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Preview: Kent State vs. #13 Xavier

The Musketeers take aim at the Golden Flashes.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Where: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports 1

Watch Online: Fox Sports Go

Line: The Musketeers opened as 23-point faves. They are 23.5-point favorites at TopBet.

Last Meeting: Dec. 9, 2012, Xavier over Kent State 62-55

After two stellar victories against Top 25 opponents, the Xavier Musketeers jumped eight spots in the AP poll. They now enter an easier stretch in the schedule and the third game of a six-game homestand to face the Kent State Golden Flashes, the defending MAC Tournament champion.

Xavier should be able to handle Kent State in this contest, but the Flashes do have two scoring threats in guard Jaylin Walker and forward Adonis DeLaRosa. Walker, a junior, leads the Flashes in scoring averaging 17.7 points per game. Seven-footer DeLaRosa ranks second on the team in scoring with 14.1 points per game and eight rebounds to boot. Xavier has seen its fair share of seven-footers, most recently in Jo Lual-Acuil Jr., who the Musketeers held to just eight points and four rebounds a week ago.

What To Watch For

What will happen at the 5?

Tuesday’s reports from the press conference revealed that Tyrique Jones’ minutes were limited during the Cincinnati game was due to him experiencing knee arthritis. What does this mean for Xavier, who regularly starts Jones at the forward position? His minutes will perhaps be limited in order for him to get healthy. That’s the bad news. The good news is Kerem Kanter has taken his stride, and with Jones possibly not being able to get his regular minutes, Kanter’s continued productive play may be crucial.

Emergence of Kaiser Gates

Gates has continued to improve throughout the course of this young season and had a fantastic pair of games last week against Baylor and Cincinnati, dropping 19 against the Bears and 10 against the Bearcats along with 10 rebounds. He has proved to be an integral part of the offense and at it stands currently, is the third leading scorer on the team. With this level of production, Xavier is shaping up to be a threat on the offensive side of the ball.

Freshmen experience

With this stretch of Xavier playing a few mid-major teams, I’m looking forward to seeing the freshmen get more minutes than usual. Mack has employed an interesting lineup including all three freshmen with another newcomer in Kanter. If the Musketeers secure a big enough lead, it can be rightly assumed that some bench guys will get more minutes. Look for the freshmen to get playing time and showcase their talents because they all bring something to the table.