XAVIER MUSKETEERS VS. ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI
Time: Approx. 9 p.m. ET
Watch Online: WatchESPN
The Xavier Musketeers are off to one of their worst starts in recent memory. The Musketeers, 2-3, haven’t been at this record through their first five games since all the way back in the 2004-05 season. That year, they went 17-12 under head coach Sean Miller, and wound up being one of their worst years in the 21st century.
Their run through the Maui Invitational has been vastly different from the last few years as well. Lately, Xavier has made a habit of mowing through Feast Week tournaments. Such has not been the case so far, as they’ve taken losses to the Auburn Tigers and the San Diego State Aztecs. They will look to avoid the 0-for-3 mark when they face off with the Illinois Fighting Illini on Wednesday night.
Like Xavier, Illinois has gone 0-2 through the first two games of their run through Maui. They lost to both the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Iowa State Cyclones. They’re 1-3 so far, with their other loss coming to the Georgetown Hoyas in the Gavitt Games last week. The lone win on the season came against the Evansville Purple Aces in their first game of the season.
The profile for Illinois so far in their first four games is one that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Brad Underwood’s bunch are typically high-octane on tempo, efficient on offense and lacking a little bit on defense. That’s been the case so far this season. They rank 44th in the nation in Adjusted Tempo. Their offensive numbers rank far better than their defense, and of course, they have made it a point to force turnovers at a high rate.
The Illini’s best player so far is freshman Ayo Dosunmu. Dosunmu was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school, and he’s showing exactly why. He’s posting high efficiency numbers so far and isn’t turning the ball over much. Also, he’s second on the team in points per game with 15.5. He is the team’s best 3-point shooter so far, with a mark of 53.3 percent from beyond the arc already. He scored 13 points in the team’s loss to Iowa State, after a six-point outing against the Zags. He’ll have the opportunity to finish out with a bang on Wednesday.
Another player to watch out for from Illinois is sophomore Trent Frazier. Frazier is the team’s lead assist man and also their team leader in PPG — 18.0 — and has a minuscule turnover rate. He has taken 31.6 percent of the Illini’s shots this season — a team high — and has been accounted for on 26.2 percent of possessions, also a team high. So you can very much expect the ball to be in Frazier’s hands often when he takes the floor. He put up 15 points in the loss to the Cyclones, on the heels of a 29-point outing against the Zags.
Xavier will have to hope for better success this time around. They fell to San Diego State mostly because of a second half collapse, and mostly because of Jalen McDaniels and Devin Watson. Xavier has struggled with defending dynamic duos (McDaniels/Watson one day, Bryce Brown/Jared Harper another) so we’ll see if they have learned their lesson with trying to stop Ayo and Frazier in the third and final set in Maui.
We will also certainly see if Quentin Goodin has more in him after a terrific run so far. Q scored 20 points vs. SDSU and was excellent from the floor, shooting 7-for-11 and 3-for-5 from deep. He’s averaged 15 points per game through his first four games this season and has 4.3 assists per game as well, so he’s been productive on the stat sheet.
All told, this will be a fascinating matchup between two teams who are desperate for victories in the early goings of the 2018-19 season.