Time and Date: Wednesday, November 25, Noon ET
Records: Xavier (0-0) | Oakland (0-0)
Rankings: Xavier (#65 KenPom) | Oakland (#273 KenPom)
TV Channel: FS1
Watch Online: Fox Sports GO
Line: Xavier -19.5
The Xavier Musketeers will be the first Big East team to take the court in the 2020-21 season when they host Oakland on Wednesday afternoon in the Xavier Invitational, the first of three games in three days for Xavier. The Musketeers won’t have their full squad, however, as news broke Tuesday evening that three players were quarantining due to COVID exposure.
As of Tuesday evening, it remains unclear which three players are affected, but it could definitely play a part in how things go for the Musketeers over the next three days. Playing three games in three days is already tough, but to have to do it without a portion of your roster is a very tough ask.
Xavier finished last season 19-13, matching their win total from the first season under Travis Steele. It was a year of peaks and valleys for a Musketeers squad that was 19-10 and 8-8 in Big East play going into the final week of the season, before losing to Providence and Butler to end conference play and DePaul to end their time at the Big East Tournament in the first round. Had there been an NCAA Tournament, the Musketeers likely would have found themselves squarely on the bubble.
The Musketeers come into 2020-21 with last season’s leading and second leading scorers and rebounders Naji Marshall and Tyrique Jones having departed. Marshall also led the Musketeers in assists per game. Put it all together and Xavier has some holes to fill. Two possible instant difference makers? Graduate transfers Nate Johnson and Bryan Griffin. Johnson took home Second Team All Big-South honors last season at Gardner-Webb, averaging 13.5 points per game, while Griffin is one of the most intriguing transfers in all of college basketball, having averaged a D-II best 14.5 rebounds per game and 19.6 points per game at New York’s Mercy College. Zach Freemantle will also likely get a chance to build on a solid freshman campaign which saw him start Xavier’s final 14 games of the 2019-20 season. Add in the trio of freshmen, Dwon Odom, CJ Wilcher, and Colby Jones, and the Musketeers have plenty of options and players ready to capture opportunities.
The Golden Grizzlies enter the season looking like a very average Horizon League team, picked to finish sixth among the conference’s 12 teams. Oakland went 16-17 last season, salvaging things after being 0-3, 4-9, and 11-16 at various points in the year. Guard Rashad Williams returns for his senior season after leading Oakland with 19.5 points per game last season. Second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, Xavier Hill-Mais has graduated. Xavier fans may remember him from his 30-point, eight rebound performance in the Musketeers 73-63 victory in December 2018, the last time these teams met.