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Game 12: at Xavier (6-4)

Miami concludes its mythical Miami Valley Conference schedule with a road trip to Cintas to play a Xavier team still stewing from the way their game at Butler ended in which the last second-plus was erased after the clock had stopped during Butler's last possession.  The Muskies are looking for their 3rd win against a MAC team, already winning comfortably against BG and Kent.  Xavier also owns wins over Creighton and UC, while their other losses were at Kansas St., and in Orlando to Baylor and Marquette.  Chris Mack is Xavier's new head coach after Sean Miller left for Arizona.  Coach Mack has a relatively young team, only 1 of his top 8 players is a senior and 5 of his top 8 are underclassmen.  His team can be overemotional and inconsistent at times, but they're very talented and play extremely hard, unafraid of any situation.

Starters (assuming X will stay with their 4 guard lineup)

Terrell Holloway, 6' 185 So.  10 pts, 4 ass.  44% FG, 42% 3PFG, 85% FT, 3:1 assist/turnover ratio

Mark Lyons, 6'1" 195 Fr.  9 pts, 3 ass.  40% FG, 35% 3PFG, 65% FT

Jordan Crawford, 6'4" 195 So.  18 pts, 5 reb.  46% FG, 43% 3PFG, 72% FT

Dante Jackson, 6'5" 195 Jr.  6 pts, 3 reb.  43% FG, 37% 3PFG, 75% FT

Jason Love, 6'9" 265 Sr.  10 pts, 11 reb, 3 blks.  58% FG, 71% FT

Off the Bench

Brad Redford, 6' 175 So.  8 pts.  51% FG, 54% 3PFG, 83% FT

Jamel McLean, 6'8" 235 Jr.  6 pts, 6 reb.  48% FG, 60% FT

Kenny Frease, 7' 265 So.  7 pts, 4 reb.  54% FG, 45% FT

I watched Xavier in the Old Spice Classic and thought they were good, but they didn't blow me away.  Then I watched Xavier against Kansas St., UC, and Butler and I thought I was watching a different team.  Even in losing by 15 to Kansas St. in Manhattan, they played ok.  Kansas St. is the 3rd or 4th best team in the Big 12, they're good and can match up with Xavier's guards.  In the last month, Xavier appears to have found their identity:  play really hard and with a lot of emotion, more emotional than any X team I can remember, relentlessly attack the basket, and let Jordan Crawford do his thing.  Crawford will take a lot of shots, but most of his shots are good ones.  He's quick enough to go by you, he's big enough to post you up, and he's strong enough to shoot turnarounds and fadeaways over you.  He's done a better job of passing off when nothing's there, but he still forces things sometimes.  But he's shooting 46%, 43% from 3, outstanding numbers for a guy who shoots so much. 

Because of the attention he attracts, that leaves open shots or driving lanes for his teammates.  Terrell Holloway deserves more attention, he is a great player, great shooter, makes great decisions and has a high basketball IQ.  Lyons gives the Muskies another quick guard who can shoot, though as a redshirt freshman he's still learning.  Jackson doesn't shoot the ball a lot, but he's good enough that when he's left open, he can bury one in your face.  Because all of the guards are threats, Love usually gets 1on1 chances in the post because opponents risk an open 3 with a double team and Love's passing ability allows him to find the open perimeter shooter.  Love has also slimmed down, allowing him to run the floor and become more of a factor in transition at both ends.  You can't leave Redford, he's got a quick release and doesn't look to dribble much.  McLean and Frease give great minutes off the bench at both ends.

Xavier doesn't run many sets, making you guard 1on1 in space, a tough thing to do for 40 minutes (and one of our weaknesses).  It will be important to contain dribble penetration so we don't have to go into help and recover mode repeatedly because if we do, they'll bury 3s left and right.  Xavier is 8th nationally shooting 43% from 3.  When they do run sets, they'll run some triangle action, back screening to free up their guards for drives or shots.  When they run, look for a lot of pick and roll for quick shots or drives to the basket.  Defensively, X will play man-to-man, but not the most aggressive man defense we'll see.  They don't challenge, but they're going to make you try to drive or shoot over the top.  They only force 13 turnovers, but opponents are only shooting 39%.  X is 31st nationally in defensive points per possession, so you need to have one of your better offensive nights if you're going to score points.

Offensively, it'll be easy to settle for jumpers tonight because that's what X wants.  The ball has to go inside, then back out so we make their defense move a little bit.  Defensively, we have to know the scouting report, who and where the shooters are, and each player must stay in front of his man because the help may not be there.  And the help won't be there because of X's shooting threats on the perimeter.  We have to do what other teams do to us, which is make them dribble north-south for 25 seconds, forcing them into a bad shot.  Tough task for Miami tonight, but every MVC game has been competitive.  I expect this to be no different.

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