When the pairings for the first Gavitt Tip-Off Games were announced, the obvious highlight was the showdown between Georgetown and Maryland. However, the second-best matchup on the docket was definitely Xavier at Michigan.
While the hype surrounding it was palpable, the result was less competitive than expected. Xavier rolled up to Ann Arbor and bludgeoned the Wolverines, 86-70. The X is now off to a perfect 3-0 start to its encore of last year's Sweet 16 run. Villanova may still be the class of the Big East, but Xavier (along with Butler) is currently sharpening its claws in preparation for a run at the throne.
For now, the Musketeers will have to focus on thrashing the Northern Kentucky Norse, who come to the Cintas Center Monday night. Here's what you need to know.
A Mid-Sumner's Night Dream
Last season, Edmond Sumner played in six games before he had to be shut down due to an injury. It wasn't a great way for his freshman season to go, but the 6-foot-5 guard has come back healthy as ever and more than able to contribute. Sumner is scoring 13.3 points per game, which is third on the roster, trailing only Trevon Bluiett (14.3 PPG), who was expected to be the offensive tempo-setter, and J.P Macura (13.7), whose ability to knock down deep shots always makes him a threat.
Sumner has been selective with his shots, which could be a symptom of last season, when he had to sit back and be patient while not playing. He has made an even 50 percent from the floor, including 3-of-6 from long-range. In addition, he has shown a tendency to go to the hole, with 22 foul shots, easily the most on the team. If he could just make a few more (68.2 FT%), he would be even more frightening. Having Bluiett and Sumner playing so well together takes some offensive pressure off Jalen Reynolds and makes Xavier extremely difficult to defend.
The Two Towers
Speaking of Reynolds, his offensive numbers have not taken a huge leap as some expected and that is probably a good thing. Reynolds is not as polished an offensive threat as Matt Stainbrook was, but with Sumner and Bluiett taking on the scoring responsibilities so thoroughly, Reynolds has been able to just keep excelling at what he has always excelled at: defending the paint and cleaning the glass. The 6-foot-10 forward is grabbing 8.7 rebounds a contest and dropping in just over 10 points. He is also good for a block a game, which really doesn't tell the whole story of how impactful he is down low. His team-leading defensive rating (89.3) probably does a better job. Even the bravest drivers have steered away from the key. Even when venturing inside, would-be scorers have come up empty more times than they would like. Just look at how badly Michigan was beat up inside on Friday (34-14).
Reynolds isn't the only man locking up the interior. James Farr has been fantastic in an expanded role. He is pulling in 10.7 rebounds per game and also tapping in nine points a ball game. He leads Xavier in total rebounding percentage (.280) and is the main reason Xavier has out-rebounded its opponents by 15.7 RPG in the first three tilts. That included a 47-29 edge against the Wolverines.
Return of the Mac(ura)
We mentioned him earlier, but Macura deserves some of the spotlight. To say he has been on fire to start the season would be an insult to fire. As an energy shot off the bench, Macura has been making it rain from long range and keeps foes off balance by giving Xavier yet another scoring option. He is averaging four 3-pointers a game and is making 41.7 percent of his shots from that distance. With all those triples falling, Macura has racked up the best offensive rating on the team (151.6).