Watch out Missouri fans, your Tigers are hot. They've won ALL of their past one games taking their season record to 5-4. For a weekend game at Mizzou Arena, the Tigers welcome a new Big East team from the new look Big East. Complete with no football seasoning!
Presenting the Xavier University Muskateers
location: Cincinnati, Ohio
You won't need directions until next season, when Missouri visits the Cintas Center, the on campus arena that the Muskateers play in. It's one of the toughest venues in the country to play in, because Xavier doesn't have attendance problems. Xavier doesn't have many famous people that were Musketeers. Except for maybe John Boehner, Speaker of the (very popular) House of Representatives, the 8th District of Ohio Congressmen, Presidential Golfing Buddy and noted orange-hued human. Jim Bunning is another graduate from Xavier, he did okay. Several NBA players exist, but that's cheating.
The University itself is a co-educational (that means boys and girls go there) Jesuit (the cool catholics who drink lots) institution. They field 8 men's sports, and 8 women's sports. Basketball is one of these sports, for both. Football (for men... and women for that matter) is not. They haven't fielded a football team since 1973. Almost all of these things I learned on Wikipedia yesterday.
The Musketeers is a pretty cool nickname, and for it they have two mascots, for some reason.
D'Artagnan, the Musketeer (makes sense), and the Blue Blob. Yes, the Blue Blob. That is the actual name. You can read about WHY Xavier has two mascots in the link. It's actually a pretty neat thing, because, you know, kids and stuff.
About their basketball team
YOU SHOULD CHECK THIS OUT
YOU SHOULD CHECK THIS OUT
Xavier started the season with 5 straight wins, dropped two, and have since won a few more for a 7-2 record. An oddity in their schedule had them playing Long Beach State twice, and after beating them by 23 early in the season, they lost a 73-70 nail biter to finish out the month of November. There aren't any common opponents, but the Musketeers did face Alabama last weekend, and came away with a 13 point win. 6th in the country in Field Goal percentage, and 3rd in assists, Xavier is a very good offensive team. They're led by Senior Center, and part-time Uber driver, Matt Stainbrook. Stainbrook is a big 6'10 263 lbs, with good moves and the ability to finish around the basket. He's currently averaging around 14 points on an average of 8 shots, while getting about 7 rebounds per game. He'll be a tough question for Missouri to answer.
After Stainbrook, the key to keep your eye on is Trevor Bluiett. Bluiett is a 4-star freshmen with a well rounded game. He doesn't take a lot of shots (getting to only 12 shots twice), shoots well from three, and averages about 14 a game, rebounds and usually gets a few assists also. Myles Davis, a sophomore guard, is next up at around 10 points a game. Dee Davis is the distributor, only 8 points a game but 6 assists, which is almost as many as Missouri averages. Overall Xavier plays 9 guys more than 10 minutes a game, 7 of whom get at least 7 points a game. They're well coached offensively.
Now, to really fill us in on what to expect from tonights game, let's do a...
My Thanks to WestCoast D'Artagnan of BannersOnTheParkway for helping me out with this preview and agreeing to answer a few of our questions about his Musketeers, who are their big scorers, a little about the coach, and their new(ish) league, the Big East.
RockMNation: How has the Xavier offense adapted to the loss of Semaj Christon?
WestCoast D'Artagnan: I would have much rather had Semaj this year then not (by the way he is doing well in the D-League so far), but luckily for us we've got a lot of depth on offense this year. Stainbrook has been great, senior guard Dee Davis has been a good ball handler, and most impressive has been freshman Trevon Bluiett. Lots of guys putting up 8-12 points a night has definitely led to victory.
RMN: Chris Mack has built a solid reputation as a coach, picking up quickly where Sean Miller left off. What has been his biggest key to success while in Cincinnati?
D'Artagnan: Mack is in year six now at the helm and it looks like he will be here for a while. I think the key for him has been recruiting. We consistently bring in good players from Davis, to Christon, to Stainbrook, and now Bluiett. Mack brings in the right guys and has usually had stellar guards. This season is actually a bit different in that our big men have been making the bigger splash.
RMN: Who has been the biggest key to the early success for the Musketeers? What about the early failures?
D'Artagnan: This season has been a year of depth and a year of freshman. Bluiett and Macura have both been solid for the team. Dee Davis has been great at distributing the ball and Stainbrook has been a monster around the rim. Unfortunately the biggest failure has been defense, defense, and defense. This team has struggled greatly at perimeter defense and letting bad opponents get clear shots off. Everyone has looked bad on this front.
RMN: How has Xavier handled the transition to the Big East from the Atlantic 10?
D'Artagnan: Big East! The transition to the new conference has went almost as well as anyone had ever dreamed. Our squad was one of the top Big East teams last year with wins over Georgetown and St. Johns as well as a thrilling game with Creighton. The conference slate is great and such a massive difference from the A-10. Every game this time around is fun and I love the double round robin. Last year I know the nation wasn't huge on the new conference, but right now it's getting a lot of positive attention and it deserves it. I personally think that the Big East is going to be a monster conference for years to come. Also from the recruiting standpoint it has helped us a lot.
RMN: How do you see this game going? Prediction, plus one WILD prediction of something that will happen?
D'Artagnan: I see this game being close the entire time, but I feel like Xavier is going to win. Not to steal your score[Ed. Note: To see my prediction, check out the Q&A I did with BannersOnTheParkway], but I feel like the score that you called for is what it is going to be. As for something crazy? I'm expecting a lot of really silly fouls called during the game and both sides getting frustrated with the refs. Probably at least one technical called, and it's going to be against Xavier.
To wrap up, some keys to the game.
This is definitely not the chart you want to see, but this is points per game average. Xavier has been trending down, albeit slightly, while Missouri has been holding steady. Missouri simply isn't going to outscore this Xavier team, they're going to have to grind out a win. If the score is in the 60's, Missouri has a shot, the more Xavier scores, the uglier this game could get.
2) Freshmen Phenom Matchup
Trevon Bluiett vs. Montaque Gill-Caesar. If Teki wins this matchup, it increases Missouri's chances to be in the game.
3) Make Xavier's Players Create Their Own Shots
Xavier is a team that thrives on distributing the ball, creating shots for their teammates. Missouri, um... isn't. Yet. This is still keeping an eye on the A2T ratio, but more importantly it's focusing the defensive side to make Xavier take tough shots. To force them to put the ball on the floor and find their own shots. If Missouri limits their assist numbers, I like their chances.
If you read the above link, you'd see that I'm not too optimistic about Missouri winning this game. Xavier is simply a better, more rounded team at the moment. The game is at home, so Missouri can hopefully do what they haven't done to this point and be competitive against another power conference team. I like their chances to keep it closer than they've been, but ultimately fall. Something along the lines of 68-63.