#5 Villanova Wildcats (15-1) vs. Xavier Musketeers (11-5)
When: Wednesday, January 13, 2015, at 9 p.m.
Where: The Pavilion
Coverage: Fox Sports 1
Xavier’s Previous Season Record: 21-13, Lost to NC State in First Four of NCAA Tournament
Key Players for Xavier: #40 Matt Stainbrook (6-10, 263) Sr., C; #5 Trevon Bluiett (6-6, 215) Fr., F; #11 Dee Davis (6-0, 161) Sr., G
Scouting Report: Xavier may have lost Semaj Christon, but they seem to be doing just fine without him. After all, the return of Matt Stainbrook was a good place to start. Stainbrook, the basketball player by day and Uber driver by night, is an important piece to this team. The senior center provides leadership and production at both ends of the court. At 6’10” and 263 pounds, Stainbrook’s size makes him a force to be reckoned with inside. The bullish center uses his wide frame and form to impose himself in the paint. He may not be the most athletic, but he knows how to use his size to his advantage and win on his terms. Stainbrook’s improvement as a scorer and rebounder is evident through his numbers. This season, he is averaging 12.4 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds per game. His shooting percentage is also up by nearly 10% (64.6% vs. 55.6%). In the previous game against Butler, Stainbrook led the way with 21 points and five boards. However, he’s not the end all be all. Aside from Stainbrook, Xavier has more players who have stepped up to serve as a great supporting cast. Last year was the Semaj Christon (and sometimes Matt Stainbrook) show, now it’s more of an all-around team effort. Newcomers Trevon Bluiett and Remy Abell have found their niche within the team. Bluiett, a freshman forward, is currently the team’s top scorer. He currently averages 12.8 points per game, just a notch above Stainbrook. Bluiett creates match up problems; he has some quickness that will give him an edge over bigger opposition and the size to beat smaller players. He’s capable of attacking the basket and shooting threes. Abell transferred to Xavier from Indiana and sat out all of last season. Now, he’s a steady contributor on both ends of the court. He’s an excellent on-ball defender and can chip in double-digit points here and there. He is also comfortable with attacking the basket and shooting from long-range. Abell can do a little of everything for Xavier. Similar to Abell, is senior guard Dee Davis. He can quietly chip in points like Abell, but is really known for being a facilitator. Davis averages a team-high 5.6 assists per game. He looks to set his teammates up with open looks and great shot opportunities. Also keep an eye out for Jalen Reynolds, J.P. Macura, and James Farr. These three are reliable players off the bench. Reynolds is a solid all-around player who already has some experience on his belt from last season. He filled the void in the lineup when Matt Stainbrook went down at the end of the season. Macura is a player who gets the job done silently, he isn’t going to put up flashy numbers but provides some key minutes off the bench. Lastly, Farr is pretty good down low. Once in a while he can score, but count on him to grab rebounds. The Musketeers have some solid depth and can run an eight or nine man rotation on any given night. Also, they are a great free throw shooting team. Overall, they shoot almost 75% as a team, don’t expect them to miss a lot of their foul shots.
Outlook: All of Xavier’s five losses have come from road games. While two of them were at a neutral site, they are still technically road games. They are 2-2 in conference play, both wins were at home and both losses came on the road. If this were at the Cintas Center, it would be a different story but we’ll save that for another time. I personally think this team is better than last year’s, just because they are slightly more versatile and a little less one-dimensional. They have more of a perimeter game too, although as a team they like to attack the basket. One thing about Xavier though, is that their defense is a little suspect. Even in wins, they seem to give up quite a lot of points each game. With all of that said, I see Villanova winning this one. However, expect Matt Stainbrook to provide a challenge down low. In the previous game against DePaul, the Wildcats had the luxury of their shots falling. It felt like everything was going in. Should that not happen, they need to look towards the post. Villanova has to control the paint in both ends. While they do have some shooters, they do like to attack the basket. Should the Wildcats dominate the inside game offensively and defensively, they’ll have an easier time with this one. Xavier may also have depth, but at the end of the day, Villanova is just more talented all around.