Saturday is a huge day in college sports. #1 Kentucky faces #11 UCLA, football conference championships abound, and there is a battle between the 7th and 9th ranked teams in the AP Top 25. Your Xavier Musketeers are taking on the Baylor Bears down in Waco, Texas, in what is the first true road game for Xavier this season. Both teams are undefeated. Both teams are in the top 10. Here’s what you need to know.
The teams Xavier has defeated to this point is nothing to be scoffed at – but this is when Xavier really starts to get down to business with their schedule. Over the next three games, Xavier plays at Baylor and at Colorado before facing Utah in the Cintas Center.
Baylor on the other hand has ascended the national rankings faster than you can drive through the town of Waco and see all you need to see. They crushed No. 23 Oregon by 17, ripped apart Michigan State by 15, and stunned No. 14 Louisville in the Battle 4 Atlantis final after trailing by as many as 22. After starting the season unranked, those Bears are quickly No. 9.
The biggest storyline (literally) as far as the game-play will be how Xavier decides to handle Johnathan Motley and Jo Lual-Acuil who stand at 6’10” and 7’0″ respectively. Xavier looks to have the advantage on the perimeter with Sumner, Bluiett, and Macura, but if Motley and Lual-Acuil go to town with ease then things could unravel.
Ishmail Wainwright, a wing player and quietly one of the team’s biggest contributors, played high school basketball for Montrose Christian outside Washington D.C. Montrose has seen the likes of Kevin Durant, Grevis Vasquez, and more recently Allonzo Trier pass through its ranks. Side note, I remember watching Wainwright tear my high school’s team to shreds…hopefully I’m not in for some brutal deja vu.
Baylor is just about average with ball security and shooting from behind the arc. Other than that, they’re in the top 100 in just about every other major statistical category.
Xavier is going to look for their guards to take over with their height and size, and Sean O’Mara, Tyrique Jones, and RaShid Gaston will have to be monsters on the block. If Xavier can be the tougher team down low, that will prove to be the recipe for success.
Nobody on the current Xavier team was on the 2012 Sweet 16 squad, but that was the last time these two teams faced each other. I had a JV baseball game and wasn’t able to see Tu Holloway nearly bring Xavier all the way back before Baylor edged Xavier in the closing minute.
This should be an eye-opening test for fans (if you don’t know, Baylor lovvvvveessss a good neon uniform), as well as the Musketeers. Some of their weaknesses might be exposed, but it will be important to monitor how they adjust within the game.
Overall, I think Xavier has the edge in match-ups and possesses what it takes to bring home the W.
3:30 on ESPN2. I’ll be watching, and hopefully you will too.