Baylor hosts #7 Xavier at 2:30 on Saturday on ESPN2. Before the game, I exchanged questions with Caleb Childers of Xavier’s SB Nation site, Banners on the Parkway. I’ll post my questions when they go up over there.
I was also so exhausted when we exchanged questions that I initially referred to Xavier as the Wildcats. Winter has truly come to the Midwest. But here they are:
KK: Xavier runs a defense that often reminds me of Baylor's. How would you describe Xavier's zone and man defense?
CC: Xavier's defense is physical in the paint and goes after rebounds with energy. So far this year a few teams have burned us behind the arc, but I like our 1-3-1, which is pretty similar to yours, in how JP Macura plays up at the top and can be a really fiesty defender.
KK: The Musketeers have some size, but Baylor often plays 6' 9 Johnathan Motley and 7 footer Jo Lual-Acuil. What will Xavier do to try and stop them?
CC: On defense I think our 1-3-1 can contain them to some degree, and 6'9 RaShid Gaston should cause problems for Baylor. This is definitely a harder matchup for us this year, as last year we had James Farr and Jalen Reynolds as our big men under the glass, but Gaston along with Tyrique Jones will give them problems. So far our strategy this season has relied on our shooting to be strong, so watch out for JP Macura draining 3s to combat your big men.
KK: Xavier was pushed by a mediocre Missouri team. What happened in that game, and do you think that contest is just a one off affair or maybe spells some trouble for the Musketeers?
CC: That game was definitely just a one game nightmare, but that doesn't shake the memory of it. For the last 15 minutes of the second half and all of overtime, we only made layups and tap-ins. It was ugly, it was scary, and it was all because our shooting went flat. Don't expect that game to happen again on Saturday, but that being said, Baylor is so much better then Missouri, so if we come out flat on Saturday then the game will be over fast.
KK: The Big East is loaded this season with Creighton returning to the top 10, Villanova back as a title contender, and Xavier right there as well. How do you see the Big East season going?
CC: The Big East is a beast again and I love every thing about it. Villanova is still the King, and it's obvious, so they're going to run away with it. I think Xavier is the second best team in the conference and should finish second. Creighton third, followed by our rival Butler, and after that it's a dog fight for the next few spots and a possible tourney bid. The thing about the Big East is that we beat up each other in conference play. Everyone loses a really weird game and the tournament is incredible. For X, the goal is definitely to be firmly in 2nd heading into the tournament, and maybe even beat Nova in Cincy again to have some fun.
KK: What's your prediction for the game?
CC: I'm going with Xavier winning 66-65. Crazy close game, but if JP Macura comes out hot then Xavier could pull it off. Two top 10 teams early in the season, so it's going to be a great game.