Kevin Kuo - USA Today Sports

The Matchups: Xavier vs Arizona

Before every game, Rick takes a position-by-position look at what to expect. This edition focuses on Thursday night's Sweet 16 matchup against Arizona.

Quentin Goodin FR (6-4, 194) vs Allonzo Trier SO (6-5, 205)

Trier is a bucket-getting lead guard that makes the game look easy. He's as comfortable on the ball as he is off the ball. He has a tight handle and can score efficiently from the perimeter, the midrange, and at the rim. He's a menace in transition, excellent in pick-and-rolls, and a good spot-up shooter. He's the team's leading scorer at 17.1 points per game (46.4% FG, 40.3% 3PT) to go with 5.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 31.6 minutes. He's also a good defender.  Goodin did his job in the Florida State game. Even though he wasn't getting shots to fall (2-8 FG), he took great care of the ball and set up his teammates (5 Asts, 2 TOs). Regardless of whether Xavier is playing man-to-man or zone defense, his athleticism will be important on the defensive end against these Arizona guards. He's averaging 5.1 points (35.3% FG, 26.5% 3PT), 3.4 assists, and 1.9 turnovers in 23.6 minutes per game. 

Moderate Edge Arizona

JP Macura JR (6-5, 203) vs Kadeem Allen SR (6-3, 205)

Allen is an athletic lead guard with a strong frame. He loves to create plays off of ballscreens for himself and his teammates. He often gets all the way to the rim where he's a good finisher, but he also has a nice midrange game. He's shooting the ball well from the outside (41.7%) on somewhat limited attempts (72). He's a top-notch defender and often guards the opposing team's best player. He's averaging 9.8 points (45.4% FG), 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.6 steals in 30.1 minutes per game. It will be interesting to see if Allen matches up with Macura or Bluiett. Macura has been noticeably more reserved in looking for his shot during the postseason. He was 4-for-10 against FSU, including 2-for-3 from deep, with 10 points, five assists, two rebounds, two steals, and one turnover in 30 minutes of action. It's worth mentioning that, after a season-long struggle with his jumper, he's 11-for-23 (47.8%) from 3-point range in the postseason. He's averaging 14.3 points (42.2% FG, 34.2% 3PT), 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.4 steals in 33.3 minutes per game.

Slight Edge Xavier

Malcolm Bernard SR (6-6, 202) vs Rawle Alkins FR (6-5, 220)

Alkins is a physical and athletic wing that excels as a downhill driver and finisher, both in transition and in the halfcourt. He has a great spin move and he's tough to handle coming off of ballscreens. He's also proven to be a consistent spot-up shooter, particularly against zone defenses. When he crashes the offensive glass, he has the athleticism and physique to contend on the boards with bigger players. He's a solid defender for a freshman. He's averaging 11.1 points (46.7% FG, 37.9% 3PT), 5.0 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 27.9 minutes per game. Bernard has been steady for XU in the postseason. He's rebounded the ball really well, he's taken care of the ball for the most part, and he's nailed the occasional three. If he gets one of the big men guarding him when he's on the floor, he needs to be aggressive and become a threat for XU's offense. He's averaging 6.4 points (41.2% FG, 38.7% 3PT) and 4.0 rebounds in 27.9 minutes per game. 

Moderate Edge Arizona

Trevon Bluiett JR (6-6, 198) vs Lauri Markkanen FR (7-0, 230)

Markkanen is a unique offensive talent that's difficult to defend. He uses his length really effectively, is a knockdown shooter from the outside, moves fluidly, and plays with good feel. When defending the Wildcats man-to-man, he'll set screens and then pop to the perimeter if his man jumps the screen or roll to the block and post up the mismatch if the defense switches. He's a really efficient scorer in either scenario. Against a zone defense, he's lethal from the midrange while working the high post. He's capable of attacking a bad closeout and scoring off the bounce, and he can also be a difference-maker on the offensive glass. He's averaging 15.8 points (49.6% FG, 43.3% 3PT) and 7.2 rebounds in 30.6 minutes per game. His defensive matchup will be interesting. It would seem Bluiett would be a difficult matchup for him, but if he's matched up on Bernard it could make one of Xavier's secondary options a weapon. It just doesn't seem that there's a good matchup for him. Bluiett didn't have to battle as much of a slow start on Saturday against Florida State as he had in his previous few games. He posted eight points in a balanced offensive effort for the Musketeers in the first half and finished with 29 for the game. He's 8-for-15 from 3-point range in the two NCAA tournament games so far. Xavier will need the same type of performance out of him in this one to have a chance. He's averaging 18.5 points (44.2% FG, 37.7% 3PT), 5.7 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 35 minutes per game. 

