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Xavier, Missouri State set for “Rock Fight”

The battle of Jared Ridder will commence at 7 p.m.

NCAA Basketball: Siena at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

How to watch or stream

Time: 7 p.m. ET

TV: FOX Sports Net (Affiliate Guide)

Streaming: FOX Sports Go (Where available)


Tuesday’s Xavier-Missouri game was a far-cry from the seamless shooting and knock-down shooting that makes for aesthetically-pleasing basketball.

“For those of you who don’t know, I’m from a small, small country town in Indiana: Danville,” Xavier coach Travis Steele said to open his post-game press conference. “There’s about two stop lights and that’s what we call a rock fight.”

That game might have felt more like a 1930’s football game then the sport that produced the Showtime Lakers and Steph Curry-Golden State Warriors, and Friday’s Xavier-Missouri State game doesn’t figure to be much better. Missouri State (2-1) is tough, slow, and more than willing to make Xavier play through another “rock fight.”

Bear Attack

Missouri State (2-1), 170 of 353 in KenPom, First in Missouri Valley Conference preseason media poll with 29 of 43 possible votes.

Head Coach: Dana Ford, 2nd season (18-17 at MOST, 75-82 overall including four-year run at Tennessee State)

Offense: 66.0 ppg, 40.9%/31.3%/72.7%, 96.6 (217) KenPom rating

Defense: 56.7 ppg, 97.3 (131)

Series History: First meeting

The MVC is considered one of the top mid-major conferences in college basketball so the preseason pick to win the league should not be taken lightly. The top team in the league usually gets some at-large buzz come March and this is a key opportunity for the Bears to pick a quality that will resonate with the selection committee.

This will be the first time the Bears leave their den in Springfield, MO. Since losing by one in the opener against Little Rock, they’ve had little trouble defeating Alabama State and Cleveland State. Xavier is perhaps the best team on their schedule, though they do participate in the Charleston Classic next week (along with Xavier) and will travel to LSU and VCU later in the season.

While the Bears are a defense-first team, they have some quality offensive threats. Preseason second-team all-MVC guard Keandre Cook has been the star thus far, averaging 19.3 ppg and 5.7 apg. The former JUCO star has been very efficient shooting 56.3%/52.9%/92.9%, though he’s had only one assist to go with nine turnovers. Preseason first-team all-MVC forward Tulio Da Silva has been a solid presence down low. The Brazilian, and former South Florida Bull, is averaging 9.7 ppg and 9.3 rpg through the Bears’ first three contests.


Prediction

This line seems too high for two teams that play good defense and struggle shooting. Missouri State is content to make Xavier play another “rock fight” which should inhibit Xavier’s ability to blow it open. While Xavier’s shooting fortunes have to turn around at some point (Xavier is shooting 20.6% from deep, a cool 345th of 353 D-I teams), it’s probably a safer bet that Xavier doesn’t instantly morph into a unit that can just shoot over the Bears. Xavier wins comfortably, but the low-scoring game allows the Bears to cover.

Xavier 65, Missouri State 54