1. What did DePaul display against Marquette that they must carry over against Xavier at home on Saturday?
CN: In a word: resilience. In the past six games, one of the biggest issues with DePaul was the emotion and body language that they were exhibiting. Once the Blue Demons found themselves in a deficit, they were never quite able to emerge from it. They gave up. Something, however, was different against Marquette. This team was down by 13 points with roughly 12 minutes left. Their key big man was gone. It had all the makings of a game that DePaul was bound to lose. Nevertheless, DePaul trudged onward, fighting back, and emerging with a win. If they are to continue to win in the Big East, DePaul has to continue to have this great attitude and mental toughness. They showed great strength and maturity on Wednesday, something not all teams possess. Now they just have to put it to use.
2. What did we learn about this Xavier team after their win against Georgetown?
JB: We learned that Xavier has the ability to play defense. The Musketeers held Georgetown to the lowest points they have scored in a game this season -- 53 points, and forced the Hoyas to commit 16 turnovers. Georgetown’s turnover percentage was 25.6 against the Musketeers, 5 points higher than their season average of 20.6. The Hoyas only shot 2-13 from deep, a percentage of 15.4. On the season they have been shooting 35% from deep. The Muskies were aggressive on D the whole game, and looked to be a different team on that side of the ball. We also learned that Xavier can contend for a top 3 finish in the Big East. Georgetown is a good team that should finish near the top of the conference, and Xavier’s performance against them proves that they are a potential top 3 Big East team.
RP: Agree with JB; the defense wasn’t perfect, but at least the Musketeers showed that they can stop lane penetration. Watching the game though, the Musketeers are still weak at protecting the 3-pt line. The Hoya’s missed some very open shots from the perimeter that Xavier lucked out on. Moving forward, this Musketeer team is still vulnerable from deep but have the ability to stop shots from within the 3-pt line.
3. How will DePaul cope with the absence of Tommy Hamilton?
CN: DePaul got very lucky that Marquette’s big men didn’t score more than they did, but the fact remains that the bulk of Marquette’s points were scored in the paint. Xavier, on the other hand, has the best center in the Big East in Matt Stainbrook. He is a phenomenal post presence, a player I would hate to go up against but love to have on my team. With Hamilton gone, it is going to be incredibly difficult for the Blue Demons to guard the post against Stainbrook and company. Forrest Robinson and Myke Henry are going to have their work cut out for them, that much is sure. They are going to have to commit fully to defense and not allow Stainbrook the ball. The best option, though, is if Robinson is hitting from long range. If that happens, Xavier’s defense will have to spread out to cover an extra shooter, working wonders for that DePaul offense.
4. How does Xavier ensure they leave AllState Arena with the win?
JB: Cut off the head of the snake. The head of the snake for Depaul is Billy Garrett Jr., and the Blue Demons move as Garrett moves. He scored 19 in Depaul’s win over Marquette on New Years Eve, and scored 8 of his points in the last 3:30 minutes to bring the Blue Demons to a comeback victory. Depaul seems to struggle when Garrett is forcing many shots and shooting below a 50% clip from the field. Against the Golden Eagles he shot an efficient 6-9 from the field and 5-7 from the charity stripe. In Depaul’s losses to Colorado and Ohio he shot a total of 4-21. To stop Billy Garrett, Xavier only needs to do one thing. That one thing is put Remy Abell on him. Remy has shown in his first season as a Musketeer that he can be a shut-down defender. He has done just that and his D was a big reason why X forced Georgetown to 16 turnovers and only 6 assists. As long as Remy is covering Garrett for most of the game, X should have a good chance in preventing the Blue Demons to get in any rhythm offensively.
RP: The Musketeers have to be disciplined for the full 40 minutes of the game. Two of Xavier’s 3 losses saw the Musketeers lose a halftime lead. Against UTEP and Auburn in particular, Xavier showed a tendency to play "shot-for-shot" defense, in which Xavier relied too much on their offense to carry them through the game and played lackadaisical on defense. Against Depaul, Xavier has to play smart and protect the lane. Depaul will have some opportunities to hit the threes but as long as Xavier can keep Garrett from driving, the Musketeers should be able to pull away.
5. Who wins and why?
CN: I begrudgingly predict that Xavier wins this one. That game against Marquette took a lot out of this team. The win came out of thin air against another team on the bottom rung of the Big East hierarchical ladder. DePaul may have won, but they won’t be afforded a win in similar fashion against a team like Xavier. I think the Musketeers’ post presence is the difference here, even though I think Garrett will have another 15+ point game. Xavier wins 78-66.
JB: Xavier wins.Depaul has been a tough team to beat at their place, but they did lose to Lehigh and Illinois State at AllState Arena earlier this year. X is a more complete team than the Blue Demons and have more offensive weapons and depth. As long as Xavier controls the game on the defensive side like they did against the Hoyas, than the offense will take care of itself. Xavier beats Depaul, 76-63.
RP: Xavier on paper should win. Depaul isn’t a great team, but the Xavier-Auburn game has shown that the Musketeers are a different team away than at home. If Xavier can continue improving on defense and Dee stays away from foul trouble, the Musketeers should be able to roll past Depaul, 68-60.