Quentin Goodin FR (6-4, 194) vs Kyron Cartwright JR (5-11, 185)
Cartwright was already playing like one of the most improved players in the Big East conference when the Musketeers caught him the first time around, but he's played his best basketball of the season over the last month. He's a small, quick guard that handles the ball a ton, constantly making plays for his teammates. He has the third-highest assist rate in all NCAA Division I. He's also a decent 3-point shooter that chooses his spots well, having knocked down 24-of-63 (38.1%) attempts so far on the year. He's averaging 10.9 points, 6.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.8 turnovers in 32.7 minutes per game. He scored eight points on 2-for-5 shooting in the first game against XU but also dished out eight assists with four turnovers. Goodin is averaging 4.2 points (33% FG, 31% 3PT), 2.7 assists, and 1.5 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per game. He played 18 minutes and finished with four points (2-5 FG, 0-1 3PT), two boards, one assist, and two turnovers in the first game against Providence. He started out strong last game against Villanova but then struggled with his shot selection and his ability to finish. He ended up with three points on 1-for-14 shooting from the field to go with six rebounds, six assists and two turnovers in 40 minutes.
Moderate Edge Providence
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 117 of his 171 field goal attempts have come this season. He's shooting 47.9 percent from deep and averaging 9.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in 30 minutes per game. He hasn't scored in double-figures in the last three games. He had 15 points (5-9 FG, 3-5) 3PT) at the Cintas Center in December. Macura is averaging 14.3 points (42.7% FG, 33.9% 3PT), 4.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.5 steals in 32.4 minutes per game. He scored 11 points (4-6 FG, 2-3 3PT), grabbed five boards, and dished out three assists with no turnovers in 25 minutes of action in the first game against Providence. He had 17 points (5-16 FG, 3-8 3PT), seven assists, four rebounds, and one turnover against Villanova on Saturday. If Bluiett is out, this will be the first time in his career that the team truly belongs to Macura… and I can't wait to watch.
Slight Edge Xavier
Malcolm Bernard SR (6-6, 202) vs Alpha Diallo FR (6-7, 205)
Diallo is a physically tough forward with decent athleticism that defends well. He's averaging 5.0 points and 2.7 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per game, but he's had some big games lately, including 15 points and five boards in Saturday's win over Butler. He came off the bench at the Cintas Center but took over the starting role from Isaiah Jackson a few games later and has been building confidence ever since. He's at his best when he gets out in transition and he's active on the glass and slashing to the basket on offense. Bernard is averaging 5.9 points (40% FG, 39.1% 3PT) and 3.8 rebounds. He posted seven points, four assists (3-8 FG, 1-5 3PT), three rebounds, and three steals in 30 minutes last time against Providence. He had seven points (2-6 FG, 2-4 3PT), four rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one turnover in 29 minutes against Villanova on Saturday. In a game where every point is likely going to matter for the Musketeers, they need Bernard to knock down a few shots.
Kaiser Gates SO (6-8, 222) 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's shooting just 31.4 percent from deep but has taken more 3-point attempts than anyone else on the team (121). 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 16.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game to go with 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.5 turnovers in 33.7 minutes per game. He's really struggled in his past matchups against Trevon Bluiett, including the last one at the Cintas Center when he was held to two points on 1-of-11 shooting. If Bluiett doesn't play, it will be interesting to see how he fares. Theoretically, Gates is a better defender than Bluiett and should be able to hold his own. Gates is averaging 5.7 points (36.7% FG, 34.2% 3PT) and 4.5 rebounds in 20.2 minutes per game. He scored three points and grabbed three boards in 21 minutes in the first game against Providence. He had five points (2-6 FG, 1-4 3PT) and seven rebounds in 31 minutes off the bench on Saturday.
Moderate Edge Providence
Tyrique Jones FR (6-8, 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. He's a capable shooter if left open, having knocked down 15-of-45 from distance (33.3%). He's averaging 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in 27.1 minutes per game. 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 was a total non-factor in the first game at Xavier, playing 24 minutes and finishing with four points (2-4 FG) and one rebound. Jones is averaging 3.5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 10.1 minutes per game. He saw nine minutes off the bench and scored two points (1-1 FG) with four rebounds and two assists last time against Providence. Since then, he's become a crucial piece for this Xavier team. He only played nine minutes against Villanova on Saturday because RaShid Gaston played really well, but he had two points (1-3 FG) and grabbed eight boards. With the way XU controlled the paint last time against the Friars, this could be a huge game for the freshman.
Slight Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Providence Bench
Junior wing Isaiah Jackson (6-6, 212) is a role player with some size. He's averaging just 3.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per game, but he scored a team-high 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting with three steals and two assists in 24 minutes as a starter at Xavier earlier this year. The Musketeers were clearly helping off of him to crowd other players, and Jackson made them pay. It's unlikely he puts up another performance like that. Sophomore forward Ryan Fazekas (6-8, 215) is a sniper from the outside. He's attempted 57 of his 77 field goals from beyond the arc this season and he's connecting at a 38.6 percent clip. He brings little else to the floor. He's averaging 3.4 points and 1.2 rebounds in 13.1 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 4.7 points and 2.4 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game. He's the only Providence bench player that made an impact in the first game at the Cintas Center as he finished with five points (2-3 FG) and five rebounds in 26 minutes. 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 2.5 points and 1.4 assists in 11.1 minutes per game. For Xavier, the options off the bench are getting limited. RaShid Gaston is averaging 7.6 points (56.1% FG) and 6.8 rebounds in 19.4 minutes per game. He had a major upper hand against Holt last time, going 6-for-6 from the field with 12 points and four boards in 19 minutes. He's coming off his best performance this season as he finished with 23 points (10-13 FG) and 10 boards against Villanova. Sean O'Mara had one of his better games of the year earlier this season against Providence as he scored eight points (3-3 FG) and grabbed three boards in 13 minutes. There's also a good chance we see a few minutes of Tim Stainbrook in this one.
Providence is ranked 60th overall by KenPom.com, 105th in offensive efficiency and 44th in defensive efficiency. The Friars' strength is 3-point shooting and their weakness is a lack of any inside presence. Xavier dominated Providence in most aspects in the game at Cintas Center earlier this year. The Musketeers shot 60.4 percent from the field, including 40 percent (8-20) from 3-point range, and on the defensive end they held the Friars to .85 points per possession. XU outscored Providence 42-24 in points in the paint and 13-5 in second-chance points during that game. This is a much different Xavier team than the one the Friars faced the first time around, especially if Bluiett doesn't play. However, from the Xavier perspective, there might not be a better opponent to play against under these circumstances. Providence seems to be the most favorable matchup in the conference for the Musketeers. It's the one team they were able to overwhelm with toughness and execution on both ends of the floor due to Providences' lack of offensive weapons and size. The key again for Xavier will be staying tight to contain Kyron Cartwright in ball screen situations while still recovering to shooters on defense. Also, limiting the Friars' transition opportunities is always important as they love to advance pass the ball up the court and steal easy buckets when they can. Assuming Bluiett doesn't play, it's hard to pick Xavier on the road in this conference and Providence desperately needs this win for their resume. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Musketeers pull off the W, especially after what we saw from these two teams the first time they matched up.
Predicted score: Providence 66 Xavier 63