SCOUTING KENT STATE!! DON'T DISCOUNT THE MAC!!
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier(7-1)(#13 in AP-#14 in USA TODAY Coaches' Top 25) will be a prohibitive double digit favorite over the Kent State Golden Flashes Wednsday evening at Cintas(7PM-EST-FoxSports 1). The Muskies come off a terrific week with "statement" home court wins over Baylor(now#23) and Cincinnati(now #17). XU won both games going away. The building blocks to victory were similar. The Muskies started fast-attacked inside-played inside-out raining in open three ball looks-dominated the glass against two strong rebounding teams-played sticky half court pakline defense-got into the free throw bonus early and salted the games away with deadly accurate free throw shooting.
The Xavier player rotation is now a solid 9 guys. Hopefully Frosh Elias Harden can get more PT soon to maybe work his way into the pressure game mix. There's plenty for Xavier to work on despite the good week and fast start. They're only 10 days removed from a clunker defensive game against Arizona State.
UC full court pressure bothered the Muskies some. The back-up PG situation needs work. Paul Scruggs is talented and long and tough, He just needs more playing time behind Quentin Gooden. Scruggs is averaging 17 minutes/game as is fellow Frosh Naji Marshall. Scruggs has held his own after some shaky minutes in Las Vegas against run and gun ASU spelling Gooden who hit foul trouble. He's much more advanced than Quentin was last December playing maybe 7 minutes/game behind Edmund Sumner. Scruugs is learning the lead guard role re decision making offensively. He already can bring elite level defensive ball pressure.
Marshall has heavily impacted a BIG TIME victory already(his second half hustle versus Baylor turned the game from nip and tuck into a romp). His role off the ball is easier than Scrugg's PG role.
Kent State features two smallish Junior Guards with plenty of experience. The stud is #23 Jaylen Walker(18PPG). He hoists 14 shots/game and launches from anywhere. Walker led KSU to the MAC Tourney Championship and an NCAA Berth last March scoring 30 in their Title Game 70-65 win over favored Akron. The Flashes beat Central Michigan,Buffalo and Ohio U then the Akron Zips to earn a 14 NCAA Seed. They lost in Sacramento to UCLA 97-80 with Walker netting 23 points on 23 shots. The PG is Jalen Avery(#0)(9PPG-4.5 assists).The Xavier guards will have to chase them around.
KENT's SEASON SO FAR:
They're 5-3 overall with two losses coming to Missouri Valley Conference teams on a neutral court in Savannah,Georgia(lost 77-67 to Valpo-late of the Horizon League and lost 75-60 to Loyola of Chicago). Jaylin Walker sprained an ankle a week ago Monday in practice. KSU won at Norfolk State and home against backyard rival Cleveland State without him. Walker is expected to play against Xavier. 7th year coach Rob Senderhoff is playing a lot of new guys setting his rotation for MAC season.
Kent is picked second in the MAC EAST behind Buffalo. The one NCAA bid league is wide open.KSU has a viable low post 7 footer Junior BIG Adonis De La Rosa(14PPG-8 Rebounds-in 21 minutes/game). He's a load at 265 with nimble post moves. Kent plays half court man defense with decent depth(40% of minutes come from the bench). The Flashes rebound well especially on the offensive glass. The three ball is not a high percentage asset fro them.
Kent is a work in progress after losing a top post player and their best small forward off a 22-14 NCAA team. Senderhoff is tinkering preparing for another MAC run. He is resourceful(127-84 in his 7th season).
XU may have a hang-over from BIG BOY WEEK and the wins over Baylor and in the Shootout. The Muskies could be looking ahead to Colorado Saturday at Cintas(5PM EST-Fox Sports 1). XU melted down late last December in snowy Boulder-losing 68-66 to the PAC 12 Buffaloes. Colorado is 6-1 so far with a loss to rival Colorado State last weekend and a home date against Nevada Wednesday.
Kent would need a huge game from Jaylen Walker coming off the ankle injury plus out of body efforts by their young BIGS and inexperienced wings. Could happen but not probable. Xavier on friendly rims with a fast start gets to play the bench liberally and puts KSU away 90-70 racking up a 36th straight non-conference Cintas Center win.