Quentin Goodin FR (6-4, 194) vs Markus Howard FR (5-11, 175)
Howard might be the best shooter in the country. He was ridiculous in the first game against Xavier, scoring 34 points on 9-of-12 shooting from 3-point range. He's averaging 12.9 points per game (50.7% FG, 55.4% 3PT) to go with 2.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 21.0 minutes. He likes to initiate the offense, give up the ball, let it cycle through, and then get it back for spot-up jumpers. Out of the 20 possessions he used in the first game against the Musketeers, 13 of them were spot-up jumpers. He's more than just a shooter, though. He has good quickness and has been effective using ballscreens. Goodin played well for most of Sunday's loss to Butler, but he committed some crippling turnovers down the stretch when the Musketeers started to fall apart. Similar to the Butler matchup, he's physically superior and has a nice size advantage against Marquette's guards. If he takes his time and uses his strength when trying to finish, he should be able to put a few down. He was 0-for-11 from the floor with eight assists, three steals, and two turnovers before fouling out after 32 minutes of action at Marquette. He's averaging 4.4 points (32.3% FG, 25.6% 3PT) and 3.2 assists in 20.5 minutes per game.
Moderate Edge Marquette
Malcolm Bernard SR (6-6, 202) vs Andrew Rowsey JR (5-10, 180)
Rowsey (5-10, 180) gives Marquette another sharpshooter and point guard. He got the start in the last game against Xavier when coach Steve Wojciechowski shook up his lineup and he's been starting ever since. He scored 18 points (3-11 FG, 3-10 3PT, 9-10 FT) and had seven assists with two turnovers in that win over the Musketeers. He followed that up with 18 points (6-15 FG, 3-8 3PT), six assists, and three turnovers last Tuesday against St. John's. He's surprisingly been the Golden Eagles' most effective creator off the bounce this year. He's averaging 11.0 points in 19.7 minutes per game while shooting 44.4 percent on 135 attempts from 3-point range. Bernard is slotted in this spot because he defended Rowsey last time. He's coming off his best game as a Musketeer as he scored a season-high 13 points Sunday against Butler. He looked like a totally different player from the one that played at Seton Hall and at Marquette. The key for him is playing aggressive and with this being his last regular season college game you would think he'll take the floor with some attitude and confidence. He's averaging 5.8 points (39.3% FG, 37.3% 3PT) and 3.6 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per game.
Slight Edge Marquette
JP Macura SO (6-5, 203) vs Duane Wilson JR (6-2, 185)
Wilson (6-2, 185) is a role player with athleticism and a strong handle that plays off the ball. He started the last game against Xavier and came out aggressive but was ice cold. His only highlight was an aggressive and-one isolation take against Macura in the second half. He scored three points (1-7 FG, 0-4 3PT) with four assists, three steals, and three rebounds in 24 minutes. He's kept that starting spot over the last two games despite not producing much. He can be a threat when he attacks the lane, but he settles for too many jumpers. He's averaging 5.0 points (44.2% FG, 28.9% 3PT), 1.8 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 16.3 minutes per game. Macura had too much on his shoulders in the last game at Marquette with Bluiett out of the lineup. He finished 3-of-14 from the field and 1-of-6 from deep with nine points, six assists, four rebounds, and three turnovers in 39 minutes of action. He's been much better the last two games since Bluiett's back, scoring 22 points at Seton Hall and 17 against Butler at Cintas. He's averaging 14.6 points (41.8% FG, 32.7% 3PT), 4.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in 32.8 minutes per game.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Trevon Bluiett JR (6-6, 198) vs Sam Hauser FR (6-7, 225)
Hauser is mostly a spot-up shooter. He's shooting 44.3 percent from deep (54-122 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. He was 0-for-5 from deep with no points, six boards, three blocks, and two assists in 33 minutes in the last game against Xavier. Bluiett didn't play in the game at Marquette due to his sprained ankle. He had 21 points (7-16 FG, 3-8 3PT) in Sunday's loss to Butler. He's averaging 17.9 points (44.1% FG, 37.4% 3PT), 5.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 34.2 minutes per game. His presence will change everything for a struggling Marquette defense. It's highly unlikely the Golden Eagles will replicate the defensive effort they showed a few weeks ago when they held the Musketeers to 61 points without Bluiett on the court.
