The Matchups: Xavier vs Saint Louis

The Matchups: Xavier vs Saint Louis

Before every game MusketeerReport breaks down the position by position matchups for X's opponent. This edition focuses on Tuesday's crucial conference showdown at Saint Louis.

Tu Holloway Sr (6-0, 190) vs Kwamain Mitchell Jr (5-10, 175)

Mitchell, as the point guard, is the second-leading scorer for Saint Louis. He had nine in the last meeting between these teams at the Cintas Center, but also dished out seven assists with only one turnover. Mitchell is also a solid defender, but another guy who lacks overall size. The Billikens don't have a ton of length, and there seemed to be driving lanes available last time for Xavier's guards. The Musketeers need Holloway to continue to push it when he brings the ball up the court, and stay in attack mode when he's running on the wing with Lyons or someone else running the point. He's looked more like his usual self in late game situations and when hitting tough shots as of late, but he's still been a little consistent when running the offense. When the offense bogged down against Richmond at the end of the first half, Xavier had some turnovers, but they also held the ball a little more and didn't move it nearly as quick as they had in the first 12 minutes. Holloway has a final chance to redeem himself in a tough Atlantic-10 road game, after struggling through the last few.

Moderate Edge Xavier

Mark Lyons Jr (6-1, 188) vs Mike McCall Sophomore (6-0, 165)

McCall broke into the starting lineup after the last time these two teams met up. Though a little bit smaller, McCall is quick and more athletic than Cassity, and he's actually provided slightly better shooting from the perimeter at 34.3 percent (23-of-67). McCall is at his best when he finds a happy medium between looking for his shot and finding the open man. When he attempts five to 10 shots and dishes out three to five assists, he seems to be very efficient, but he's feeling more confident on the offensive end and is looking for his shot more as of late. McCall is a pest as an on-ball defender, but he lacks the strength of Xavier's two veteran guards, which could pose problems. Lyons lit Saint Louis up for 27 points the same game that he lost his starting gig. With Lyons back in the starting lineup and spending more time running the point, the offense has seemed to have a better flow to it and the team as a whole looks closer to turning it around. Lyons is the most explosive scorer on the roster, and to pull of a big win on the road the Muskies are going to need him to give them some offensive production.

Moderate Edge Xavier

Dezmine Wells Fr (6-5, 215) vs Dwayne Evans So (6-5, 205)

Evans is a strong, athletic wing that can provide some scoring pop in the Billikens' lineup. Though inconsistent throughout the year, Evans scored 16 against LaSalle on February 11, and 14 in Saturday's game against Rhode Island. He also had 12 rebounds in the loss to Rhode Island. Evans and Wells mirror each other in a lot of ways, as they can provide a lot of energy and another dimension to their respective teams' offenses when they're involved and playing well. However, they both can get left out of the mix and fail to see enough looks on offense at times as well. Wells is coming off a Freshman of the Week in the Atlantic-10 award. Wells has come up big lately for Xavier, and he has quickly become one of their most reliable guys, despite being a freshman. He has to make sure he blocks Evans out though, as this could be a close game down the stretch and every possession will count. Evans had five offensive boards against Rhode Island.

Even

Andre Walker Senior (6-8, 225) vs Brian Conklin Sr (6-6, 230)

Conklin is the leading scorer for Saint Louis at 13.7 points per game. He's a highly efficient post player that can score inside, has good face-up skills, gets to the free-throw line and makes fouls shots (79.6%) and plays hard on defense. Last time against Xavier, Conklin dominated inside with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting, and he also nailed 7-of-9 free-throws. Conklin was on a tear after the Xavier game, scoring 17, 19, 16 and 13 in the four games after, but since then he's scored 10, 5, 3, 10, so while maybe he was on a hot streak last time the team's played, Xavier still has to be concerned about slowing him down off the pick-and-roll. Walker has to provide a physical defensive presence against Conklin, as opposed to his usual role of chasing a shooter. Walker played one of his better games against Dayton last week when he scored seven points. He played decent against Richmond with five points, five boards and two assists. His passing and ball-handling ability has been a nice asset the offense.

Moderate Edge Saint Louis

Kenny Frease Sr (7-0, 275) vs Rob Loe So (6-11, 240)

Loe isn't a big-time scorer, but his second highest scoring total of the season came at the Cintas Center when he scored 14 points on 3-of-9 from beyond the arc with eight rebounds. He's always a concern, because at 6-11, he's a legitimate 3-point threat on the pick-and-pop. His size makes it hard to contest against his shot. He has yet to score in double figures since the Xavier game though. Frease has had an up and down season, but over the last two games against UMass and Richmond he scored a combined 31 points on 13-of-24 shooting and he's also hauled in 22 rebounds, including 10 offensive. The senior has a chance to avenge one of his worst performances of the season, when he only scored four points and took three shots in the loss to Saint Louis at the Cintas Center.

Slight Edge Xavier

Xavier Bench vs Saint Louis Bench

Cody Ellis is the guy that everyone remembers from last game when he canned 3-of-6 from deep as well after coming off the bench. He finished with 11 points and three boards in just 14 minutes of action the first time these teams played. He can certainly shoot, and he's been hot making 8-of-16 from three in his last two games. Xavier will have to make sure they know where he is at all times when he checks in. They'll play sophomore guard Jordair Jett between 15-25 minutes, and while he's a good defender, he can also just be a hack as he showed last time they played by fouling out in 28 minutes. Kyle Cassity is another senior leader they're bringing off the bench that can hit an open shot and provides steady defense. Cassity lost his spot though for not getting it done offensively, as he's struggled a little all year. The Musketeers will play a combination of Travis Taylor and Jeff Robinson off the bench, and whichever one plays better will see more of the minutes in the rotation. Brad Redford has provided some sharp-shooting off the bench lately, and has even added to his game off the bounce a little.

Moderate Edge Saint Louis

Overall

After this Xavier should know what it needs to do to earn itself a spot in the NCAA tournament. If they win, they likely just need to win at home against Charlotte on Saturday and they're in pretty good shape on Selection Sunday. If they lose, then they probably need to win the Atlantic-10 Tournament, or at the very least make it to the finals to have a chance. Xavier hasn't had Frease, Lyons and Holloway on the same page at the same time at all this year, but this is certainly the closest they've been. Lyons seems to be back in good graces after his bench, Frease is coming off two of his best performances of the year back-to-back, and Holloway seems to be close to his old self. Tuesday night's game against SLU will give those guys a chance to sort of play for their careers in some ways. They have the opportunity to virtually ensure an at-large bid with a win, so it will be interesting to see if those guys can pull it together for one important game at the end of their careers. Xavier just flat out has to defend better than they did the last time they played SLU. They are aware that Ellis and Loe are shooters, and have to be locked in on defending those guys at all times on the perimeter. This game should be a close one, but Xavier hasn't proved its ability to win on the road in a while against a quality opponent.

Score Prediction: Saint Louis 72 Xavier 68

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