|Chris Mack continues a line of outstanding coaches at Xavier. From: hoopscoop.com|
Overall, this is a tough, physical, versatile bunch. They are battle-hardened, possessing a good work ethic and a tenacity on both ends of the floor. Above all else, they will fight for every rebound, loose ball, and 50-50 opportunity in the game. It's why Xavier has been so successful away from home in recent years (13 of their 28 wins last season came either in neutral or true road settings), and they will not shy away from the challenge of playing in Boulder on a frigid, snowy Wednesday night.
The roster is led by standout junior guard Trevon Bluiett. The 6-6 machine from Indianapolis dipped his toes in the waters of the NBA Draft last summer before deciding to return for a 3rd lap around the collegiate pool. The Musketeers are glad he did, as he is one of the best wings in the country. More than just a basic 2/3, however, you will see Bluiett all over the court this evening, rotating from the point all the way into the paint. Good size, speed, and strength, with a nasty three-point shot, he's a national POY candidate, albeit a fringe one. Bluiett's averaging 18/6 through eight games, and is capable of putting up monster numbers night-in, night-out.
|Bluiett and Sumner are an outstanding pair of guards. From: Banners on the Parkway|
Playing off the two stars are a further pair of guards, JP Macura and Malcolm Bernard. Macura, a 6-5 junior out of Minnesota, is the gritty beating heart of this team. He was the Big East 6th Man of the Year last winter, but has surged into the starting lineup this season, even averaging over 15 points per game in the early going. Bernard has stepped into the vacuum left by Davis. He's a graduate transfer from Florida A&M, and came to the program with a lot of basketball already under his belt. Good versatility, but not necessarily the standout-type of messrs Bluiett, Sumner, and Macura.
|Macura can flat out fill it up. From: FOX Sports|
Up front, the best true forward is RaShid Gaston. A wide 6-9, 240, he carries the load up front, especially when XU drops into four-guard sets. RaShid boasts impeccable rebounding rates, and will really push Xavier Johnson and Wes Gordon up front. A transfer from Norfolk State, you may not have heard of him before, but he will be making a name for himself come March. Also featuring off their bench in the paint is 6-10 center Sean O'Mara, who just happens to hail from my hometown back in Illinois. He went to Benet, though, so screw him.
As strong as the side is, their most recent result does show some vulnerabilities. They lost by 15 in Waco to the Baylor Bears, with Scott Drew's crew steadily pulling away in the second half. Xavier got a little Bluiett-happy, coughed the ball up way to much (17 turnovers), missed a number of second half free throws, and didn't defend the perimeter well enough. It burned them in the end. I don't know if the Buffs will be able to duplicate the feat, however. I think they could isolate Blueitt, but CU has rarely forced large numbers of turnovers, have been hit-or-miss from deep through the first month of play, and have free throw issues of their own to worry about. What's more, that Baylor team looks to be the truth down in Texas, and the Buffs don't appear to be capable of holding a candle to that team.
|Xavier comes in off a loss to Baylor, but I don't see a repeat in the future this evening. From: USA Today|
Tip-off from the Coors Events Center is set for 7pm this evening. That snow that's coming down right now is supposed to die down right before tip-off, but I won't pretend that your commute to Boulder won't suck just a bit. For those unable/unwilling to brave the conditions and head into the Valley, coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 760 AM.
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME WRONG, AND BEAT THE MUSKETEERS!