With the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on deck for Tuesday and Wednesday, it would be easy to think that the only matchups between ranked teams early in the week can be found on Tuesday and Wednesday. Not so thanks to the matchup between #12 Xavier (4-0) and #22 Vanderbilt (5-1)in Nashville, but while Memorial Gym is always a tough place to play the Commodores have already lost at home once this season (Cleveland State). Two of the best guards in the country will be on display as well, but while both Tu Holloway (Xavier) and John Jenkins (Vanderbilt) can light up the scoreboard they get the job done in drastically different ways.
Holloway (15.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) is the floor general for Chris Mack's Musketeers, entrusted with the task of not only scoring himself but also setting up his teammates. The senior has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.4 thus far, a big improvement over his ratio (1.6) of a season ago. Joining Holloway in the Xavier backcourt is Mark Lyons (17.8 ppg, 3.8 apg), the team's leading scorer and every bit as attack-minded as Holloway. Another key figure on the perimeter is freshman Dezmine Wells, and the combination of he and Vandy's Jeffery Taylor could deliver some serious above-the-rim highlights.
As for the prolific Jenkins (20.2 ppg, 42.6% 3PT), the key for Xavier will be to make him have to create off the dribble. If the junior is allowed a number of "catch and shoot" opportunities it's going to be a long night for the visitors. Kevin Stallings' team is about more than just Jenkins on offense however, as Taylor and Brad Tinsley both average double figures and forward Lance Goulbourne is just under ten points per game with an average of 9.8. There's no mistaking the fact that the Commodores miss big man Festus Ezeli inside, and they've had to adjust with his knee injury sidelining him until sometime next month.
Goulbourne, Taylor and Steve Tchiengang have been the main contributors on the glass, with Vanderbilt owning a rebounding margin of plus-4.1 on the season. They'll need to get the job done by committee against a team that rebounds in a similar fashion. Lyons, Wells, Kenny Frease (10.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Travis Taylor (6.8 rpg) are the team's top four rebounders and Vanderbilt transfer Andre Walker grabs four caroms per contest, and as a team the Musketeers have a rebounding margin of plus-4.3. The difference between the two teams in offensive rebounding rate is about two percentage points in Vanderbilt's favor, so this may be a negligible stat on Monday night.
Two stats to keep an eye on: percentage of points scored from beyond the arc (Vanderbilt gets 32.5% of their points off of threes) and assist percentage (Xavier assists on 60.9% of their passes). Xavier will look to take away the three, something they have to do in order to keep the crowd out of the game. And if Vandy can make the Musketeers go one-on-one for the majority of their baskets (even with Holloway and Lyons), that will raise their defensive efficiency. Look for the Musketeers and Commodores to go right down to the wire.
Also of note is Long Beach State looking to rebound from their loss at Montana with a win at Louisville, with the Cardinals surviving a challenge from Ohio on Friday night. Peyton Siva looked to be fine on his sprained ankle against Ohio, but how he performs against Casper Ware will be something to keep an eye on just a couple days after dealing with the Bobcats' D.J. Cooper. The 49ers tandem of Larry Anderson and T.J. Robinson could prove to be a handful for the Cardinals but in freshman Chane Behanan, Louisville has one of the best freshmen in the Big East.
Akron's trip to West Virginia should also be interesting, especially with Keith Dambrot suspending starting point guard Alex Abreu last week. Quincy Diggs got the start at the point in the Zips' win over Detroit, but this move also required more of players such as Brett McClanahan. Kent State has already won in Morgantown, and it isn't far-fetched to think that WVU could drop to 0-2 at home against the MAC this season. But Bob Huggins' team is back to the old trick that helped the 2010 team get to the Final Four: dominating the offensive boards. West Virginia has rebounded 47% of their misses thus far, with senior Kevin Jones grabbing 5.5 offensive rebounds per game.
LIU's trip to Iona sets up to be a good game despite the Blackbirds' 2-3 start, with the frontcourt battle between Julian Boyd (LIU) and Mike Glover (Iona) being one that viewers should focus on. And Georgia visits Colorado in a matchup of teams still looking to define roles after incurring some heavy personnel losses following last season.
Top 25 Games
7:00 PM Long Beach State at (7) Louisville (ESPNU)
8:00 PM Jackson State at (8) Memphis (SportSouth)
7:00 PM Stetson vs. (9) Florida* (ESPN3)
7:00 PM (12) Xavier at (22) Vanderbilt (ESPN2)
8:00 PM Jacksonville at (17) Marquette
10:30 PM McNeese State at (18) California
NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM IUPUI at Georgetown (MASN)
7:00 PM Swarthmore at Columbia
7:00 PM Akron at West Virginia (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Long Island at Iona
7:00 PM Louisiana-Lafayette at Kent State
7:00 PM Quinnipiac at Lehigh
7:00 PM North Carolina A&T at UNC Greensboro
7:00 PM Niagara at Saint Francis (PA)
7:30 PM UMBC at Rutgers (RVision)
7:30 PM Austin Peay at Lipscomb
7:30 PM Louisiana-Monroe at Nicholls State
8:00 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Auburn
8:00 PM Texas-Pan American at Texas-Arlington
8:00 PM Trevecca Nazarene at Belmont
8:30 PM Georgia at Colorado (Root)
8:30 PM Tabor College at South Dakota
9:00 PM Tennessee at Oakland (ESPNU)
9:05 PM Northern Illinois at Utah Valley
10:00 PM Montana State at San Jose State
10:00 PM Pacific at Stanford
10:00 PM Evergreen State at Seattle
11:00 PM Pepperdine at UCLA (FS PT)