6-10, 235) is mostly a spot-up shooter. He'll also get the occasional stickback or attempt a jump-hook in the post. He's averaging 5.7 points and 3.8 rebounds in 17 minutes per game, while shooting 45.2 percent from the field, including 41 percent from 3-point land. Senior guard Isaiah Zierden (6-3, 190) is a shooter. He's averaging 4.4 points and 2.2 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game. He's attempted 55 field goals on the year, with 48 of them being from 3-point range where he's shooting 41.7 percent. That's about it for the Bluejays. They're pretty thin with just a seven-man rotation. For Xavier, Myles Davis has yet to make a field goal in 23 minutes of action over two games since returning from suspension. He's 0-for-6 from the field, including 0-for-5 from distance. He also has two rebounds and two turnovers. He scored his first two points of the season at Butler on a pair of free-throws. The staff seems to still be juggling how rotations will work with him back. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Overall

Creighton is ranked eighth in the AP poll and 19th overall in KenPom, while sitting at No. 6 in offensive efficiency and No. 64 in defensive efficiency. Xavier's ranked 24th overall, 32nd in offensive efficiency and 38th in defensive efficiency. The Jays play at the ninth-fastest pace in the country on the offensive end and rank second in effective field goal percentage. They are averaging 24.7 points per game in transition  They don't rebound well and they don't get to the free throw line much, nor do they foul a lot. They're an excellent 3-point shooting team. It seems like the 1-3-1 would be rendered useless with Patton and Creighton's other shooters on the floor. They play exclusively halfcourt man-to-man on the defensive end. It's hard to pick against the Musketeers when they're playing at the Cintas Center and it's even harder to pick against them when they're facing a third-straight loss. But I think Creighton presents serious matchup issues for X. 

Predicted score: Creighton 86 Xavier 82


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