Time: 7 p.m. ET
Line: Xavier -23.5, 146.5 O/U
Series History: Xavier is 1-0 all-time against Jacksonville, defeating the Dolphins 103-94 in 1962.
2018-19 Record: 12-20 (5-11 in A-SUN)
KenPom: 247th of 353
Coach: Tony Jasick, 6th season at JU (70-92). Jasick was hired from Purdue-Fort Wayne (57-42 record from 2011-2014) where he faced Xavier in his second game as a head coach, losing 86-62 at Cintas Center.
Jacksonville struggled to a 7th-place finish in the nine-team Atlantic Sun Conference but an intriguing blend of young talent lend optimism to a young Dolphins squad.
The SEC both taketh and giveth to the Dolphins as last season’s leading scorer JD Notae (15.5 ppg) transferred to Arkansas but former four-star guard Diante Wood (r-Fr. Anniston, Ala.) secured immediately eligibility after transferring from Alabama in the offseason. Wood should immediately ascend to the Dolphin’s primary option. The Dolphins also return four players that averaged at least 5 ppg so the cupboard is not completely bare for Jasick.
The Dolphins have three Ohioans on their roster. The Cincinnatian is senior guard Deanthony McCallum (Anderson High School/Independence CC) who averaged 7.0 ppg and finished his first season with the Dolphins in the starting line-up. 6’10” center David Bell (Cleveland’s Garfield Heights High) averaged 7.6 ppg/5.7rpg/1.3bpg after appearing in 38 games for Ohio State. 6’7” forward Donovan Forte (Cleveland’s Garfield Heights) may appear in his first game after redshirting last season.
A quick glance at the stats showed that last season’s Jacksonville squad played quick but not efficiently. The Dolphins were 44th of 353 in tempo nationally but were just 121st in points per game (74.5). Much of that could be attributed to poor shooting. The Dolphins were well below average at the free throw line (67.7%) and from three (33.0%). Jasick at least had his team play to its strengths, as the Dolphins attempted the 58th-most shots inside the three-point line and 284th-most shots from deep. Despite pounding the paint, Jacksonville only attempted the 238th-most free throws.
Defensively, Jacksonville’s athleticism showed up by finishing 14th nationally in blocks. Bell was second on the team with 40 blocks but it was actually 6’5” sophomore guard Jalyn Hinton who led the team with 56 (Hinton has since transferred to DII-program Florida Southern). The Dolphins sent their opponents to the line more often than they got there on offense, as they finished 47th nationally in fouls.
Opening Questions for the Musketeers
- Can Xavier rebound from a sluggish preseason? After losing to Akron in a “secret scrimmage” (pretend I didn’t tell you that) and slogging through a 64-52 exhibition victory over DII program University of Indianapolis, the Musketeers have not exactly lived up to their preseason ranking.
- Who plays? Absence may have been part of the reason the Musketeers struggled through the preseason. Coach Travis Steele indicated that junior forward Jason Carter (grad transfer from Ohio U.) will probably make his stateside Musketeer debut against Jacksonville while four-star freshman guard (University Heights, Ky.) likely remains a few weeks from returning from an foot/ankle injury. Freshman forward Daniel Ramsey (Cordele, Ga.) is in concussion protocol and is a redshirt candidate, as is fellow freshman forward Dieonte Miles (Walton, Ky.).
- Who starts? Steele gave a start to former walk-on Leighton Schrand against UIndy but expect him to be replaced, likely with Carter. If that holds, Carter would join Xavier mainstays Quentin Goodin, Paul Scruggs, Naji Marshall, and Tyrique Jones in the starting line-up.
- How fast will the Musketeers go? The Musketeers oscillated between fast and slow-paced teams in the Chris Mack era depending on the personnel. Last season’s dual-center line-up led Steele’s group to be on the slower end of the spectrum nationally (290th of 353). This year’s roster configuration seems likely to produce a much quicker tempo, perhaps closer to the pace that was 56th nationally in Chris Mack’s final season.
New Season, New Xavier
- It will take awhile to get used to but Tyrique Jones is no longer #0, opting to change his uniform to #4.
- Grad Transfer Bryce Moore joins Xavier after three seasons at Western Michigan. Moore was a high school teammate of Xavier great Trevon Blueitt at Indianapolis’s Park Tudor High School and follows the Matt Stainbrook path from WMU to Xavier. The 6’3” guard sat out last season recovering from a torn ACL that occurred five games into the 2017-18 season, a season in which he started all 32 games for the Broncos and finished on the All-MAC defensive team. Remember that the next time you want to call in sick due to a mild fever.
- Two freshman should make their debuts for the Musketeers. 6’5” guard Dahmir Bishop (Philadelphia) has the length and athleticism of Edmond Sumner and will add defensive toughness and quality three-point shooting when he’s on the court. 6’9” forward Zach Freemantle (Teaneck, NJ) will add size and physicality to the line-up.
It’s probably too much to ask Xavier to cover the 23.5 point spread after such a sluggish exhibition slate. Jacksonville got blown out in its only power conference game last season (a 94-64 loss at Indiana) but the talent added to this year’s squad, along with expected rust accompanying the first game of the season, seem to indicate that the Musketeers will struggle to demolish the Dolphins to the level that the spread would necessitate. Rust and Xavier’s lethargic pace indicate the under is a smart play as well.
Prediction: Xavier 77, Jacksonville 60