Moderate Edge Xavier
RaShid Gaston SR (6-9, 235) vs Matt Heldt SO (6-10, 245)
Heldt is a big-bodied post player that screens and bangs in the paint. He started the last game against Xavier and has stayed in the lineup since. He scored six points (3-4 FG) and grabbed nine boards before fouling out after 24 minutes against the Musketeers. He's not very involved on the offensive end typically but he has good hands, finishes well around the basket, and draws a lot of fouls. He had 15 points and 10 boards in 29 minutes last Tuesday against St. John's. Gaston put up a double-double of 12 points and 10 boards in 22 minutes at Marquette. After a string of three-straight double-doubles, he's disappeared a bit in the last two games, scoring just four points at Seton Hall and three against Butler while playing limited minutes in both games. He's averaging 8.0 points (58.5% FG) and 6.6 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game.
Slight Edge Xavier
Xavier Bench vs Marquette Bench
Senior center Luke Fischer has seemingly fallen out of favor with Wojciechowski. He lost his starting spot and played just 12 minutes in the first game against X, finishing with four points (2-3 FG), two rebounds, and two blocks. For the season, he's averaging 11.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in 24.3 minutes per game. Senior JaJuan Johnson is a versatile piece with a well-rounded skill-set. He lost his starting spot in the first game against Xavier and didn't even enter the game that night. He reappeared against St. John's and Providence the last two games, scoring 11 and five points respectively. He's the team's second-leading scorer at 11.5 points per game (46.2% FG, 33.3% 3PT) to go with 4.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 26.4 minutes of action. Senior wing Katin Reinhardt (6-6, 210) gives the Golden Eagles some versatility and skill off the bench. 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. He had three points (1-6 FG, 1-4 3PT) and two boards in 19 minutes in the first game against Xavier. Sophomore Haanif Cheatham is a slashing guard with good length. He's most dangerous in transition and he's a decent shooter on the rare occasion he has his feet set and he's open. He scored 15 points (5-9 FG, 0-1 3PT) and grabbed eight boards in 26 minutes of action last time against XU. He's averaging 9.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 27.7 minutes per game. For Xavier, Sean O'Mara has played well lately. His stretch of solid performances started at Marquette when he led Xavier with 14 points (5-8 FG) to go with five rebounds and three blocks in 20 minutes. Kaiser Gates played 35 minutes in that first game at Marquette and finished with 11 points (4-8 FG, 1-5 3PT) and seven boards. He got the start on Sunday in place of Bernard and scored five points (2-6 FG, 1-4 3PT) to go with two rebounds in 26 minutes. It seems likely Bernard would get his starting spot back for Senior Day. Tyrique Jones also played well last time against Marquette as he scored 13 points and grabbed four boards in 23 minutes. He hasn't done much in the two games since, though. He played just eight minutes and finished with two points and a rebound Sunday against Butler.
Moderate Edge Marquette
Marquette is ranked 32nd overall by KenPom.com, which is nine spots higher than when Xavier faced the Golden Eagles just a few weeks ago. They rank 10th in the country in offensive efficiency and 138th in defensive efficiency. Xavier is 40th overall, 35th in offensive efficiency and 72nd in defensive efficiency. The Golden Eagles can flat out shoot the basketball. They lead the nation in 3-point shooting percentage at 42.3 percent and 37.4 percent of their points have come from beyond the arc. Last time against X, they started so hot from three there wasn't much X could do to keep them from scoring during their 21-2 run to open the game. Then, after the Musketeers got down big, they got in foul trouble, Bernard got hurt, they had to go big, and they had to play zone, which Marquette predictably carved. The Musketeers will have to be fully locked in on the defensive end if they're going to pull off the win. Marquette has become an interesting matchup for X this season because of the Musketeers struggles to score and the Golden Eagles' ability to put up a big point total. Their offense hasn't been the same on the road, though. XU would love to catch them on a bad shooting night away from the Bradley Center. Marquette has lost three of its last four road games with the only win coming over DePaul. The Golden Eagles blew a 7-point lead in the final three minutes Saturday night at Providence to lose 73-69. Nothing would surprise me in this game, but my head gives the Musketeers the slight nod.
Predicted score: Xavier 71 Marquette 69