I’m going to keep this preview short just like I’m hoping the game is only in doubt for a short period of time tonight.
North Dakota State is a good team relative to their conference, but they should by no means be anywhere near Xavier’s level tonight. The Bison enter with a 5-2 record, Xavier at 6-0. They do not have a player taller than 6’6″ in their projected starting lineup, and their tallest player, Spencer Eliason, is 6’9″, an inch shorter than Xavier’s tallest, Sean O’Mara. The difference though? Sean plays a lot, whereas Eliason has only played in 19% of the team’s minutes. The Bison are also 331 out of 351 teams in turnover percentage.
But wait, if they’re ranked 103 in KenPom they must be doing SOMETHING right…right? Yeah, they hang their hat on defense. They force turnovers and contest shots. What they don’t do on the defensive end is rebound; they concede a significant amount of offensive boards.
One player to keep an eye on is AJ Jacobson. He is shooting .778(!!!!!!) from beyond the arc this year, a cool 14-18. Xavier can’t afford to let someone get hot, but the Musketeers are more well-rounded as a whole. They should be able to avoid a surprise even if one Bison player starts to heat up.
Goals for Xavier
If you didn’t see, Xavier moved up to No. 7 on Monday and Baylor entered the top 10 at No. 9. Surprise! The game on Saturday will be a top 10 showdown in Waco. This is a chance for Xavier to fine-tune some of their weaknesses and prepare for the Bears.
With the Bison’s lack of solid rebounding, look for RaShid Gaston, Tyrique Jones, and O’Mara to be particularly aggressive on the boards. Xavier should try to push the ball and speed up a slow Bison team. As long as the Musketeers continue to improve on the defensive end, and barring something horrific, this really shouldn’t be much of a contest.
PS for students, I’m hyped to get one of these three ball foam fingers.