The Matchups: Tennessee

The Matchups: Tennessee

Before every game MusketeerReport breaks down the position by position matchups for X's opponent. This edition focuses on Saturday afternoon's game against Tennessee.

Dee Davis So (6-0, 161) vs Trae Golden Jr (6-1, 205)

Davis is one guy who the Musketeers need to get back on track on the offensive end of the court. After a hot start that saw him score in double figures in five out of his first six games, Davis has reached double-digits just once in his last five games - a 10 point effort against Kent State. He just needs to go back to the drawing board and tweak a few things. This team needs him to score, and he's capable of doing so. Part of it is just being more assertive. Against Wofford he only attempted four shots, finishing 1-for-4 with five points. Golden is the Vols leading score at 13.2 points per game, and the main cog in their offense. He not only scores it well, but he's also great at creating for his teammates with one of the highest assist rates in the country. He's strong and athletic, and will require Xavier to play good team defense to keep him out of the lane. If they can get him to settle for jumpers, they'll be fine as he's a poor shooter from the outside.

Moderate Edge Tennessee

Semaj Christon Fr (6-3, 187) vs Skylar McBee So (6-3, 195)

Christon seemed to curb his cramp problems, at least temporarily, in the Wofford game, but he had some struggles on the offensive end, mainly at the free-throw line. He was 5-of-9 from the field with 10 points, and while he had some struggles getting to the rim at times and just seemed out of sync, his main issue was his 0-for-5 performance at the charity stripe. He did dish out eight assists and played well defensively, but this Xavier team is relying on their freshman star, and they'll need more production from him offensively if they're going to pull of this upset on the road. McBee is a one trick pony on the offensive end. He scores over 80 percent of his points from beyond the arc, and he's not shy at all about letting it fly. He's only shooting 32.8 percent on the year from beyond the arc, but he was a 39 percent shooter from three last year, and he's had a few big games where he's been "on" this season. Xavier can't fall asleep or lose him, as he's the one that could help the Vols get some quick separation in a game that figures to be low-scoring and ugly.

Moderate Edge Xavier

Justin Martin So (6-6, 205) vs Josh Richardson So (6-6, 188)

While it doesn't seem to be bothering him at all, Martin hasn't played well since the hard fall in the Vanderbilt game that kept him out three days later against Kent State. He returned against Cincinnati, but found himself in foul trouble, and then was ineffective against Wofford. Before that point he was the most consistent player on Xavier's roster. It hasn't been a terrible or long slump yet, and who knows what impact the concussion and missing a game has had on his recent struggles, but the Musketeers need him to return to his pre-fall form as soon as possible. This is a matchup that Xavier really needs to win. Richardson is inconsistent, and Martin is certainly capable of helping spark this offense with his ability to hit shots and offensive rebound. If he gives the Musketeers a boost, this game becomes more interesting. Richardson has only scored in double figures three times this season, but he is coming off of his best performance of the year, with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go with five rebounds and a block in the win over Western Carolina.

Slight Edge Xavier

Isaiah Philmore Jr (6-7, 225) vs Kenny Hall Sr (6-9, 230)

The Musketeers simply need more from Philmore. His minutes had picked up, but his production has not, and as a result he saw just 17 minutes in the Wofford game. He's rebounded the ball at a high-rate, but he's one of the more capable scorers on this roster and the team needs him to produce more on offense. He's had success when he's been physical and aggressive inside, instead of floating and waiting for open jump shots. The Musketeers are going to have their work cut out for them inside. Hall isn't a great offensive player, but he's big and provides an inside presence on defense and the glass. He's coming off a solid effort against Western Carolina, in which he scored 9 points and grabbed 13 boards in just 20 minutes of action with two assists, a steal and a block.

Slight Edge Tennessee

Travis Taylor Sr (6-8, 216) vs Jarnell Stokes So (6-8, 270)

Taylor was great against Wofford. The quality and size of Wofford's bigs likely had a lot to do with his success, but he was unstoppable in the first half on the block. In the second half the Terriers negated him by doubling down every time he got a touch. If Taylor can find a way to replicate that type of performance on the road at Tennessee against bigger and better post players, it'd be a huge statement by the senior. At the very least, Xavier needs Taylor to help slow down Tennessee's bigs on the defensive end and keep them off of the offensive glass. Stokes is the type of big, physically imposing post player that has really given Xavier trouble on both ends this year. He's a very talented player that made an instant impact last year as a freshman, and has really improved on the defensive end this year. This is going to be a really difficult matchup for the Muskies as Stokes is fairly athletic with good feet and skill around the basket, plus he's extremely physical and strong. He scores through contact with regularity thanks to his powerful build.

Moderate Edge Tennessee

Xavier Bench vs Tennessee Bench

Redford rebounded from the rough Shootout nicely by hitting some huge threes at the end of the Wofford game. He's really the only one that can be relied on for any type of points off of the bench at this point. Stenger has been playing more minutes of late, and until one of him, Robinson or Philmore get it going, they'll all three probably continue to rotate fairly evenly. Jordan McRae is a good sixth man with some serious scoring pop for the Vols. He averages 10.5 points per game, and is a threat to go for 15-20 on any given night. He's scored in double figures in each of his last three games. The Vols don't have much offensively after that. Yemi Makanjuola, a 6-9 sophomore center, helps eat some minute and use some fouls inside, and then a pair of young wings in 6-6 junior D'montre Edwards and 6-5 freshman Quinton Chievous see limited minutes.

Slight Edge Tennessee

Overall

This game is bound to be low-scoring and ugly. Tennessee beats it's opponents with physical defense, making it hard to score. On the other end of the court, they don't shoot it particularly well and they don't have a whole lot of offensive talent. If Xavier is willing to come out and match the intensity and focus needed to stay in a game like this on the road, they'll stay close into the second half and have a chance to win. The question right now is who will score the ball for Xavier outside of Semaj? No one has really stepped up and proven that they can be relied on consistently over the course of the season. The Musketeers will need to hit some shots on offense, they'll need to play with energy and toughness on defense and they'll have to get a few bounces to go their way if they want to pull off this upset on the road.

Score Prediction: Tennessee 58 Xavier 52

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