#9 Villanova Wildcats (19-2) vs. Xavier Musketeers (15-6)
When: Monday, February 3, 7 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Xavier’s Previous Season Record: 17-14, Lost to St. Joseph’s in First Round of Atlantic-10 Tournament
Key Players for Xavier: #0 Semaj Christon (6-3, 190) So., G; #40 Matt Stainbrook (6-10, 263) Jr., C; #20 Justin Martin (6-6, 205) Jr., F
Scouting Report: Overall, Xavier has done pretty well for themselves so far in their first season in the Big East. As of lately though, Xavier has hit a bump in the road. The Musketeers come to the Pavilion after losing back-to-back games to Providence and Seton Hall. They will look to fix all that Monday night, and one player they will look to the most is Semaj Christon. Christon is a sophomore point guard that has been the top scorer for Xavier since he stepped onto the court last season. This season, he is averaging 17 points per game. He is a little more deadly in conference play, where he has been averaging 21.1 points in Big East play. He was the Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Year last year and has had NBA scouts knocking on his door since. He is indeed talented, he is very quick and athletic and uses that to drive to the rim. He is definitely a slasher type guard, he does not take many shots around the perimeter and is not as competent from long range. Christon loves attacking in transition and in the half court, teams will have to pay attention to him every second he is on the floor. He will punish teams that do not quickly shift to defense after missing a basket or turn the ball over. There can be no mistakes or mental errors, not even a single blink – or else before you know it, he’s gone. He has excellent handles and is fearless when it comes to driving and taking contact on his way to the rim. He is also good at creating his own space to take a shot. The Xavier offense begins and runs through him, as he is driving he can easily set up a fellow teammate by kicking the ball out to the open man in the perimeter. Defensively, his quickness helps him just as much as it does on offense. He is able to close down on a shooter and can move swiftly along with an opponent who tries to drive past him. This, combined with a 6’6” wingspan can provide some issues for offenses. He averages 1.4 steals per game. Also keep an eye out for center Matt Stainbrook. Stainbrook is coming off of a double-double against Seton Hall where he had 16 points and 14 rebounds. He has done well for the Musketeers in his first season of eligibility after transferring from Western Michigan after his sophomore year. He is a great rebounder and can even contribute in the post offensively if needed. He is an asset in the pick-and-roll. Stainbrook averages 10.9 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game. Justin Martin has improved from last year and has been productive in his increased role in the Musketeer rotation. He puts up similar scoring numbers to Stainbrook. Martin is a little more adept at perimeter shots than his peers, but isn’t entirely all that threatening. Also watch for Myles Davis and James Farr, these two have been solid contributors off the bench while they give starters a quick spell. Freshman Jalen Reynolds is currently serving a suspension, he did not play in the Seton Hall game.
Outlook: The Musketeers are a team that is better than what their record suggests. They have come far since their trip to the Bahamas. (That’s right, they were also at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.) They left the Battle 4 Atlantis weekend going 0-3. After that they went on an 8 game win streak until losing at Creighton in a close one. Sure they had a rough week, but they are going to put all that behind them as they will have a chance to take a stab at a Top 10 team, let alone one of the top teams in the Big East. For the Wildcats to win this one they have to look to shut down Christon. He gets the team going and it all starts with him. If he were to be compared to an NBA player, it would be Russell Westbrook (before he started developing a perimeter shot). They need to keep him out of the paint and not give him an open lane. Double team him in the post and just keep him uncomfortable. One of Christon’s weaknesses is that he will take a number of forced and ill-advised shots as he drives to the rim. Make Xavier look elsewhere to get their points and keep in mind that they are not exactly a perimeter team. In shutting down the paint, they will limit Xavier’s two best scorers, that is huge. The Wildcats have excellent depth, there should be no reason to be beat up in transition or with the fast break by Xavier. There will always be fresh legs and a time to rest, just as long as they do not let up for a second. Xavier is definitely beatable, they may give us a run for money, and it may be close, but I see the Wildcats winning this one.
Enjoy the Super Bowl and see you Monday night!