The Xavier Musketeers got back over the .500 mark earlier this week when they defeated the Miami-Ohio RedHawks. Now, the Musketeers turn their attention to a team from the Horizon League, as they’ll host the Oakland Golden Grizzlies on Saturday afternoon.
Oakland walks into this matchup at 3-4 on the season. They were sent under .500 after losing 92-72 to the Northern Illinois Huskies last Sunday. Their three wins offset the fact that they started off 0-3 with losses to the Toledo Rockets, Western Michigan Broncos and UNLV Rebels. If you’re wondering why they’ve played three MAC teams so far... I can’t really help you. Their wins have come over Defiance, the James Madison Dukes and Oral Roberts Golden Eagles.
Oakland’s offense is average all things considered, but they have done well on the perimeter and at the free throw line. They rank 76th in the nation in 3-point FG% and 31st in the country in FT%. They also keep very good control of the basketball, boasting the ninth-best TO% in the nation so far.
It is a pretty hilarious coincidence that Oakland’s best player so far is someone named Xavier. That being junior forward Xavier Hill-Mais. Hill-Mais is averaging 24.6 points per game this season, which has him ranked 13th in the nation. So he is an elite scorer and what’s more is he’s doing it really efficiently. His FG% is 57.8 percent and he’s shot 39.3 percent from the 3-point line, as well. He will absolutely be the one to watch for the Golden Grizzlies in this one, and is someone Xavier’s gonna have to keep in check.
He isn’t the only talented player on the team, of course. Junior guard Jaevin Cumberland also is a double figures scorer, having averaged 15.6 points per game in the early goings. Cumberland has shot the ball fairly well around the floor, going 50 percent on 2-pointers and 38.6 percent on 3-pointers. He’s averaged the most attempts from the perimeter of anybody Oakland so far, 6.3 per game to be exact. And you’re gonna see a lot of him. Cumberland has averaged 36.7 minutes per game in the 2018-19 season, so he figures to be a constant in this upcoming matchup.
Oakland’s lead assist man this season has been freshman Braden Norris. Although Norris hasn’t been accounted for on many possessions, and plays just 26 minutes per game, he has averaged 4.3 assists per game this season. Norris’ assist rate also leads the team among qualified players, standing at a gaudy 29.8 percent. He’s started the last four games for the Golden Grizzlies, so chances are you’ll see him at the start of this matchup with the Muskies.
Speaking of starters, coach Greg Kampe has run with a lineup of Norris, Hill-Mais, Cumberland and the duo of Jordan Nobles and Brad Brechting. The junior Brechting started getting burn starting in the team’s third game of the season while the senior Nobles got into the lineup in the fourth game. Brechting has been the team’s best rebounder so far, while Nobles has been a solid assist man and shot-blocker, and has logged a ton of minutes, too.
One thing this team has not excelled at in the early goings has been defense. They have been generally very bad except at letting teams get to the free throw line. They rank in the sub-300s in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, eFG% allowed, rebounding%, 2PT FG%, 3PT FG% and FT%.
Their 3-point standing is a little interesting. They have gotten burned pretty badly, but teams aren’t taking a lot of 3-pointers against them. Only 28.5 percent of field goals against Oakland have been from outside. Only two teams have taken 20 or more 3-point field goals: Defiance and Oral Roberts (and oddly enough, neither of those teams shot it all that well against them either).
They have been flawed inside. Teams are just picking them apart, as they’ve allowed a FG% of 58.5 percent inside so far. NIU just torched them for 68.4 percent and 26 made 2-pointers in their last outing. Xavier could be salivating at that as they have been one of the best 2-point shooting teams in the nation so far. Expect a lot of inside attacks this game.
Given that they’re facing a bad defense, it will be on Xavier to try and uptick their offense. And they have, to their credit, scored 80+ points in their last two games against Miami (OH) and the Illinois Fighting Illini. In fact, they’re averaging 81.2 points at home this season. So you could very well see them hit that threshold yet again. Naji Marshall will be one to watch after scoring 17 in the victory against Miami the other night.
Expect a Xavier victory here. Oakland has Hill-Mais and he’s an elite scorer, but their defense is a sieve and one that the Musketeers should be able to slice and dice. Hill-Mais will get his but Oakland, otherwise, will struggle.
Prediction: Xavier 85, Oakland 72
HOW TO WATCH
Time: Noon ET
Watch Online: Fox Sports Go