Both teams enter Monday night with a win to their names. Can the two-time defending Mid-American Conference champion pull of a stunning upset at the Cintas Center?
How to watch or listen
Game Time: Monday, November 14, 2016, at 7 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network (Tom McCarthy, Pete Gillen)
Xavier is a 14.5-point favorite per Oddshark.
This will be the first time ever that Buffalo and Xavier will meet on the court.
What to Watch For
Cintas Center Magic
Of course teams love to play at their home court, but not only does Xavier enjoy playing at the Cintas Center, it thrives in it. The Musketeers have gone 17-1 since the beginning of the 2015-16 season. They haven’t lost at home since Georgetown pulled the unlikely feat back in January, meaning they’ve gone 10 months without a loss. It’s been a while.
KenPom lists the Musketeers with a 91 percent chance to win Monday night with its prediction. It’s not likely the Buffalo Bulls pull off the upset, but they’ve gotten close over the last couple of years pulling off first round upsets in the NCAA Tournament. The odds are stacked against them once again. Although it isn’t a win-or-go-home type of stakes this time around, it would still be an impressive feat to accomplish, should they win.
Last time Xavier hit the court, it engaged in a close battle with the visiting Lehigh Mountain Hawks. Although the Musketeers got big performances from Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner to lead them to victory, there was an apparent flaw with Xavier’s rotation. The departures of Jalen Reynolds and James Farr in the front court hit a lot harder than expected, as Lehigh’s 6-10 star Tim Kempton delivered a big game inside. The senior forward had his way en route to a 25-point, seven-rebound performance.
Xavier’s Sean O’Mara is still unproven and inexperienced, as are the rest of the Musketeers’ big men, who nearly lost the rebounding battle to Lehigh. Buffalo doesn’t sport anyone like Kempton in its front court, but it did shoot well inside the arc, draining 60 percent of its shots. The Bulls can also knock down perimeter shots (40 percent from long range in win vs. Niagara), another element the Musketeers need to keep track of.
6-foot-10 sophomore Ikenna Smart got the start for Buffalo in the season opener, but he was pulled rather soon. He only logged 11 minutes and had only one basket during that time. 6-8 freshman Quate McKinzie and 6-10 senior Raheem Johnson were sprinkled into his spot in a rotation of bigs.
Last season, the Musketeers were excellent from shooting beyond the arc. Xavier sported the second-highest 3-point shooting percentage in the Big East, draining 36.2 percent of shots from long range. One game is a very small sample size, but not the start Xavier would hope for to begin from downtown. The Musketeers made only 4-of-17 (23.5 percent) 3-point attempts in Friday night’s win. It would be vital for the Bulls to force them to replicate a similar performance in order to have a fighting chance, much like Lehigh did. However, if Xavier can get the threes to fall again--combined with the interior scoring of Sumner and Bluiett—then the Bulls are in for a long night.