MUSKIES ROAR PAST RIDER!! WISCONSIN BADGERS-THURSDAY!!!!
By Andy Mac Williams, 11/14/2017

Rider proved a step up in competition for Xavier Monday night at Cintas with more length than Morehead and better athleticism. The Muskies had the Broncos teetering on the cusp of an early blow-out leading 39-20(2:34 before halftime). XU took the foot off the gas. Rider rallied (down only 10 at the break) then scored the first 5 points of the second half(49-44 XU plus 5). At that point the veterans took over!! Trevon Bluiett,J.P. Macura,Kaiser Gates and Tyrique Jones declared no more!! Xavier got running and defending and rebounding and blew Rider's doors off winning in a walk 101-75. It's the first time since Chris Mack's first season 2009-10 that XU has scored 100 or more points in back to back games(Bowling Green and Sacred Heart).

WHAT WENT RIGHT: BIG

Tyrique Jones dominated and expanded his game(25 minutes-19 points-9 rebounds-3 blocks-2 assists-no turnovers). He's running the floor faster and in longer stretches. thanks to better conditioning. His shot variety has grown past the thunder dunks(a tear drop floater in the lane and a running hook shot).The dunks are fine with me anytime,by the way!! Free throw shooting is more than a 50-50 proposition(5-6 vs Rider).Ty figures to get 5-8 FT chances/game if he plays 25 minutes.Might as well knock them down!! All of Tyrique's extra pre and post practice foul shooting with the student managers is starting to pay off in the box score. FG numbers were 7-8. Jones plays with emotion and he's vocal. It's intimidating to the enemy and inspiring to his guys. We saw Tyrique's confidence and production blossom late last season through the NCAA Elite 8 run especially against Florida State. He's clearly the lead power player now.

Xavier cut down on turnovers from Game #1 and continued to share the ball unselfishly(25 assists on 31 FGs). The Free Throw numbers improved(29-35-83%) to elite level. Bluiett is playing like a Senior leader. He's always been an efficient scorer,but he's amped up the numbers(26 points in 28 minutes against Rider). Toss in 9 rebounds and 3 assists and you've got a pretty good night.

J.P. distained the three point shot and attacked the basket off the dribble willing his way to 14 points-4 rebounds and 6 assists. He earned his points at the FT line(9-10). Kaiser Gates showed no hesitation shooting the open shot(12 points). His defensive mobility allows him to guard both power and small forwards.

Paul Scruggs scored the ball well(13 points-20 minutes). He can make shots after contact on his drives. Pencil Scruggs in for a ton of traditional "and one" three point plays over the next few years.

WHAT DID NOT GO SO WELL??

Xavier yielded 19 offensive rebounds to a somewhat undersized opponent. Rider did trigger 30 threes and as they say long shots produce crazy long rebounds,but the Muskie guards have to block out and rebound better to help out the BIG GUYS. The guards also allowed a bunch of dribble drives into the paint. Rider PG Stevie Jordan is a very good penetrator ,but there were too many blow-bys again leaving the BIGS holding the bag and taking unnecessary fouls. The guards have to stop the ball -stay between their man and the basket and bail out the BIGS.

Sean O'Mara played better despite foul trouble(6 points-6 rebounds in 11 minutes). Sean is tagged with some strange foul calls. It's not his fault he's 6-10 245 and puny guards just bounce off him. Referees don't know simple physics and penalize BIGS taking pity on the little dudes who frequently initiate the contact. Kerem Kanter continued to struggle a bit with the pace of play and holding on to the ball in traffic.

RANDOM NOTES:

Xavier signed a third Class of 2018 recruit over the weekend. 6-7 215 Forward Dontarius James is now a Muskie. He hails from the under recruited State of South Carolina and is taking a post graduate year at Huntington Prep in West Virginia. James had offers from Butler,Kansas,UMass and Old Dominion. Travis Steele was the lead recruiter. Dontarius scored 21 in Huntington's recent 118-115 triple OT win over Hargrave Military(Naji Marshall's former school). Huntington has produced several "name" players since their inception in 2009 including Andrew Wiggins(Kansas-Minnesota Timberwolves-NBA),Thomas Bryant-Indiana,Josh Perkins-Gonzaga and Miles Bridges-Michigan State.

Edmund Sumner attended the Xavier-Rider game. He has not been cleared yet for full contact practice,but should be full go by December. Expect the NBA Indiana Pacers to send him to their G-League affiliate for conditioning and continued rehab. SCOUTING

THE WISCONSIN BADGERS:

Thursday-8:30PM-EST-Fox Sports 1-KOHL Center-(17,230)Madison,Wisconsin. This is Xavier's second foray into the BIG EAST-BIG TEN Gavitt Games Series. XU won at Michigan two years ago 86-70. UW is unranked in the Preseason Polls for the first time since 2010 after losing four starters(PG Bronson Koenig,PF Nigel Hayes,Forward Vitto Brown and Guard Zak Showalter) to graduation. That group accounted for over 4800 points-two Final Four appearances and two more NCAA Sweet 16s. Wisconsin is getting poll votes and will be ranked if they beat the #15 Muskies.Ken Pomeroy lists UW #23 in his Power ratings and picks Wisconsin to beat XU 74-71.

