Xavier vs. Saint Louis: Wednesday's Preview

    
January 25th, 2012
Neither team is currently in first place in the Atlantic 10 but if anything that magnifies the importance of Saint Louis (15-4, 3-2) heading east to take on Xavier (13-6, 4-2) at the Cintas Center. Both teams are a game out of first place in the loss column, and a closer look at the Billikens' computer numbers shows that they could use a win like this to bolster the resume. According to the most recent "nitty gritty" report released by the NCAA Saint Louis is currently 51st in the RPI, but their problem is a non-conference strength of schedule of 211 (overall SOS of 124).

Xavier has no such issue currently but after a loss at Dayton the Musketeers need to get back on track to remain a game behind the Flyers in the loss column. While the Phyrric victory over Cincinnati hurt the chemistry and psyche of Chris Mack's team, there's also the issue of Xavier not being as efficient offensively as they were last season. The Musketeers are averaging just 1.04 points per possession this season and they're also not shooting the three well, making 35.3% of their shots to date.

Guards Tu Holloway (15.7 ppg, 5.6 apg) and Mark Lyons (16.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg) lead the way for Xavier, but Holloway's percentages have taken a hit (40.9% FG, 31.6% 3PT). But without consistent production from the big men more responsibility ends up on their shoulders. Senior Kenny Frease (8.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg) has been around for four seasons and while there always seems to be the feeling that he's just one step away, that progression just hasn't happened. Vanderbilt transfer Andre Walker (6.1 rpg) leads the team in rebounding but neither he nor Monmouth transfer Travis Taylor has shown themselves to be capable of being a bell cow for the Musketeers on the block.

Freshman wing Dezmine Wells (10.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg) has been one of the best first-year players in the A-10, and he has to be on the short list of the most explosive finishers in college basketball. He's done well as Xavier's third scorer but with his best work coming in the open floor, someone inside needs to step up. Saint Louis also has three players averaging double figures, one of which comes off the bench. Forward Cody Ellis (11.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg) checks in at 6'8", 240 but he's more comfortable on the perimeter (40.2% 3PT), and his shooting is balanced out by Brian Conklin's willingness to go inside.

Conklin is shooting 58.6% from the field on the season with just one three-point attempt, so it's safe to say that he won't be out firing away with reckless abandon. Guard Kwamain Mitchell (11.8 ppg, 3.8 apg) runs the show but also leads SLU in field goal attempts, and his individual matchup with Holloway should be fun to watch. Saint Louis has five players who have attempted 40 three-pointers or more, with three of those players attempting more than half their shots from distance and as a team the Billikens score 31.2% of their points on the bonus shot.

If there's one area to watch it will be turnovers, especially if Xavier gets impatient and looks to force the issue offensively. Saint Louis' opponents average 15.7 turnovers per game, and with the Billikens averaging a shade under 63 possessions per game that's a sizable number. Holloway and Lyons need to make plays without getting out of control, and if they don't Saint Louis has the ability to make them pay. SLU is 2-3 on the road this season but it's not like the Musketeers have been invincible at home (9-2), which should make for an entertaining matchup.

Wednesday's schedule features five ranked teams taking on unranked opponents on the road, one of which being #6 Duke taking on a young Maryland team in College Park. The Terrapins are led by sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin, but while Maryland has the ability to give Duke some trouble on the perimeter they lack interior depth and the shot selection leaves something to be desired at times. The same could be said for Oklahoma State, who hosts #2 Missouri, and Texas Tech as a player in Jordan Tolbert that can make life difficult for #24 Kansas State.

Minnesota visits #11 Michigan State in need of a resume-building victory but to say the least it's going to be tough for Tubby Smith's team to leave East Lansing with a win. Minnesota has received good play of late from Joe Coleman, and they do have a win at Indiana to their credit. BYU's trip to Virginia Tech is big for both teams as the victor would end up with a resume-building victory that could be a difference-maker come Selection Sunday.

Also keep an eye on Georgia State visiting Drexel in hopes of sweeping the season series, with both in hot pursuit of George Mason in the CAA. Colorado State/New Mexico and Notre Dame/Seton Hall are both solid conference match ups that will also have an impact on the resumes of all four teams.

Top 25 Games
7:30 PM (2) Missouri at Oklahoma State (ESPN2)
6:30 PM Penn State at (3) Ohio State (BTN)
9:00 PM (6) Duke at Maryland (ESPN)
8:30 PM Minnesota at (11) Michigan State (BTN)
8:05 PM (14) Creighton at Drake (ESPN3)
10:00 PM (15) UNLV at Boise State (The Mtn.)
8:00 PM LSU at (16) Mississippi State (ESPN3)
9:00 PM (24) Kansas State at Texas Tech (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Villanova at (25) Louisville (ESPN)

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Delaware at Northeastern
7:00 PM VCU at Towson
7:00 PM Southern Miss at East Carolina
7:00 PM Florida State at Wake Forest (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Maine at New Hampshire
7:00 PM DePaul at Rutgers (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Central Michigan at Bowling Green
7:00 PM Toledo at Miami (OH)
7:00 PM Western Michigan at Ohio (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Providence at Pittsburgh (ESPN3)
7:00 PM St. Bonaventure at Rhode Island (CBS SN)
7:00 PM Fordham at Richmond
7:00 PM BYU at Virginia Tech (ESPN3)
7:00 PM UAB at Marshall (CSS)
7:00 PM Holy Cross at Army
7:00 PM Old Dominion at UNC Wilmington
7:00 PM Binghamton at Albany
7:00 PM American at Bucknell
7:00 PM Lafayette at Colgate
7:00 PM Loyola (IL) at Detroit
7:00 PM Georgia State at Drexel
7:00 PM George Mason at Hofstra (FiOS 1)
7:00 PM Northern Illinois at Kent State
7:00 PM George Washington at La Salle
7:00 PM West Virginia at St. John's (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Dayton at Saint Joseph's (TCN Philadelphia)
7:00 PM Hartford at Stony Brook
7:00 PM UIC at Wright State
7:00 PM Saint Louis at Xavier (FSN MW)
7:05 PM Northern Iowa at Indiana State
7:05 PM Missouri State at Illinois State (ESPN3)
7:30 PM Temple at Charlotte
7:30 PM McNeese State at Nicholls State
7:30 PM Air Force at TCU (The Mtn.)
8:00 PM UCF at Tulsa (CBS SN)
8:00 PM Rice at Memphis
8:00 PM Texas State at Texas A&M-CC
8:00 PM Lamar at Northwestern State
8:00 PM Central Arkansas at Southeastern Louisiana
8:00 PM Notre Dame at Seton Hall (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Alabama at South Carolina (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Sam Houston State at Stephen F. Austin (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Jarvis Christian at UTSA
8:00 PM SMU at Tulane
8:00 PM Evansville at Wichita State (ESPN3)
8:15 PM North Texas at Louisiana-Lafayette
9:00 PM Auburn at Arkansas (ESPN3)
10:00 PM Colorado State at New Mexico (CBS SN)