Time: 9:10ish pm
Location: Dayton, OH
Announcers: Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner and Kristine Leahy
Well Wolfpackers, we’re Dancing!! and we all know what that means…Survive and Advance. Our beloved Wolfpack were the very last team selected for the Big Dance and as such they are sent to Dayton, OH for the “First Round” match-up against the Xavier Musketeers, who just joined the NEW Big East this year. Xavier finished in a 3-way tie for third in the new Big East, along with Providence and St. Johns, and were the #3 seed where they lost in the semifinals to #2 Creighton 86-78.
For those that don’t know Xavier is located in Cincinnati, OH and is only 50 miles from Dayton where the games will be played. Needless to say this will be a home game of sorts for the Musketeers. Speaking of the Musketeers, did you know that while D’Artagnan, the Musketeer, is the university’s official mascot and is the origin of the school’s nickname, they have another mascot? The Blue Blob.
I want to see a mascot fight just for the pure entertainment of seeing this thing in action.
Let’s take a look at the teams
As you can see there’s not much difference between these 2 teams when it comes to their style of play (mostly man, moderate tempo) and four factors. On offense the Pack turns the ball over less where the Musketeers are able to get to the FT Line more and shoot the 3 better. On Defense the Pack holds their opponents to a lower FG% but the Musketeers are better at defensive rebounding (no shock there since everyone is better than the Pack) and they don’t send their opposition to the FT line as much.
Xavier: Center Matt Stainbrook strained his MCL 2 weeks ago during the Seton Hall loss. He didn’t play in the season finale loss to Villanova but did return to action in the Big East Tournament. Stainbrook didn’t start in the Musketeers win over Marquette, instead coming off the bench playing fewer minutes than his average game, he was only slightly below his normal efficiency and averages in the win. Stainbrook again came off the bench in Xavier’s loss to Creighton but this time played even fewer minutes and wasn’t as effective rebounding the ball while still being an offensive threat.
#1 Jalen Reynolds (6-9 222 FR) Forward - Normally Reynolds would be coming off the bench but with the injury to starting center Matt Stainbrook, he’s been pushed up to the starting line-up. Stainbrook may start but for now we are assuming it’s Reynolds. For a freshman who plays sparingly, Reynolds has some nice numbers: 112 ORtg; 56% Effective Field Goal Pct (eFG), 16% Offensive Rebounding Rate (OR), 19% Defensive Rebounding Rate (DR) but he is a fouling machine at 7.5 Fouls Called per 40 minutes.
#20 Justin Martin (6-6 205 JR) Forward – Martin puts up pretty good numbers: 55% eFG; 17% OR; 108 ORtg, but he has a tendency to turn the ball over, 19.5% TOrate. Martin has taken the most 3 pointers on the team and has the best average at 39%. Turner can’t afford to lose Martin on the court like he has a tendency to do on defense or it’ll cost the Pack.
#31 Isaiah Philmore (6-8 230 SR) Forward – Philmore is another good efficient player at 110 ORtg; 54% eFG; 10% OR, 14.4% DR but like Martin he has a problem holding onto the ball, 18% TORate. Philmore hasn’t made a 3 all year and can draw the foul so look for him under the basket, especially since he’s the Musketeers second leading Offensive Rebounder behind Stainbrook.
#0 Semaj Christon (6-3 190 SO) Guard – Christon is Xavier’s superstar, First Team All Big East player, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say he’s Lee’s responsibility on defense. Christon’s numbers don’t WOW you, at 107.5 ORtg; 50% eFG; 1.6% OR; 7.4% DR, those aren’t knock your socks off numbers. He does carry a 25.4% Assist Rate (AR) coupled with a 16% TORate and averages 17 PPG. He’ll shoot the occasional 3 pointer and make them a third of the time. He draws A LOT of fouls and shoots a lot of FT’s, so without ever seeing him play I’m guessing he likes to drive the ball to the rim and draw contact. It’ll be interesting to see how much the refs call the new contact rule in the tournament. Lee will have his hands full and will likely need weak side help.
