After struggling defensively through their first two wins of the season, the Xavier Musketeers were hit with a harsh dose of reality Tuesday evening against Wisconsin. Whereas they made up for their defensive deficiencies in the first two games of the year with potent offense, Xavier was unable to turn the game against Wisconsin into a shootout, and suffered their first loss of 2018-19.
Ideally, the Musketeers have studied the tape and learned from their mistakes against the Badgers. But with a loaded Maui Invitational field featuring three top-10 teams, Xavier may take some more lumps this week.
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Time: 2:30 p.m. ET, November 19
Line: Auburn opened as nine-point favorites.
As noted above, the Musketeers have had their share of issues on defense, as they currently are one of the worst high major teams in the nation in defensive efficiency. Xavier checks in at 99.8 in that category, which is 124th in college basketball. That doesn’t seem bad, but among “power five” or Big East teams, only LSU and Washington State are worst. The Musketeers are also allowing threes at an alarming rate, as their three-point percentage allowed to 46.1% is 347 of 351 qualified teams. 45.5% of Xavier’s opponents’ points have been scored on three pointers. The national average is 31.2%. All of this is a long way of saying the Musketeers need to get it together on defense.
But, how do they do that? Auburn is one of the nation’s best teams. The Tigers haven’t been tested in any of their three wins this season, and they’re shooting an impeccable 43.5% from long-range. Xavier’s first game in Maui could get ugly in a hurry.
Can the Musketeers win? Sure. Anything is possible. But they need to play a virtually perfect game, and Tyrique Jones and Naji Marshall need to continue to scarf up rebounds and keep Auburn off the glass. Chuma Okeke is a player in particular to key in on, as he can grab rebounds, hit threes, and alter shots.
If Xavier wins, they will likely play Duke on Tuesday. If they lose, they’ll likely face off with San Diego State.