Quentin Goodin FR (6-4, 194) vs Markus Howard FR (5-11, 175)
Howard is an impressive scorer for a freshman his size. He's an excellent spot-up shooter and he's good at scoring off of ballscreens. He tied with Luke Fischer for the team lead in scoring at 12.0 points per game (49.5% FG, 51.4% 3PT) to go with 2.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 20.8 minutes per game. He doesn't create a lot of opportunities for his teammates and he struggles with turnovers at times. His lack of size also makes him a liability on the defensive end at times. Goodin should have a physical advantage in this matchup and should be able to get into the lane often, but he'll have to be aware of Luke Fischer coming for the weak side block. Since taking over the starting point guard job, he's averaging 7.8 points, 5.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.6 turnovers in 36.2 minutes per game.
Slight Edge Marquette
JP Macura SO (6-5, 203) vs Haanif Cheatham SO (6-5, 195)
Cheatham is a slashing guard with good length. He's at his best when he's in transition. He's also a pretty good spot-up shooter, but he shoots off the dribble too often. He hasn't been efficient in ballscreen or isolation situations this year. He's averaging 10.2 points (45.3% FG, 32.4% 3PT), 4.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in 29.2 minutes per game. Xavier's guards need to make sure they get a body on him when a shot goes up as he can be dangerous when crashing the offensive glass from the perimeter, even though his effort on the boards isn't consistent. Macura played hard against Providence, but the reality of the current situation is Xavier will not win without Trevon Bluiett on the court if Macura doesn't make shots and take care of the ball. He was 6-for-18 from the field, including 1-of-7 from deep, with six turnovers in the loss at Providence. He's averaging 14.4 points (42.1% FG, 32.8% 3PT), 4.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.1 turnovers in 32.6 minutes per game.
Slight Edge Xavier
Malcolm Bernard SR (6-6, 198) vs JaJuan Johnson SR (6-5, 205)
Johnson is a wing with a well-rounded skill-set and decent size. He seems to fit in better with this year's edition of the Golden Eagles than the last three versions. He scores a lot of his points off of spot-up jumpers and in transition. His third-most productive play type is using ballscreens. He's averaging 11.8 points (47% FG, 33.3% 3PT), 4.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.9 steals in 26.4 minutes per game. He led the Golden Eagles with 14 points (6-12 FGs, 1-3 3PT) in Saturday's loss at Georgetown. It seems unlikely that X would use the 1-3-1 against this Marquette team because of all the shooters, but if the Musketeers go to it keep an eye on Johnson - he's been really effective at driving the gaps in the past. Bernard took a couple extra 3-point attempts Wednesday night with Bluiett out of the mix, but he didn't really change up his approach much on the offensive end. He's averaging 5.9 points (39.1% FG, 38.7% 3PT), 3.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 27.8 minutes per game.
Slight Edge Marquette
Kaiser Gates SO (6-8, 228) vs Sam Hauser FR (6-7, 225)
Hauser is mostly a spot-up shooter, but he's very efficient. He's shooting 44.9 percent from deep (48-107 3PT). He sets a lot of screens and then pops to the perimeter and spaces. He's also the best defensive rebounder on the team, which isn't saying a whole lot with this group. He's averaging 8.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.4 rebounds in 25.7 minutes per game. Gates only played 18 minutes at Providence despite the fact that Bluiett was out of the lineup. He hit a three and had a nice drive to the rim on consecutive possessions, but that's about it in terms of his production. He even struggled on the defensive end. The Musketeers need him to be tougher and more involved. He's averaging 5.6 points (36.5% FG, 34.7% 3PT) and 4.5 rebounds in 20.1 minutes per game.
RaShid Gaston SR (6-9, 235) vs Luke Fischer SR (6-11, 250)
Fischer is a big-bodied center with good touch and # around the basket. He uses over 40 percent of his possessions on post-ups, but that's actually his least efficient play type. He's much better when his teammates find him in a finisher possession or in pick-and-rolls. Also, he's a good offensive rebounder but is relatively weak on the defensive glass. He doesn't like battling for position on either end. He's tied for the team-high in points with an average of 12.0 per game to go along with a team-high 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. Aside from getting some weak side blocks, he's a poor defender. Gaston may not get the start but, with the way he's been playing lately, I'd expect him to get the most minutes at center for Xavier. He's averaging 8.2 points (58.6% FG) and 6.7 rebounds in 20.4 minutes per game. Marquette lacks athleticism and toughness inside, which should make this a solid matchup for Gaston and the rest of X's bigs.
Xavier Bench vs Marquette Bench
Senior wing Katin Reinhardt (6-6, 210) gives them experience, versatility, and 3-point shooting. He's averaging 10.6 points (38.3% FG, 37.6% 3PT), 2.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 25.8 minutes per game. Junior guard Andrew Rowsey (5-10, 180) gives them another sniper and part-time point guard off the bench. He's been surprisingly efficient in ballscreen situations this season. He's averaging 10.5 points in 18.4 minutes per game while shooting 46.4 percent on 112 attempts from 3-point range. Junior guard Duane Wilson (6-2, 185) is a role player with athleticism and a strong handle that plays off the ball. His biggest strength is his craftiness in the lane when attacking off the bounce, but he settles for a few too many jumpers. He's averaging 5.3 points (46.5% FG, 32.5% 3PT), 1.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 16.3 minutes per game. Sophomore Matt Heldt (6-10, 245) is a coordinated big man that has some offensive skill but is mostly asked to screen and lean on guys for a few minutes per game right now. He's most productive on the offensive glass. He's averaging 1.8 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.9 minutes per game. For Xavier, Sean O'Mara saw 12 minutes at Providence and was 2-for-3 from the floor with four points and a rebound. One of his buckets was a face-up jumper from the short corner, a shot we've rarely seen from the big man. We'll see if that gives him any confidence heading into this Marquette game, a team he scored six points and grabbed four boards against in 11 minutes of action during the first round of the Big East tournament last year. He's averaging 5.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in 12.0 minutes per game. Tyrique Jones had some struggles finishing Wednesday night. He was 2-for-6 from the field and 0-for-2 from the charity stripe with four points and six boards in 23 minutes after only playing nine minutes against Villanova. He's averaging 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game. Walk-on Tim Stainbrook saw five minutes at Providence with Bluiett out. His only stat registered was a foul.
Moderate Edge Marquette
Marquette is ranked 41st overall by KenPom.com, while ranking 11th in the country in offensive efficiency and 169th in defensive efficiency. Xavier is 30th overall, 31st in offensive efficiency and 60th in defensive efficiency. The Golden Eagles can flat out shoot the basketball. They lead the nation in 3-point shooting percentage at 41.9 percent and 36.6 percent of their points have come from beyond the arc. They have six players scoring in double-figures. Defensively, they've been terrible. They play man-to-man 93 percent of the time and a combination of zones the other seven percent. They've shown a 2-3 and a 1-3-1. The biggest key for the Musketeers will be taking better care of the basketball and playing with more toughness on the defensive end than they did Wednesday night. If they succeed in those two controllable aspects, then it comes down to Macura making shots and the frontcourt absolutely dominating the paint. The Golden Eagles' defense is bad enough that XU may get a little extra scoring punch from someone like Goodin or Gates, but their offense is good enough that the Musketeers will need it. Winning this game is hugely important for Marquette's NCAA tournament resume and Xavier is going to need more than a few things to go right to have a chance at pulling off this road win.
Predicted score: Marquette 75 Xavier 68