Where: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
Time: 2 p.m. ET
Watch On: FOX Sports Networks (Affiliate list), FOX Sports Go (Where available)
All-Time Series: Xavier 2-1
The Bucs are picked to come in fourth in the Southern Conference but are the defending conference tournament champions. Last season, the Bucs got an auto bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning their conference but fell to Florida in the first round.
East Tennessee State’s best player is preseason All-Southern Conference guard Desonta Bradford, who is the team’s top scorer averaging 12.6 points per game with 6.1 rebounds per game.
The Bucs dive deep into the bench as they have 11 players on the roster that log double-digit minutes per game. The aforementioned Bradford registers 31.4 minutes per game, the most among Bucs players. The team is also experienced with the five players who see the court the most being seniors.
East Tennessee State’s offense production isn’t nearly as effective as the Musketeers, scoring only 77 points per game to Xavier’s 90 points per game. The Musketeers are also much more efficient on offense, ranking second in the nation with a .546 field goal percentage. The Bucs shoot just .457 percent from the floor.
One stat that really sticks out for the Bucs is that they average 10 steals per game, good enough for top 15 in the nation.
What To Watch For
How will the Musketeers play after a week off?
Due to finals week at Xavier, the Musketeers haven’t played a scheduled game for a full week. That begs the question, how will they fair? Lately, the Musketeers have surged out of the gates being able to establish an early lead. Perhaps the one good thing about the break is that a few of the players have been dealing with minor injuries. A few weeks ago, Chris Mack said Trevon Bluiett had been dealing with some back tightness and just last week, Mack said that Tyrique Jones dealt with knee tendinitis. In the game last Saturday against Colorado, Paul Scruggs took an awkward fall and appeared to injure his ribs and went to the locker room, but later returned to finish out the game. That being said, the week off has hopefully given those players a chance to recover, however, presumably these aren’t serious injuries by any means.
Quentin Goodin will have a tough defensive assignment possibly having to matchup with Bradford, who is not only the Bucs top scorer but also roughly the same size as him. Rest assured, Goodin is a great defender, perhaps even the best defensive player on the team. Another player who may pose an interesting matchup for Xavier is the seven-foot Peter Jurkin, although, he doesn’t seem to be much of a scoring threat only averaging 7.4 points per game. The Xavier bigs all lineup around 6’10”, so Jurkin will have a two-inch height advantage over whoever is guarding him.
The Musketeers have demonstrated that they shoot the ball very well from behind the arc with a 40 percent three-point field goal percentage to show for it. The deep scoring has been bolstered by three main parties, Bluiett, J.P. Macura and Kaiser Gates. Last year, there were questions about Gates’ production, but this year, he has come into his own, ranking second on the team in three-point field goal percentage behind Bluiett. If this efficiency from three-point land continues, the Musketeers will have a potent offense with their top 3 long-range marksmen recording the most minutes on the Xavier roster.
This should be another game that the Musketeers can win handily, but due to the long week of game action off, I wouldn’t be all that shocked if Xavier doesn’t come out to the roaring starts that its had in its past few contests. The Musketeers thrive at home and this game should be no exception as they look to win their 38th consecutive home game against nonconference opponents.