Slight Edge Xavier

Tyrique Jones FR (6-9, 237) vs Dusan Ristic JR (7-0, 245)

Ristic is a solid below-the-rim big man with legit size that can score on the block and rebound. He has good footwork and a soft touch with either hand on his baby hooks. He's strong enough to seal his man close to the rim most of the time, which means XU's bigs will have to do their work early and keep him from gaining position. He's averaging 10.7 points (55.1% FG) and 5.5 rebounds in 22.8 minutes per game. Jones started and played well against Florida State on Saturday as he scored 13 points (6-7 FG, 1-1 FT) and grabbed four rebounds in 17 minutes. He's averaging 4.2 points (60.4% FG) and 3.2 rebounds in 10.9 minutes per game. Whether it's him, Sean O'Mara, or RaShid Gaston, Xavier needs production out of its frontcourt in this matchup. The Wildcats' post players are their weaker defenders.

Even

Xavier Bench vs Arizona Bench

Junior Parker Jackson-Cartwright (5-11, 170) is a small and speedy point guard that provides the Wildcats with a talented passer and another steady ballhandler. He splits most of his possessions used between ballscreens and spot-up opportunities. He's averaging 5.9 points (43.8% FG, 43.3% 3PT), 4.1 assists, and 2.4 rebounds in 24.9 minutes per game. Sophomore Chance Comanche (6-11, 215) is a long forward with some athleticism. He's not very effective as a low-post scorer, but he is a good at catching and finishing in pick-and-roll or dump-off situations. He's averaging 6.3 points (56.8% FG) and 3.6 rebounds in 18.4 minutes per game. Junior Keanu Pinder (6-9, 220) is a forward with good size and decent athleticism that provides some depth inside. He's mostly a catch-and-finish player, but he has a little bit of face-up skill too. He's averaging 2.3 points (53.7% FG) and 2.9 rebounds in 12.3 minutes per game. Freshman Kobi Simmons (6-5, 175) is an impressively athletic lead guard that's at his best when he's driving to the rim, but he's taken a lot of threes this year. He's fallen out of favor with the coaching staff recently and has barely played over the last six games. He saw just six minutes against St. Mary's and finished 0-for-3 from the field with two free-throws. He's averaging 8.8 points (39.4% FG, 33% 3PT) and 2.0 assists in 24.1 minutes per game. For Xavier, Kaiser Gates and Sean O'Mara were really the only two rotation players off the bench that played in the Florida State game and both of them provided a huge lift. Gates played 30 minutes and scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range, to go with five rebounds, two assists, and one turnover. O'Mara had 11 points (2-2 FG, 7-7 FT), five boards, three assists, and three blocks in 21 minutes of action. Arizona definitely has more depth and talent on its bench than do the Musketeers, but this game is going to be won by the main five or six guys for each team. 

Slight Edge Arizona

Overall

Arizona is ranked 18th overall in the current KenPom rankings, 17th in offensive efficiency and 24th in defensive efficiency. Xavier ranks 30th overall, 29th on offense and 65th on defense. Arizona is a decent rebounding team on both ends (57th in off reb % and 46th in def reb %), but Xavier is tougher on the glass (29th in off reb % and 27th in def reb %). The Wildcats shoot the three well (39.6%) but they don't shoot it often. They prefer to attack out of their halfcourt passing game offense, often times off of ballscreens, and draw fouls on their opponents. Defensively, you know what to expect out of a Sean Miller coached team - halfcourt man-to-man Packline defense all the time. The Wildcats are great at defending ballscreens and their guards are very good on the perimeter, but they're a little susceptible on the interior with Ristic and Markkanen being their two worst defenders. Both coaches will be well-versed in what the other one is trying to do and a lot of the Xs and Os will feel familiar between the two teams, so don't expect for X to get the same great looks off of easy actions and sets that they did on Saturday against FSU. The Musketeers are playing their best basketball of the year and they have absolutely zero pressure on them. That's a dangerous combination. However, they're also traveling out west and there's a reason Arizona is the two seed. Mack's men will need a special performance to pull this one off. 

Predicted Score: Arizona 73 Xavier 68


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