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Xavier vs. Central Michigan: Preview, how to watch, odds, and prediction

Xavier looks to win their second straight on Wednesday night

NCAA Basketball: Norfolk State at Xavier Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

TV, Times, and Lines:

TV: FS1

Date: Wednesday, December 1

Time: 6:30 p.m. EST

Spread: Xavier -25.5

Total: O/U 143.5


Preview:

On Wednesday night, Xavier hosts Central Michigan in the Cintas Center. The (5-1) Xavier Musketeers dropped out of their spot in the AP Top 25 this week after a loss in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off against the No. 19 Iowa State Cyclones. The Musketeers finished the tournament with a bounce-back win in a narrow 59-58 victory against the (5-2) Virginia Tech Hokies.

Xavier has shown a bit of perseverance to reach this 5-1 start. They played their last game without three of their starters all due to a non-COVID illness. Despite being down 60% of their starters, the Musketeers still found a way to squeak by an always solid Power 5 team in Virginia Tech. Xavier now has a lighter matchup against (1-5) Central Michigan who has struggled so far this season with their only victory being a one-point win against Eastern Illinois.

The Musketeers are undefeated against the Chippewas in the two games the programs have played against one another.

Xavier’s defense this season has been highlighted by their ability to block shots. As a team, the Musketeers average 5.7 blocks per game which rank 21st in the whole country. This blocking attack is led by forwards Jack Nunge who averages 1.8 blocks per game and Dieonte Miles who averages 1.6 blocks per game. For a Central Michigan team that only averages 27.7 points from inside the three-point line, Xavier’s blocking attack should be a huge beneficiary for the Musketeers.

Players to Watch:

Paul Scruggs (Xavier): The 6’5” senior has struggled the last few games with putting the ball in the hoop, failing to score double-digit points in Xavier’s last three games. Scruggs has a great opportunity to fix his shooting woes tonight as he faces a Chippewas team that gives up one of the highest amounts of points per game in the country (84.3). Look for the guard out of Indianapolis to get back to what he was doing in the first couple of games for the Musketeers.

Nate Johnson (Xavier): In his second season with the Musketeers after transferring from Gardner-Webb, senior Nate Johnson has already made a huge impact for Xavier. The 6’4” guard is coming off of a career-high last game with 30 points. Johnson played all 40 minutes in the last game, hitting 7 three-pointers. After playing a significant role with three Xavier starters out last game, look for the Miami native to do the same tonight if that trend continues.

Jermaine Jackson Jr. (Central Michigan): The only positive so far this season for the Chippewas has been their senior guard. This is Jackson Jr.’s first season for Central Michigan after transferring from LIU last year. The 6’0” guard is averaging 13.2 points per game which is a team-high. In his 5th year, Jackson Jr. is the only player on this Central Michigan team to average double-digit points per game. On top of this, he is mostly doing it off of the bench. The graduate transfer has only started 1 game in this Chippewa season that has so far been one to forget.

Prediction:

Vegas is projecting Xavier to run Central Michigan out of the gym, and I somewhat agree with them. The Musketeers are coming off of a very emotional game with three of their starters being out with an illness, and Central Michigan has continuously been dominated by teams. I think that the hunger for at least a competitive game for the Chippewas will keep this game somewhat close. I still believe that Xavier will comfortably win this game by 15-20 points, but will not cover the hefty 25.5 point spread.