Tu Holloway Sr (6-0, 190) vs Ramone Moore Sr (6-4, 190)
Moore is the top scorer in the Atlantic-10 conference with an average of 18.2 points per game, and he's coming off another big performance Wednesday night when he dropped 25 points in the come from behind win over George Washington. Moore is another skilled guard that can really stroke it from the perimeter shooting 40.2 percent on the year, while attempting 4.4 threes per contest. Moore is crafty off the dribble and can score in a variety of ways. Whether it be pulling up off the bounce, getting all the way to the rim or getting fouled and racking up points at the charity stripe, Moore is hard to contain. Holloway is likely to start out guarding him, which makes the Musketeers' floor general the most important player on offense and defense to start this game. I'd expect to see Lyons get some time on him once he checks in as well though. Xavier definitely needs the Holloway they've seen lately, as opposed to the Holloway they saw in their last big conference road game at Dayton. The Owls aren't great on defense, so being patient and making them work on that end will be his responsibility, and a huge key to success for the Muskies.
Slight Edge Xavier
Brad Redford Jr (6-1, 182) vs Juan Fernandez Sr (6-4, 195)
Fernandez is the Owl's top shooter from the outside where he's shooting 41.7 percent on the year with the most attempts on the team at 115. Over half of his made shots have come from beyond the arc, and his free-throw attempts have been few and far between. Fernandez leads the team in assists with 3.8 per game. He's not the most aggressive scorer in the world, and he's not much of a threat as long as you don't lose him from beyond the perimeter. While he's capable of turning in a 20-point performance if he gets hot and hits five threes, he's failed to score in double-figures in each of the last three games, including a five-point effort against George Washington on Wednesday night. Fernandez suffered a hip pointer against George Washington and did come back in the game, but has been listed as day to day leading up to the Xavier game. He also usually brings the ball up the floor for Temple as their point guard, but Redford is likely to guard him. Redford has been better defensively as of late, than he's ever been in his career. Even still, Temple's backcourt presents a challenge for him. The sharp-shooter has been getting back to his old ways shooting the ball from the outside, and he's even provided the Musketeers with a lift on the offensive end at times. They'll need him to hold his own defensively and knockdown a couple of early threes to keep him on the court.
Moderate Edge Temple
Dezmine Wells Fr (6-5, 215) vs Khalif Wyatt Jr (6-4, 210)
Wyatt may be second on the team in scoring at 16.6 points per game, but he may be the toughest one to contain. He's crafty from mid-range and around the rim, he's shooting 38.7 percent from three and he's averaging 3.3 assists and 2.2 steals. He also does a great job of getting to the free-throw line. He leads his team in attempts with 111 and percentage at 83.8. He has the highest efficient rating on the Owls' roster, and is a major piece to their attack on the offensive end. The junior wing is coming off of a 22 point performance, which included making 12-of-13 free-throws. Keeping him off of the charity stripe is a must, so guarding without fouling will be Wells' biggest challenge. The freshman has been playing pretty well at both ends of the floor as of late, despite struggling a little bit to finish against Rhode Island where finished 3-of-8 from the field. Xavier needs to kill the momentum for Temple every chance they get on the road, and Wells does that better than anyone. A dunk off a lob or steal would be a nice boost early in the game to take the crowd out of it.
Moderate Edge Temple
Andre Walker Sr (6-8, 225) vs Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson Jr (6-6, 210)
Hollis-Jefferson is an undersized forward, but not a shooter like some of the other small fours Xavier has faced. He hasn't even attempted a 3-pointer this year. He is a good passer and a decent rebounder though. Hollis-Jefferson isn't always the most aggressive player on the offensive end, but he can score a little bit if setup to do so. Walker, on the other hand, rarely looks for his shot at all, but does a great job of handling the ball and passing on offense for Xavier. Both of these guys are solid defensively, with Walker's strength being his versatility and lateral quickness, while Hollis-Jefferson's is his length and shot-blocking ability.
Kenny Frease Sr (7-0, 275) vs Michael Eric Sr (6-11, 240)
Since returning after a two month hiatus due to a knee injury, Eric has helped bolster the Owls defense and added a rebounding presence with legit size to their lineup. Though not playing 30 minutes like he was at the beginning of the season, Eric has been effective for the 15-20 a game that he's in there. Eric isn't a big impact player necessarily, but he's a solid role player that gives the Owls more size. Xavier needs Frease to be more than just a role player in this matchup. He doesn't have to score a ton of points, but he has to be on top of his game when it comes to rebounding and defense. Xavier's offense is better when they work to get him touches throughout the entire game, even if he's not scoring. A big key to this game will be whichever team owns the paint, and while some of that will fall on the guards and wings, a lot of it comes down to this matchup right here. The most likely scenario is that they cancel each other out, but if either team ends up with an advantage inside, it could be the difference.
Xavier Bench vs Temple Bench
Temple will go nine deep, and while none of their reserves are stars, they are all solid and play a role. Anthony Lee is a 6-9 freshman forward that averages 5.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in 21 minutes per game, though his time varies significantly from game-to-game. T.J. Dileo is a 6-3 junior that rarely provides points in his 16 minutes a game, but has an extremely high basketball IQ, plays good defense, hits the open jumper and has a tendency to come up with big plays. Aaaron Brown, a 6-5 sophomore, adds another shooter to the rotation that connects at a 40 percent clip. Regardless, Xavier gets the advantage as they currently bring one of the top scorers in the conference off the bench in Mark Lyons. It wouldn't be surprising to see Lyons come in early and play a lot of minutes against this potent Temple offense. His defense may be a necessity for Xavier. Travis Taylor has been giving them better minutes at the four as of late. Expect them to stay with the shorter rotation, letting their top six or seven play the majority of the minutes
Moderate Edge Xavier
Temple's offense is the class of the conference. They are tops in field goal percentage and points per possession, and second in 3-point field goal percentage. Temple is not a good rebounding team, and they're just decent on defense. The Musketeers have to take advantage of that to win the game. They have to consistently work for good shots that will eventually open up if they make the Owls work. They will have to finish around the basket and hit jumpers though, as Temple does not foul much at all. On the other end, the Owls do a great job of putting you in bad positions as a defense that causes lots of fouls. Xavier's perimeter defense will have to do a great job, but at least for the Musketeer's sake, it will be their guards that have to lock up the arc and not their forwards. If Xavier is going to win they need Mark Lyons to be fully bought in and better than what he's been as of late, and they'll need a few shots to go down from the perimeter. A couple of threes from Brad, Tu and Mark would be huge to help keep pace with the sharp-shooting Owls. Both teams have a lot to play for, but in the end Temple has been a really tough place for Xavier to win. The Musketeers have been up and down with their play this year, so not much would surprise, but if they bring their effort and at least play hard on defense, they'll be in the game to the end.
Score Prediction: Temple 68 Xavier 64
Before every game MusketeerReport breaks down the position by position matchups for Xavier's opponent. This edition focuses on Saturday night's important conference showdown at Temple.
Before every game MusketeerReport breaks down the position by position matchups for X's opponent.