Tu Holloway Sr (6-0, 190) vs Chaz Williams So (5-9, 175)
Williams, a Hofstra transfer, lacks size, but has plenty of ability. He is the leading scorer with an average of 15.5 points per game, and he's always looking to attack the basket. He can get into the lane where he can surprisingly get his shot off well with floaters and runners, but he also is a capable shooter from the outside at 36 percent. He is the guy that the Minutemen rely on to make plays, but that is a large burden at times too that results in Williams turning the ball over or playing a little out of control. He's the type of player that can turn the ball over seven or eight times in a game, or he can dish out 20 assists with only two turnovers as he has in the last two games combined. The Musketeers have to corral him early and not let him get loose in transition. Expect Xavier to use multiple players against Williams, including Holloway, Lyons and Davis off the bench. Williams is a scrappy defender and a tough competitor, but expect either Holloway or Lyons - whoever he is guarding - to try and use their strength and size against him to get to the free-throw line. Holloway was named Atlantic-10 Player of the Week for his ridiculous performance against Dayton on Saturday with 32 points. Coach Mack said he expects him to have a big finish to his senior year
Slight Edge Xavier
Mark Lyons Sr (6-1, 188) vs Jesse Morgan So (6-5, 190)
Morgan is a spot-up shooter from the outside. He shoots 37 percent from the outside, but is one of those guys that can get insanely hot and really burn you from the outside. He made 6-of-7 from three against St. Bonaventure and 4-for-8 the next game against St. Joe's, but those performances were sandwiched between 0-for-5 and 0-for-4 efforts against George Washington and LaSalle. Morgan isn't necessarily a bad defender, but he'll struggle to keep a point guard type player like Lyons or Holloway in front of him. He's only a sophomore and still needs to add strength to his frame as well. He'll try to use his length to his advantage, but this could be the guy that the Musketeers try to attack, especially if he's guarding Lyons. Xavier's talented combo guard slid over and ran the point position more against Dayton in an attempt to increase the offensive tempo. If he hadn't gotten in foul trouble, Lyons may have had an even bigger game, but he still managed to finish with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting. The Muskies need his emotion and toughness on the court, but they need him to be playing focused and within the team concept like he did against Dayton.
Moderate Edge Xavier
Dezmine Wells Fr (6-5, 215) vs Terrell Vinson Jr (6-7, 220)
Vinson is a strong forward with pretty good skills that is at his best when he's attacking the rim and getting to the free-throw line. He can also make an impact when he goes to the glass and really gives UMass a size advantage against other teams. The key against Vinson is to turn him into a shooter. He has no problem with jacking four or five threes in a game, and the last time he made more than one in a game was over a month ago. He shoots just 30.6 percent from beyond the arc, but is content to settle for tough jumpers all too often. Wells did some really nice things offensively, including throwing down a nice oop in transition against Dayton, but he also missed some key block outs down the stretch that allowed the Flyers some second chance opportunities. That's been the one thing he's struggled with a little bit all year, and Vinson is a guy that can do some damage on the offensive glass. Wells will have to focus in blocking out on the defensive end, as much as he focuses on bringing the energy and spark in transition on offense.
Travis Taylor Jr (6-7, 215) vs Raphael Putney So (6-9, 185)
Putney can be a really difficult matchup at times when he has it working on offense. He's shown the ability to be a big-time scorer with tremendous versatility - but only in flashes. Against LaSalle Saturday, Putney had his full arsenal on display as he grabbed four offensive rebounds, scored off the dribble, scored inside and was 3-of-6 from beyond the arc with 17 points, seven boards, two assists and three blocks. However, the game before, Putney had two points on a 1-of-5 performance from the field against St. Joe's. UMass is obviously a tougher team to matchup with when their lanky forward is a versatile scoring machine, as opposed to a non-factor, but Putney has been a poster boy for inconsistency this year. Taylor has continued to earn more minutes out on the court, as he started against Dayton, and Coach Mack has been praising his work ethic in practice. Now the key for Taylor is playing with more poise and a higher IQ with his increased playing time. While giving a great effort and doing a good job on the boards, Taylor still struggled with finishing easy shots around the rim and picked up some quick fouls. If he can settle in and at least finish the easy stick-back opportunities and shots around the rim, his energy on the court will help Xavier in their uptempo approach.
Moderate Edge UMass
Andre Walker Sr (6-8, 225) vs Sean Carter Sr (6-9, 245)
Carter is really in there to provide rebounding and defense inside. The Minutemen's transition offense takes Carter out of the game at times on that end, and he's not a big-time scorer when he does get touches. He had a streak early in the A-10 season where he scored in double figures in six out of seven games, including 18 against LaSalle and 16 against Rhode Island, but he's scored just four points in each of the last three contests. He is not a threat to step out and score from the perimeter. Walker's role has continued to evolve on this team as the year has gone on, and most recently against Dayton we saw him featured as a point guard initiating the offense at times. Expect the same thing in this game, as Walker does a good job of pushing the ball up the floor via the pass instead of over-dribbling, and he's a better facilitator than he is a scorer. Pulling a bigger defender away from the rim isn't a bad thing either, when trying to free up lanes to the basket for the guards.
Slight Edge UMass
Xavier Bench vs UMass Bench
UMass has a pretty set rotation of eight guys with two players out due to injuries. Freddie Riley is another shooter off the bench with good size at 6-5. He has absolutely no conscious and comes into the game with one thing and one thing only on his mind and that's jacking threes. He leads the team in attempts with 142, but he's shooting just 31.7 percent on the year. Javorn Farrell provides another 6-5 wing that doesn't bring a whole lot, but provides solid minutes. Inside, Maxie Esho is a thin 6-8 forward that only sees about 13 minutes a game, but he's shown some nice flashes on offense and is a decent rebounder. Xavier is now bringing center Kenny Frease off the bench with their attempt to play faster, and also hopefully spark the senior big man. He didn't see many minutes at all against Dayton due to getting in foul trouble after checking into the game, and he's now gone three straight games without scoring in double figures following his 10 point performance at Memphis. Redford didn't see as many minutes against Dayton, but he has a better matchup against UMass and could see more time. Dee Davis could also see an increased role if they let him go in for defensive purposes to chase another small, quick guard in Williams around.
Slight Edge Xavier
UMass is a talented, yet inconsistent team, who is tough to beat at home. They're 12-1 on the year when playing at UMass, with the loss coming this past Saturday to LaSalle. The Minutemen love to play fast on offense and take transition threes, with Williams being their playmaker on the break. Most inferior Atlantic-10 opponents have decided to try and exploit Xavier's struggles to defend the perimeter in conference play, and have tried to outscore them by taking plenty of 3-pointers. This will undoubtedly be UMass' strategy. This game could be a little higher scoring with Xavier trying to play faster as well. While UMass is surprisingly a pretty respectable team on the defensive end with their uptempo style on offense, if Xavier's guards are aggressive going to the basket, the Minutemen will struggle to stop them without fouling. Xavier has shown that they've still got some fight left in them and were able to pull it together for a pride-saving win on Saturday. Now, can they remain focused and show the mental toughness to truly pull it together down the stretch and find their way into the dance? We'll start to find out Tuesday night.
Score Prediction: Xavier 79 UMass 74