Riding a three-game winning streak, the Xavier Musketeers are back in action on Wednesday night.
The Musketeers, 5-3 on the season, will welcome the Ohio Bobcats to Cintas Center in Cincinnati. The Bobcats are the second team from the state of Ohio that Xavier has played this season, joining the Miami (OH) RedHawks, whom Xavier played back on November 28. They’re also, of course, the first of two teams from Ohio they’ll play this week, as they face off with their crosstown rivals, the Cincinnati Bearcats, this coming Saturday.
Ohio comes into this game ranked 153rd on KenPom and at 5-2 on the season. Saul Phillips’ Bobcats are also riding a three-game winning streak, having defeated the Austin Peay Governors, Iona Gaels and Marshall Thundering Herd in their last three games. The last one is particularly impressive as Marshall is the highest-rated team that Ohio has beaten this season at 112th on KenPom as of now.
Their two losses came at the hands of both the South Florida Bulls and Loyola Marymount Lions down in Jamaica. Their other two victories were against Wilberforce and against Chris Clemons and the Campbell Fighting Camels.
Ohio has profiled as a team that has struggled mightily on the offensive end but has done a pretty solid job defensively this season. They rank 238th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency but rank 87th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. They are shooting just 26.5 percent collectively from outside but rank 96th in 3-point defense. You get the picture, yes? Yes.
It hasn’t hurt their points production, as they have averaged 79.3 points per game. But, that probably is aided by the fact that they are 17th in the nation in Adjusted Tempo, so they’re getting a lot of possessions and thus, more opportunities to score even with their obvious ineffectiveness from the field. Saul Phillips has played pretty fast since he left North Dakota State for Ohio (they have finished no worse than 86th in AdjTempo in the last five years), but 17th would be by far his highest standing yet.
Ohio has three players who’ve averaged double figures this season. The leader of the pack is Jason Carter, a sophomore forward from Johnstown who’s averaged 19.6 points per game thus far. Joliet, Illinois native and fellow sophomore Teyvion Kirk has putup 16.3 points per game, while freshman Ben Vander Plas of Ripon, Wisconsin has averaged 12.4 points per game. The best shooter of the bunch is Carter, who’s shot 51.6 percent from the field. Kirk has put up a mark of 45.3 percent, while Vander Plas has hit 49.2 percent of his shots, meanwhile.
It will be interesting to see if Ohio’s ineffectiveness from deep takes hold again against Xavier. Their perimeter defense has been ghastly and nobody is afraid to take 3-point shots against them, either. Ohio hasn’t really tried a whole lot to take 3-pointers this season, with their 3-point rate sitting at 259th in the nation. But, if they get the open looks, will they take them? And will they fall? Xavier’s 3-point defense, again, is one of the worst in the nation so far. So it will be interesting to watch and could tip the scales in this game.
But if it doesn’t improve, this could be a big win for Xavier as long as they control inside. They’ve been solid at defending 2-pointers, ranking 94th in that category this season. They’ve only omitted 47.6 percent of shots taken inside the 3-point arc to be made, almost three percentage points below the nation’s average. We’ll see if that holds against Ohio on Wednesday night.
Xavier won against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies thanks to a lot of balance. They had six players hit double figures, with Naji Marshall leading the way with 14 points. Tyrique Jones, Ryan Welage and Zach Hankins all had 11 while Paul Scruggs and Kyle Castlin had 10 apiece. Given that Ohio’s defense has been solid (although arguably not tested too much) this season, we’ll see if the Musketeers can navigate a similar path to a win as they did the last time we saw them.
HOW TO WATCH
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Watch Online: Fox Sports Go