Frank Victores - USA Today Sports

The Matchups: Xavier vs Creighton

Before every game, Rick takes a position-by-position look at what to expect. This edition focuses on Saturday's Big East tilt at Creighton.

Quentin Goodin FR (6-4, 194) vs Davion Mintz FR (6-3, 175)

Mintz is a point guard with good length and speed that likes to push the pace. He only played four minutes in the first game at Xavier that Watson got hurt in and he made his only shot attempt. Since then, he's averaged 8.3 points, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 turnovers in 18.8 minutes per game. He scored 17 points and dished out eight assists with two turnovers the following game while playing 26 minutes against Marquette. The vast majority of his points have come in transition where he does a great job of using his physical tools to get all the way to the rim and finish. Goodin is averaging 3.7 points, 2.2 assists, and 1.3 turnovers in 15.8 minutes per game. He played just five minutes in the last game against Creighton after Myles had returned to the team. He played well on Wednesday against Seton Hall in his first start since Edmond Sumner went down, finishing with eight points (2-11 FG, 0-3 3PT), seven assists, two blocks, and three turnovers in 35 minutes. He needs to build up his wind and he needs to finish better, but he made big plays when the game was on the line and didn't back down from the occasion. He'll have a major physical advantage against either Mintz or Tyler Clement so someone else may have to guard him. His first road game as the primary ballhandler will be a big test considering the environment. 

Slight Edge Xavier

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

Foster is a tough and athletic bucket-getting guard. 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's crafty. He's taking on a lot more ballhandling duties now with Watson out, especially at the end of games. He's averaging 18.0 points (48.4% FG, 32.9% 3PT) in 30.2 minutes per game. Last time against Xavier, he finished with 15 points on 7-of-20 shooting (1-5 3PT), three steals, two assists, and one turnover in 36 minutes. Macura struggled in the last game against Creighton, finishing with eight points (2-6 FG, 1-2 3PT), four rebounds, one assist and three turnovers in 31 minutes. He's averaging 14.2 points (42.7% FG, 33% 3PT), 4.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.6 steals in 32.2 minutes per game. He's been cold recently from three, going 3-for-15 over the last four games and all three makes were against Cincinnati. The Musketeers need him to get it going again and this wouldn't be a bad game for that to happen. 

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. Offensively, he does a tremendous job of running the floor and his teammates are always looking to throw ahead to him. He's averaging 11.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 29.5 minutes per game. He had 11 points (3-11 FG), seven rebounds, four assists, and three turnovers in 37 minutes of action at the Cintas Center. Bernard is averaging 5.8 points (39.4% FG, 37.3% 3PT) and 3.9 rebounds in 27.4 minutes per game. He had three points (1-3 FG), two rebounds, one assist, and three turnovers in 20 minutes of action in the first game against Creighton. Xavier needs more out of him going forward. Over the last three games, he's 3-for-14 from the field, including 1-for-6 from deep, with seven total points, eight rebounds, three assists, and four turnovers. 

Moderate 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 8.9 points (46.8% FG, 47.6% 3PT) and 3.9 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per game. He had nine points on 3-of-8 shooting (1-5 3PT) and six boards in 30 minutes in the last game against X. Bluiett leads the Big East in scoring at 18.7 points per game (44.3% FG, 37.5% 3PT). He had 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting (0-4 3PT), six boards, and three assists in the last game against Creighton. Over the last four games, he's been on fire, averaging 27.3 points per game while shooting 60.7 percent from the field and 64.3 percent from deep. He suffered a sprained ankle on Wednesday night, though, so we'll so how much that slows him down. 

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 a threat on the offensive glass.  He's also capable of stepping out and hitting the occasional three. He's averaging 14.0 points (71.4% FG, 50% FT), 6.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 25.3 minutes per game. In the first game against Xavier, he was in foul trouble and only played 18 minutes but still managed to score 10 points and grab nine boards (five offensive). Gaston is averaging 6.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He had 12 points (5-12 FG, 2-6 FT) and 17 rebounds in the last matchup with Creighton. He should have finished with more points and fewer rebounds as he missed multiple layups and then got his own miss. He also left points at the free-throw line. However, the most important thing he can do in this matchup defend Patton best as possible and try to keep him off of the offensive glass.

Moderate Edge Creighton

Xavier Bench vs Creighton Bench

Senior big man Zach Hanson (6-9, 245) is back in a limited role. He's missed most of the season with a ligament injury in his ankle. He played 10 minutes at Butler and had six points and two boards with three turnovers. He's a big, physical post player that can score on the block. Junior big man Toby Hegner (6-10, 235) is mostly a spot-up shooter. He'll also get the occasional stick-back or attempt a jump-hook in the post. He's averaging 5.3 points (44.9% FG, 40.8% 3PT) and 3.6 rebounds in 16.8 minutes per game. Last time against Xavier, he had 12 points (5-7 FG, 2-2 3PT) and four boards. 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 65 field goals on the year, with 57 of them being from 3-point range where he's shooting 47.4 percent. Last time against XU, he made his only 3-point attempt and both his free-throws to finish with five points in 31 minutes of action. He had no assists and two turnovers while running the point after Watson went down. he's since been relieved of those duties. Junior walk-on Tyler Clement (6-1, 185) stepped in and played 25 minutes at Butler and made some big plays down the stretch, finishing with three points, six assists, and four boards. He's a scrappy coaches' son-type that showed a penchant for getting into the lane and he also hit a big three at Hinkle. He also performed well against DePaul last Saturday with three points, five assists, four rebounds, and one turnover in 23 minutes. For Xavier, both Kaiser Gates and Sean O'Mara provided a lift on Wednesday night against Seton Hall. Gates went 4-for-5 from the floor, including 3-for-4 from deep, to finish with 13 points and eight boards in 31 minutes. O'Mara had 11 points (5-7 FG)and five boards in 14 minutes. It'd be big if both of them could keep it rolling, but I'm particularly interested in seeing if Gates continues to flourish with an expanded role. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Overall

Creighton is ranked 22nd in the AP poll and 20th overall in KenPom, while sitting at No. 18 in offensive efficiency and No. 45 in defensive efficiency (which has dropped from 64 since the last time these teams played). Xavier's ranked 28th overall, 30th in offensive efficiency and 50th in defensive efficiency. The Jays play at the seventh fastest pace in the country on the offensive end and rank second in effective field goal percentage. They're relying a lot more on ball movement and guys running off of screens on the offensive end as opposed to Watson making plays with penetration, but they still play fast and shoot really well. They also still struggle to rebound, so the Musketeers have to make sure they're cashing in on all the second-chance opportunities possible on the road. Creighton hit a lot of big shots in the game at the Cintas Center, which is hard to prevent from happening, but Xavier also gave up a lot of points in the margins early in the second half when the Bluejays made their big run. The Musketeers specifically had issues with keeping Creighton off of the offensive glass and with unforced turnovers. If they clean those up and the Jays miss some shots, XU may have a better fate this time. Both team's star point guards being out probably favors Xavier slightly in this matchup but going to the CenturyLink Center still presents plenty of problems for the Musketeers. 

Predicted score: Creighton 78 Xavier 73


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