Where: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
Time: 6:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports 1
Watch Online: FOX Sports GO
Line: Xavier -22.0
All-Time Record: Marshall 13-11
The Xavier Musketeers may be favored by more than 20 points. The Marshall Thundering Herd may be picked to be a middle-of-the-pack team in the Conference USA. But as many Musketeers fans learned last game, no team should be taken lightly.
The Thundering Herd are on a four-game winning streak, most recently defeating Ohio in a three-point overtime victory. They have a trio who all average at least 19 points per game. The junior guard tandem of Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks are the Herd’s two top scorers, with 24.2 and 19.6 points per game respectively. Another junior, Ajdin Penava, averages 19.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
From the outlook, it is pretty evident that this Marshall team can score the basketball well and are fairly efficient at it too. They’ve put up an average of 90 points per game to Xavier’s 88, along with a field goal percentage of 48.7 percent.
These two teams also match up fairly evenly in the rebounding category, with the Herd pulling down 37 boards per game. The Musketeers, meanwhile, barely edge them out with 39. The Herd aren’t a great team on the road, having a 1-3 away record this year. And the Musketeers are a formidable team to beat at home, securing an 8-0 record when playing on campus this season. Xavier is vying for its 39th straight nonconference home victory.
What To Watch For
In Xavier’s latest victory over ETSU, the Musketeers didn't have as deep of a bench as they normally do. Paul Scruggs and Elias Harden were held out of the game for not meeting program standards. Additionally, J.P. Macura was not his usual self and didn't play a majority of the second half. Both Scruggs and Harden will be available for tonight’s game and hopefully, Macura will return to normality.
Chris Mack busted out Xavier’s zone package, the 1-3-1 defense, last game in an attempt to quell ETSU’s scoring frenzy. And it worked marvelously. While Xavier usually employs a typical man-to-man defense, Mack will occasionally switch over to the zone to get high scoring teams out of an offensive rhythm. The Herd is yet another very productive offensive squad and if all else fails, I wouldn't be surprised to see the 1-3-1 zone again. The zone upended the Bucs offense in Xavier’s latest thrilling come-from-behind victory and if it can be as fruitful as it was against ETSU, the Musketeers can have a multitude of defense looks, throwing off many teams offensively.
What J.P. Will We See Tonight?
Macura has been streaky in terms of points scored.But even when he’s not scoring, he means a lot more to this team than what is indicated on the stat sheet. Not only is he a proven senior leader, but he is also the heart and soul of this fiery Xavier squad hungry to make some noise come March. Macura has just about every quality you want to see in a basketball player: He’ll be a feisty pest on defense, go all out every game and can even really score the basketball.
When he is at his best, Macura can be a game-changing playmaker on both ends of the floor and the combination of Macura, Trevon Bluiett and Kaiser Gates on the offensive side of the game can be one of college basketball’s most dominant trios if they all click at the right time.
Tonight, Xavier closes out a six-game homestand as conference play is inching closer and closer to the horizon. At this point, Xavier has a very strong chance at coming out of non-conference play with just one game in the loss column against the now #3 Arizona State Sun Devils. Safe to say, the Musketeers can now put the sluggish start to the ETSU game on the back burner and focus on the task ahead en route to what will hopefully be scored as yet another decisive home victory against Marshall.