|No. 9/11 Baylor (7-0) vs. No. 7/7 Xavier (7-0)|
Dec. 3, 2016 | 2:31 p.m. CT
Waco, Texas | Ferrell Center (10,284)
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Baylor Notes | Xavier Notes
We all had this game circled on the calendar, but who could have foreseen a top ten matchup between 7-0 teams after the schedule Baylor had lined up? The Bears have already beaten two top ten teams this season, handling #4 Oregon in Waco and mounting a miraculous comeback against #10 Louisville in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Now Baylor has another huge test in front of them in #7 Xavier. Here's some quick hits on what you need to know.
Xavier, in one way, operates in a way that should be familiar to Baylor fans. The Musketeers are a top level offense thanks to rebounding. Xavier ranks 33rd nationally in offensive rebounding rate and 13th on the defensive end, per KenPom. They pursue the ball with vigour every time it goes up. Unlike Baylor's tactic the last few years, however, Xavier prefers to play a little faster off those rebounds. They're not rifling up the court (they sit just outside the top 100 in tempo), but they are not shy about putting up a shot early in the clock. Their average offensive possession is 16.8 seconds, well under the 30 second time limit.
The Musketeers feature three double-digit scorers: Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura, and Edmund Sumner. Those three players each see the floor for at least 82% of their team's minutes. For reference, Baylor's leading minute player, Manu Lecomte, is on the floor for 77% of the Bears' time. Xavier relies heavily on those three guys for essentially everything. One of those three guys leads the team in every major statistical category, and they comprise the top three in most of those measures, as well. For Baylor to win this game, they will have to find a way to limit all three. It won't be easy to have a consistent matchup against them either. They stand at 6-6, 6-5, and 6-6 respectively, plus the 6-6 Malcolm Bernard, who is the fourth leading minute getter. The Bears just don't have the size on the perimeter to handle that one-on-one, so this could be a game that features a lot of zone. Since Xavier is only shooting 32% on threes this season, that might not be a bad route.
On the other end, Johnathan Motley, Jo Lual-Acuil, and Terry Maston have another chance to dominate. Xavier likes to play four guys between 6-5 and 6-6 alongside a 6-9 forward. If Baylor can keep two bigs in the game, it will have a major size advantage on the front line. Acuil and Motley, in particular, should make a formidable combo on both ends of the floor.
The biggest worry for Baylor will probably be getting the ball inside to those bigs past Xavier's superior size on the perimeter. Baylor's guards will need to be extremely judicious with their entry passes, and Drew will have to find creative ways of moving the bigs around to get them the ball inside.
Let's fill the Ferrel, and Sic' Xavier!