Davis played well against Butler, though his contributions didn't necessarily show up in the stat sheet. His defense was huge in that game, and it will be just as big against St. Joseph's. Jones is still the leading scorer for the the Hawks, though his offense has been pretty inconsistent over the last two weeks. He's coming off a few very pedestrian performances against Rhode Island and Charlotte. He's super quick with the ball, great in transition, but it was his ability to stroke the three that really hurt X last time. He's always looking to attack and he'll pull-up from deep, so X has to stay out on him. Xavier also needs Davis to create. They're going to rely on Christon to score, but last time these teams played X didn't get much from the big men at all. If Davis can get into the lane and draw some of the Hawks' rim protectors away, it should help setup the Muskies' bigs.
Moderate Edge St. Joseph's
Christon is coming off of a really impressive performance against Butler, and a week in which he won the Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Year award, plus was named to the A-10 Second Team. Xavier relied heavily on Christon last time these two teams played, as the Muskies struggled to score in the post. He was killing St. Joe's backcourt early in the second half with pull-up jumpers and floaters, and really gave those guys a lot of trouble. Later in the game, he really had to start forcing stuff and ended up just 8-of-21 from the field. He needs a little more help offensively, but expect another strong performance from Christon, as the Hawks don't have a great match-up for him. Xavier actually defended him well as he settled for and missed a lot of shots, but the shots he made were all 3-pointers, and he ended up with 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Galloway is a talented scorer, averaging 13.3 points per game, but X did a good job on him last time and kept him from creating good looks. If Xavier defends him the same way as they did last time, it's unlikely that he hits five threes.
Slight Edge Xavier
Jeff Robinson Sr (6-10, 225) vs Daryus Quarles Jr (6-6, 180)
This is what I'm most interested to see. Assuming Xavier continues to start its recent lineup with the three big men, it will be a different feel for the Hawks to match-up against. Robinson hasn't exactly been setting the world on fire, as he hasn't scored in double figures in the last seven games, and only once in the last 10. He's done a pretty good job of rebounding and playing defense though, while seeing his minutes decrease a bit due to the recent play of Isaiah Philmore. This is it for Robinson though - it's his last chance to make a mark on the program. If he shows up and at least gives a great effort on the glass, he can make a big difference against St. Joseph's athleticism up front. Quarles starts now for the Hawks, but he doesn't exactly play starter minutes, as Chris Wilson still gets a lot of run as a third guard in the system. Quarles gives them more size on defense and he's a slightly better rebounder than Wilson, even though he averages just 2.2 points per game.
Slight Edge Xavier
Isaiah Philmore Jr (6-8, 237) vs Ronald Roberts Sr (6-8, 220)
Philmore has been huge for Xavier recently. Since the month of February started, Philmore has scored in double-figures in 7-of-10 games, and he's continued to see his minutes rise as a result. This past weekend against Butler he played 34 minutes and was a beast inside, scoring 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting with 11 boards and a blocked shot. If the Musketeers are going to make a run through this tournament, they need Philmore to give them a lift on the offensive end. He'll also be really important in this game, because he'll match-up with Halil Kanacevic, a guy who has given X a lot of trouble, when he checks into the game. Roberts is a good post player, and very efficient on the offensive end. He does most of his work right around the rim, and he finishes well. In addition, he's a great rebounder, averaging 11.6 points and 8.5 boards per game. However, last time against Xavier, he was pretty much a non-factor with just four points and five boards. I think this match-up will be hugely important to the outcome of this game - whichever forward gives his team the bigger boost offensively could be enough to put that team over the top.
Slight Edge St. Joseph's
This is a big game for Taylor. He's had a great senior season at Xavier and has been a consistent force on offense and on the glass. Against SLU, he was incredible at the Cintas Center on senior night, but he's coming off a lackluster performance against Butler, where Kameron Woods did a great job of defending him. He finished with just six points and eight rebounds in that loss. CJ Aiken is a tough match-up for Taylor, because he's a long, athletic shot-blocker that moves his feet well, and Taylor typically likes to use his quickness. Aiken had four blocks last time these teams met up (not all against Taylor), and snatched 10 rebounds, making his presence felt despite finishing 2-for-9 around the basket with just six points.
Xavier Bench vs St. Joseph's Bench
The good news for Xavier is that St. Joseph's is not a deep team either. The bad news for Xavier is that St. Joseph's sixth man is a familiar name in Halil Kanacevic, who is the typical European face-up forward that gives Xavier trouble. He's an old-man styled wide-body forward, that scores in crafty ways using pump-fakes and using his big body to lean in and shield the ball, plus he can really pass it. He's also a strong rebounder. That's about as deep as the Hawks go. They'll also play Chris Wilson, a 6-3 sophomore guard, off the bench, but he's not much of a threat on the offensive end. He's a good passer though, and usually plays a steady floor game. That's as far as the Hawks go off the bench really. Xavier will play Brad Redford and Justin Martin, which they're basically hoping that either one of them can knock down a few of the 3-point looks that they get every game to give the team an offensive boost.
Slight Edge St. Joseph's
This is a tough match-up for Xavier. St. Joseph's has a lot of length and athleticism, and while the Hawks' defense isn't dominant by any stretch, they do make it tough to score around the rim, which is where Xavier has most of its offensive success. Last time the Hawks beat X 59-49 - that's right, 49. The Musketeers didn't get any outside shooting that day (1-for-13 from 3), while the Hawks nailed 10-of-24 from beyond the arc. That was the difference in the game. Other than that, it was two teams who battled each other tough in the paint and scrapped it out on the glass. Expect this game to be very similar to that. While you don't necessarily expect them to hit 10 threes again, they will certainly try, as their offense mostly revolves around them jacking up 3-pointers. On the other end of the floor, Xavier can't match that output from the perimeter, but they can do a better job of taking to SJU's shot-blockers and getting to the free-throw line. They have to be a little bit more aggressive this time around. Look for another ugly, low-scoring scrap between these two teams.
Score Prediction: Xavier 59 St. Joseph's 54