#11 Dee Davis (6-0 161 JR) Guard – Davis is another starter with a decent ORtg of 109%; notice everyone on Xavier is close to 110% ORtg making them a very efficient team. Davis likes to take as many 3’s as 2’s and strangely enough has made the same for each. Davis is sporting a 27.5% AR (someone needs to with all these efficient shooters) but is crippled by a 23.3% TORate. Hipster Cat, PRESSURE HIM!!!!
#40 Matt Stainbrook (6-10 263 JR), #2 James Farr (6-9 237 SO), #15 Myles Davis (6-2 195 FR), #3 Brandon Randolph.
As much as Christon gets talked about Stainbrook, IMO, is the real MVP and will be the X-Factor in the game for Xavier. If he’s healthy and playing near 100% then I think the Pack will be in trouble. Stainbrook sports a 112% ORtg; 55.5% eFG; 12% OR; 24% DR; 20% AR; 4.6% Blocking Rate and a 19.2% TORate. Farr and Davis bring quality play off the bench (and a legendary Jazz sound), with Farr being more of the scorer between the two but Davis is a 3pt threat.
Who has the Advantage?
It’s a stalemate folks. The Pack will score some and the Mouseketeers will prevent some. So let’s say the Pack ends up with an eFG of 50%.
Yeesh. Four facepalms out of Six categories, hard to overcome even with the hipster cat. Seriously, Xavier’s offense isn’t awe inspiring but the Pack’s defense can make even Miami’s offense look like National Champs, so expect them to score easier than they have all season. Also, start placing bets on who the “unknown player with the career game” is going to be; my money is on Davis.
KenPom likes Xavier by 4 points.
Sagarin likes Xavier by 7 points. (4 if you take away home court adv)
Vegas opened with Xavier -1 points and is now sitting at -2.5.
Looking over it all the Pack should lose and for the same reason they’ve lost games all season:
(1) No defensive rebounding vs a team good at offensive rebounding.
(2) They don’t create fast break opportunities from forcing turnovers or defensive rebounding.
(3) Little help for Buckets.
(4) Inability to stretch the defense due to the lack of a 3PT shot.
The Pack is the same team we’ve seen all season, that hasn’t changed. Xavier isn’t a top 4 seed so they are beatable and the Pack has something Xavier doesn’t…TJ Warren. The question is will the Pack overcome their usual problems enough to Survive and Advance. I’ll continue with my “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work” meme and say the Pack should keep it close but once again defensive rebounding and Warren having to do all the scoring will be their undoing.
Xavier by 5.
Ryan Tice (TheWolfpacker.com)
First Look: Xavier
Bret Strelow (FayObserver.com)
Wolfpack looking to make most of surprise First Four meeting with Xavier
Stephen Schramm (FayObserver.com)
NCAA tournament preview: N.C. State
Jeff Borzello (CBSSports.com)
Viewer’s Guide: The First Four gets started
No. 12 North Carolina State vs. No. 12 Xavier (9:10 p.m., truTV): Both were bubble teams entering Selection Sunday, although Xavier felt far more confident than NC State. The Musketeers were hoping to avoid the First Four, while the Wolfpack were just hoping to get in. Well, NC State got a bid, but Xavier is playing in Dayton. The winner moves on to play Saint Louis — a winnable game for both. NC State is led by T.J. Warren, one of the best pure scorers in college basketball. He is capable of carrying the offense, as demonstrated by back-to-back 40-point games late in the season. Warren will need help from complementary options to beat Xavier, though. The Musketeers have a number of different weapons on the offensive end, with playmaker Semaj Christon carrying the load. He’s difficult to contain off the bounce, and his ability to get into the lane opens up shots for his teammates. The key could be NC State keeping Xavier off the offensive glass, and the Musketeers slowing down Warren.