Badger Basketball features low turnovers-low fouls-controlled slower tempo-physical man-to-man packline style defense and plenty of winning. They've made 19 straight NCAA Tournaments dating back to 1999. The Badgers seldom lose a non-conference game at home(current 12 game win streak).

Coach Greg Gard is 25-4 at Kohl Center over his 2 and a half seasons since replacing Bo Ryan including Big Ten games. Gard was a long time Ryan assistant. Wisc. is off to a 2-0 start with lopsided wins over South Carolina State(85-50) and Yale(89-61).The Ivy League Yale Bulldogs were short two starters because of injury.

The best Badger is RS Junior and third year starter Ethan Happ (#22) 6-10 235. His resume is already glittering. Happ is defending BIG TEN Defensive Player of the Year. He's averaged a double-double since year one and led UW in almost every statisticall category last season. Happ is a low block force at both ends of the floor. He may look awkward at times,but he handles the ball as well as any BIG in the country-passes expertly out of double teams-is tenacious on the offensive glass and makes post moves both lefty and righty.

Xavier will need contributions from all three BIGS Tyrique,Sean and Kerem and maybe even Kaiser Gates to limit Happ. Considering the Badger's relative inexperience(No Seniors in their normal 9 man rotation-three lightly played Sophomore starters) UW may need a monster game from Happ to beat XU. Their new starting PG is 6-0 Soph D'Mitrik Trice who backed up Koenig and played some off guard also as a Frosh. Trice(#0) is very good with the ball and a plus 40% three point shooter. 6-3 Soph Brevin Pritzl (#1)starts in the backcourt. He scored 17 in the opener.

Two Freshman guards are getting big minutes. (#34) 6-3 Brad Davison is a typical hard nosed Wisconsin guard-ball hawking-flopping to draw charges. He's an energy effort player. 6-4 Kobe King(#23) is more of a scorer. The small forward (#21) Junior Khalil Iverson had a career game against Yale(17 points-8-8FGs).He attacks the rim and specializes in stick backs. This is Iverson's moment with Hayes and Brown out of the picture.The stretch four man is 7 footer Andy Van Vliet(#11) from Belgium.He's a Euro style player who will float out and launch threes.

Wisconsin always has BIGS who shoot outside(Frank Kaminsky,Sam Dekker,Brian Butch etc etc). Van Vliet seems a bit on the slim side though. Two 6-8 guys play off the bench(Aleen Ford and Charles Thomas).

The Muskies have a ton more experience. They're more athletic and deeper but three of the Xavier depth guys(Naji Marshall,Paul-Scruggs and Elias Harden) are freshmen and this is their first road game. Hopefully,it's Kerem Kanter time for XU. He played three games for Wisconsin Green Bay at the Kohl Center. Last season Kerem started vs Wisconsin and played well(24 minutes-18 points-5 rebounds-made 3 of 5 threes).

REVENGE???

The Xavier camp well remembers that bitter March Sunday in St Louis in the 2016 NCAA Tournament Second Round. XU led by 9 with 6:19 left in regulation,but lost 66-63 on Bronson Koenig's dagger dead corner three point at the buzzer. The Muskies played below par with Bluiett and James Farr hurting and Myles Davis off on another planet mentally. Wisconsin made shots down the stretch. Showalter flopped and drew a key charge against Edmund Sumner. Ethan Happ(as a Frosh) killed Xavier inside(18 points). Bluiett,Macura,O'Mara and Gates all played in that defeat. The entire Xavier coaching and support staff participated. Enough said!!

This is a huge challenge and a huge opportunity for Xavier. BIG TEN teams normally don't want to schedule XU especially in Cincinnati. The BIG EAST association has made this game possible and after this season the contract will produce three Cintas home games over 5 years against Big Ten opponents. Come on down,fellas!! How about Indiana,Ohio State and Purdue in any order??

HOW DOES XAVIER WIN THIS???

The contract apparently reads three BIG TEN officials so that's interesting. Happ has a weakness!! He's a bad free throw shooter. Xavier needs to force up the tempo some and make Wisconsin play faster than they like. XU has to keep turnovers low. Wisconsin loves to control the ball-bleed the shot clock then play physical defense-turn you over and make you play more extended "D". It's frustrating like ball control running teams in football. Happ will see multiple defenders and various defensive schemes. Unfortunately he's seen all this stuff before.

I like Xavier's chances in a tough venue early in the season. The veterans will have to carry this one over the finish line. Expect huge minutes for Trevon and J.P. a la the NCAA Tourney. Gates can certainly help against either Van Vliet or Iverson and they have to figure out how to guard his perimeter game. Quentin can muscle Trice the smaller PG with help from Scruggs.

The three headed Center Monster needs production from more than just Tyrique Jones. XU has to see the Sean O'Mara who emerged in the NCAAs against Maryland and FSU and Arizona. BIG SEAN held his own against Happ two years ago in St Louis. Muskies 76 Badgers 70!! Bring on the Hampton Pirates!!!




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