Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchups: Xavier vs DePaul

Before every game, Rick takes a position-by-position look at what to expect. This edition focuses on Wednesday night's Big East Tournament opener against DePaul.

Quentin Goodin FR (6-4, 194) vs Billy Garrett Jr. SR (6-6, 213)

Garrett stayed aggressive against Xavier's man-to-man and zone defenses on Saturday. He found soft spots in the mid-range multiple times for good looks and finished with 17 points (6-10 FG, 1-3 3PT), seven rebounds, and two assists, but he also had five turnovers. He's averaging 14.9 points (38.6% FG, 36.1% 3PT), 3.3 assists, and 2.9 rebounds in 29.2 minutes per game. He scored 12 points and dished out four assists but had five turnovers in the Blue Demons' loss at Cintas Center last month. Goodin struck a nice balance between looking for his own shot and finding his teammates when driving against DePaul on Saturday. He finished with eight points, three assists, two steals, two rebounds, and two turnovers in 38 minutes of action. He's averaging 4.5 points (32.7% FG, 26.2% 3PT), 3.3 assists, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.7 turnovers in 21.5 minutes per game. He had five points (2-6 FG), eight assists, and two turnovers in the first game against DePaul. 

Moderate Edge DePaul

JP Macura JR (6-5, 203) vs Eli Cain SO (6-6, 204)

Cain gave Xavier trouble when he put the ball on the floor in Saturday's game. However, he ended up settling for a lot of jumpers and stood around too much when XU went to the zone defense. He finished with 13 points but was 4-of-13 from the field, including 1-of-5 from distance, with six rebounds, three assists, and two steals. He's the Blue Demons' leading scorer at 15.6 points per game (40.3% FG, 34.9% 3PT) to go with 4.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in 33.2 minutes per game. He scored 15 points (6-14 FG, 1-5 3PT), grabbed five boards, and dished out four assists in the first game between these teams. Macura played hard but never really found a rhythm on Saturday. He ended up with nine points (4-10 FG, 1-3 3PT), five boards, three assists, a steal, and three turnovers. He's averaging 14.5 points (41.7% FG, 32.3% 3PT), 4.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 33 minutes per game. He struggled with his shot when these teams played at the Cintas Center too but he remained aggressive when attacking and got to the free-throw line a lot where he was a perfect 7-for-7 to finish with 13 points, seven boards, and six assists. 

Slight Edge DePaul

Malcolm Bernard SR (6-6, 202) vs Brandon Cyrus FR (6-5, 189)

Cyrus hit his first two shots against Xavier on Saturday and then went cold, including missing a wide open breakaway layup. He finished with nine points (2-6 FG, 4-6 FT), five rebounds, and two turnovers. He moved well without the ball against Xavier's zone and got some open looks as a result, but he's only a 24.3 percent 3-point shooter. He's averaging 6.2 points (37% FG) and 4.1 rebounds in 26.2 minutes per game. XU tried to make him beat them in the first game and he made them pay by scoring 18 points (7-12 FG, 2-4 3PT) and grabbing six boards in 36 minutes. Bernard tied his season-high of 13 points for the third straight game on Saturday. He was 4-for-8 from the field, including 3-for-7 from deep, with five boards, two steals, two assists, and no turnovers. He's averaging 6.3 points (40.4% FG, 38.5% 3PT), 3.6 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 27.5 minutes per game. He's scored his season-high, 13 points, in back-to-back games now and is playing as well as he has all year. He had nine points (8-18 FG, 4-8 3PT), three assists, and two steals but also four turnovers in the first game against DePaul. Despite Xavier's struggles, Bernard's strong finish to the regular season could be a major bright spot for this team if it pulls together in the postseason.

Slight Edge Xavier

Trevon Bluiett JR (6-6, 198) vs Tre'Darius McCallum

McCallum had a tip-in within the first few possessions of Saturday's game and then missed six straight shots (four of them were bad looks) to finish with three points (1-7 FG, 0-1 3PT). He can be effective when he's active and finds his points in ways other than taking jumpers. He's averaging 9.6 points (44.2% FG, 28.6% 3PT) and 6.6 rebounds in 30.9 minutes per game. He had six points (3-8 FG, 0-2 3PT) and four rebounds in the first meeting between these teams before fouling out after 29 minutes of action. After playing poorly against Marquette, Bluiett bounced back in a major way on Saturday and showed his competitive spirit. He scored 24 points on 7-for-18 shooting, including 4-for-11 from deep, with  10 rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a turnover in 39 minutes. He's averaging 18.0 points (43.8% FG, 37.9% 3PT), 5.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 34.4 minutes per game. He had 20 points and seven boards (three offensive) in the first game against DePaul. The Blue Demons really don't have a good matchup for him. As long as he stays aggressive and hits shots any sort of reasonable clip, Xavier should be in good shape. 

Significant Edge Xavier

RaShid Gaston SR (6-9, 239) vs Joe Hanel JR (6-7, 213)

Hanel played on Saturday against Xavier. He's averaging 4.7 points (66.3% FG) and 4.9 rebounds in 25.8 minutes per game. RaShid Gaston didn't start and only played 17 minutes on Saturday, but he'll be the top option in the post with Tyrique Jones likely out due to "concussion-like symptoms." He had his way with DePaul's big men when he caught the ball on the block, going 3-for-3 from the field with eight points and six boards. He's averaging 8.2 points (59.7% FG) and 6.6 rebounds in 20.0 minutes per game. He scored 14 points and grabbed five boards in the first game against the Blue Demons. 

Significant Edge Xavier

Xavier Bench vs DePaul Bench

Chris Harrison-Docks is one of the more important pieces for DePaul in this matchup because he can give Xavier's zone issues if he gets hot from the outside. He was 3-for-9 from deep on Saturday and two of his makes were ridiculously tough. He's averaging 6.2 points (36.8% FG, 36.1% 3PT) in 18.5 minutes per game off the bench. He had eight points on 3-of-7 shooting, 2-of-6 from deep, in the first game against XU. Freshman center Levi Cook had two rebounds and two turnovers in 13 minutes against XU on Saturday. For Xavier, Tyrique Jones is on the trip but likely won't be available for this game, meaning Sean O'Mara will be the only center off the bench. He only played seven minutes and finished with two points (1-2 FG) and a rebound on Saturday. Kaiser Gates has struggled with his shot in the two games against DePaul this year, going a combined 2-for-9 from deep against the Blue Demons. He finished with seven points, three boards, and two steals on Saturday.

Even

Overall

DePaul is ranked 179th overall in the current KenPom rankings. The Blue Demons are sitting at 189th in the country in offensive efficiency and 171st in defensive efficiency. Xavier is ranked 43rd overall, 33rd in offensive efficiency, and 83rd in defensive efficiency. Xavier played zone for 50 of 66 set defensive possessions on Saturday. I'd expect to see more of the same tonight. The Musketeers were able to get stops on 32 of those 50 possessions compared to nine stops in 16 possessions of man-to-man. In two games against DePaul this year, Bluiett and Bernard have combined to hit 14-of-30 from 3-point range. XU doesn't need to shoot all that well against this DePaul team because they can bully them in the paint and on the offensive glass, but it'd be big if the Musketeers could build some momentum and confidence at Madison Square Garden ahead of a second round matchup with Butler.

Predicted score: Xavier 76 DePaul 68


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