After going 1-2 in the 2018 Maui Invitational, the Xavier Musketeers have returned to Ohio. On Wednesday night at the Cintas Center, the Musketeers will host an in-state adversary in the form of the Miami (OH) RedHawks.
Despite being in the same state, these schools are meeting for the first time in three seasons. The last time they met was November 13, 2015. On that night, Xavier defeated the RedHawks 81-72. Overall, the Musketeers lead the all-time series 46-42, and have won five of the last six matchups dating back to the 2008-09 season. The only time the RedHawks tagged the Musketeers recently was on December 1, 2010, when they took them down 74-65 at Millett Hall in Oxford.
Miami (OH) is currently ranked 155th on KenPom. Out of the MAC, the RedHawks were predicted to finish second behind the Buffalo Bulls in the East Division. None of their players were selected to the Preseason All-MAC East Division team, but they still boast a pretty talented crop. Nike Sibande and Dalonte Brown are a pair of sophomores who’ve been carrying the team so far. Sibande is averaging 18.5 points per game through Miami’s first six games, while Brown has put up 17.5 points per game thus far.
Sibande put up a season-high 24 points in their opener against the Big East’s Butler Bulldogs. Brown, meanwhile, racked up his season-high of 25 in the RedHawks’ victory over the North Dakota State Bison down in the Bahamas on November 16. Brown is also the team’s best 3-point shooter so far, averaging 46.2 percent from the perimeter off his 26 shots from deep.
Another player that Xavier is going to have to account for is senior guard Darrian Ringo. Ringo has posted very high efficiency numbers this season. His eFG% and TS% are among the nation’s best and he also has a super-high assist rate of 35.4 percent. It will be up to Quentin Goodin and Paul Scruggs to try and slow him and the aforementioned Sibande down. Look for Ringo to try and make an impact defensively, also. His steal percentage of 5.5 percent is 8th-best in the entire country in the early goings.
Offense hasn’t been the reason that the RedHawks are 3-3. Their offense has been quite good, actually. Especially so at the free throw line. Miami is 5th in the nation at this point in FT%, with a mark of 80.7 percent from the line. They rank 64th in 2PT FG% and 122nd in 3PT FG%, 70th in eFG% and 11th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. Those aren’t mind-blowing standings, but their standings that reflect a team that is more than competent on the offensive side of the floor.
The part where the RedHawks have struggled is on defense. They have done a good job of keeping other teams off the offensive glass, but they’ve struggled just about everywhere else. They rank in the sub-200s in just about every offensive category, with their worst mark being 29th in the nation in 2PT FG% allowed. They also rank 248th in 3PT FG% allowed, 280th in eFG% allowed and 281st in TO%. So they can’t really force turnovers and are susceptible to a lot of shots being made.
They also are not scaring teams off the 3-point line. Their 3-point rate allowed is 47.7 percent. So, 47.7 percent of teams’ shots against them have been from beyond the arc. That, as you might expect, ranks them near the bottom in D1, as they sit 332nd in the country in that category. As they face a Xavier team that has been somewhat average in 3-point shooting but have taken a decent amount of shots from deep, it’s a wonder if the Musketeers will succeed from outside on Wednesday night. Look for the likes of Ryan Welage, Kyle Castlin and Elias Harden to have big nights, as they’re among the best 3-point shooters on the Musketeers so far.
But conversely, it will be a wonder if Miami can succeed as well. Xavier has been a bit of a sieve themselves on defense, especially from the perimeter. They rank 341st in the nation in 3PT FG% allowed and are 327th in the nation in 3PT rate. Teams aren’t terrified of shooting against them either. So, the RedHawks themselves could have a field day if Xavier hasn’t shored things up. The aforementioned Brown, along with Ringo, Mekhi Lairy and Bam Bowman could very well light it up from the perimeter if they get good looks.
Despite their struggles, Xavier is a huge favorite in this game. The Musketeers have an 82% win probability on KenPom and are projected to win by 10 points. Vegas odds have Xavier as an 11-point favorite right now, as well. But, with that said, the Musketeers are just 1-4-1 against the spread this season, while Miami is 3-2. I would say that Xavier will win, but with Xavier’s inability to defend early on, it could be a close one.
Prediction: Xavier 84, Miami (OH) 79
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Watch Online: Fox Sports Go