1. Xavier is picking up where they left off last year
Led by the now graduated Matt Stainbrook, Xavier found their form near the end of the season with a second place finish in the Big East Tournament and a Sweet Sixteen birth in the NCAA Tournament. Losing their leader in the huddle and the stat sheet in Stainbrook, few expected X to be the team they were at the end of last year.
Yet, Trevon Blueitt, J.P Macura, Jalen Reynolds, and James Farr all have improved enough to provide the scoring boost and captaincy that a true contender requires.
Today, Xavier faced possibly one of their tougher nonconference contests away at Ann Arbor. Every time Michigan attempted to spark a run to retrieve the lead, the rambunctious group of Musketeers had an answer. Their mental fortitude was impressive as the Maize and Blue crowd was never truly able to be a true factor.
Xavier consistently showed their toughness and effort to reach the loose ball on the road against a Top 25 team. Their effort and physicality could help them contend in the Big East this year.
2. Xavier's dominance on the boards was a key to victory
Jalen Reynolds was unrelenting tonight on both ends of the court. Michigan found no answer to him down low as he brought down nine boards in 23 minutes.
As he entered foul trouble late in the game, James Farr was even more impressive with 12 rebounds (including five offensive) in even less minutes.
Michigan's small ball lineup only played into the hands of Xavier's blue collar style of laborious rebounding as the Musketeers out rebounded them by a whopping 17 in the second half.
3. Michigan could not find scoring outside Caris LeVert
After missing the second half of last year, Caris LeVert was the only potent force on offense for the Wolverines today. His 29 points on 8-of-16 shooting kept Michigan close until about halfway into the second half.
Unfortunately for the home team, no one else scored in double figures. Zack Irvin took only six shots and Derrick Walton missed 4-of-5 from the field. Michigan's inability to find a secondary source of scoring prevented them from overcoming the second half deficit.