#6 Villanova Wildcats (26-3) vs. Xavier Musketeers (20-10)
When: Thursday, March 6, 7 p.m.
Where: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, OH
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Result of Previous Meeting: Villanova won 81-58 at home on February 3
Key Players for Xavier: #0 Semaj Christon (6-3, 190) So., G; #31 Isaiah Philmore (6-8, 230) Sr., F; #20 Justin Martin (6-6, 205) Jr., F
Scouting Report: Xavier was dealt a crushing blow in the first half of Monday night’s Seton Hall game. Center Matt Stainbrook went down with a knee injury and did not return in the second half. Tonight, Xavier announced that Stainbrook has a strained MCL in his left knee and will not play in Thursday’s game against Villanova. The 6’10”, 263 pound center was the top rebounder for the Musketeers and is the biggest player they have to offer. In his place, Xavier had turned to a smaller lineup. During the game, Justin Martin went in for Stainbrook’s place. Throughout the season, he was used as their sixth man and played well off the bench. He is their second highest scorer and one of their top three point shooters, he has drained 38.2% of attempts from beyond the arc. He is comfortable with driving inside or taking shots from the perimeter. The Musketeers have also looked to the young guns to help fill the big void. Sophomore James Farr received an increase in minutes against Seton Hall. He has been a solid contributor off the bench this season. He rebounds well and plays good defense. Freshman Jalen Reynolds was in foul trouble in the game against the Pirates, but he has been another key contributor inside off the bench. He can rebound and score in the paint well, and will get the start in place of Stainbrook. He plays with a high motor and intensity inside. Also watch for Isaiah Philmore, he’s another forward that plays hard in the paint. He was close to a double-double in the game against Seton Hall, putting up 11 points and grabbing 9 boards. Last but not least, keep an eye out for their sophomore star, Semaj Christon. Christon is a slashing guard who has NBA scouts watching him play. He is a quick, athletic guard who punishes teams who are slow in transition defense and on the free throw line. He is an excellent scorer, averaging 17 points per game. The offense runs through him, he can attack the rim or set up his teammates by kicking out to the open man. He can take a number of questionable shots and forced shots inside, and that has been an issue for him. Defensively, his quickness and athleticism helps him be a threat in the perimeter. He can close down on shooters and defend effectively on the ball.
Outlook: If you asked me before Monday night how I felt about this game, I would have said that Xavier would provide a real challenge to the Wildcats. Yes, the last time these two teams played each other Villanova steamrolled them en route to an easy win. However, they would come into this game fired up, after all it is their final game of the season, it’s their Senior Night, and they could use another big win to bolster their resume for the selection committee. There’s no better way of doing so than being able to beat the top two teams in your conference, especially when they were ranked in the top 10. Xavier may have lost their previous game against Seton Hall, but this game will be at home, where they play excellently. The Musketeers recently beat Creighton at home, and so far this season have only suffered one loss at the Cintas Center. With all that said, with Stainbrook gone, they have lost one of their key pieces on the floor. It is a crushing blow to the Musketeers and a big boost for the Wildcats. Villanova displayed great tenacity and effort in their previous match up against Marquette. With that type of play, it looked like that could have beaten anyone. Everyone played a role and chipped in to the victorious effort. It was the type of game they needed before they headed off on the road. I like the Wildcats’ chances in this one and I think they’ll win this one by a comfortable margin.