How to Watch (and bet)
Date: Friday, 11/17/22
Tip-Off Time: 9:00 pm PT
Radio: Huskies Gameday App, Sports Radio KJR
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Betting Line: Washington Huskies +6
Xavier Musketeers 2023-24 Statistics:
Points For per Game: 75.7 ppg (136th)
Points Against per Game: 67.3 ppg (116th)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 111.1 (34th)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 94.8 (44th)
Strength of Schedule: 199th
Xavier Key Players:
G- Dayvion McKnight, Sr. 6’0. 188: 6.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, 47.1% FG, 0.0% 3pt, 66.7% FT
This is McKnight’s first season at Xavier after transferring over from Western Kentucky this offseason. He had some big seasons there including 16.2/5.5/5.5 as a sophomore but hasn’t been much of a scorer so far for Xavier. McKnight has never been much of a long range threat as he has made less than one three per game in his career while shooting below 30%. But he’s a plus distributor and defender finishing in the top-200 nationally in both assist rate and steal rate each of the past two seasons.
G- Quincy Olivari, Sr. 6’3, 200: 12.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, 37.0% FG, 25.0% 3pt, 85.7% FT
The other half of the backcourt is also a transfer up from a mid-major as Olivari averaged 18.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season at Rice. Every season at Rice he shot at least 35% from deep but is just 4/16 so far at Xavier so that will probably improve at some point soon. About 60% of Olivari’s shots in his career came from behind the arc so he’s most comfortable as a spot up shooter rather than driving the ball.
F- Desmond Claude, So. 6’6, 203: 17.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.3 apg, 51.2% FG, 38.5% 3pt, 71.4% FT
Last year Claude came off the bench as a quality role player but as a sophomore he has ascended to become their leader on offense. We’ll see whether his improved efficiency as a shooter holds up after shooting 42/29/57% as a freshman. His assist rate is up and turnover rate down though so he has been better as a playmaker and a scorer. He hasn’t been much of an asset on defense though so he can be exploited on that end of the floor.
F- Gytis Nemeiksa, Sr. 6’7, 200: 9.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 48.0% FG, 42.9% 3pt, 66.7% FT
The power forward from Lithuania was a late add to this roster and comes over after playing basketball for a team in his home country. He’s exactly the kind of role player most teams would love to have as a very good rebounder and a good enough rebounder to stretch the floor. We’ll see how well he holds up defensively besides the rebounding after only getting 1 block and 0 steals through 3 games.
C- Abou Ousmane, Sr. 6’10, 240: 8.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 47.8% FG, 50.0% FT
Xavier runs with a pair of centers who have close to a 50/50 split but Ousmane is the starter after transferring in from North Texas. He averaged 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 block per game there last season and his value comes primarily as an offensive rebounder where he is consistently excellent. Considering he stays close to the basket you’d expect him to shoot better but he has a chance to bludgeon Washington on the boards especially when Breidenbach is in the game.
The Huskies enter this weekend in Vegas needing at least one win to help make up for dropping a game at home against Nevada last Sunday. It won’t be an easy task.
First up are the Xavier Musketeers led by familiar face Sean Miller. In his first season returning to Cincinnati, Miller shocked many by getting the Musketeers a #3 seed in the NCAA tournament and guiding his team to the Sweet 16. That was even more surprising because star big man Zach Freemantle (15 pts, 8 reb) got hurt at the end of January and missed the rest of the season but Xavier didn’t miss a beat led by UTEP transfer Souley Boum.
Freemantle still isn’t back from that injury and Boum ran out of eligibility so this is a very new look group. The Musketeers are just 337th nationally in minutes continuity so far this season as their starting lineup includes 3 transfers plus an international signing. They’ve gelled fairly well so far all things considered. Xavier has a loss already but it came from traveling to #2 Purdue and defending NPOY Zach Edey so there’s not a lot of shame in that. Before that were double digit wins at home against Robert Morris and Jacksonville; fairly comparable to UW’s Bellarmine/Northern Kentucky combo.
So far Xavier has been at their best on offense when staying inside the paint. They rank in the 70th percentile when running pick and roll or when cutting to the rim. Expect Xavier to try to take advantage of the matchup whenever Sahvir Wheeler is in the game for the Huskies and it will be a fun confrontation between him and 6’0 Dayvion McKnight.
As a team Xavier has made just 28% of their 3-point attempts and don’t shoot very many to begin with. If the Musketeers prevail it will be because they have found open lanes in the paint and won on the offensive glass. Washington’s Braxton Meah clearly wasn’t fully recovered from his ankle injury last Sunday and hopefully a few extra days’ rest have helped him regain some strength. His rim protection will be badly needed against this physical Xavier squad.
On the defensive end, Xavier has done a great job at forcing opponents into isolation matchups and midrange jumpers. They’re 27th in the country in percentage of opposing shots taken from 3-point range so they will run UW’s shooters off the line and force them to put the ball on the floor. They also have been willing to have opposing big men post them up and live with the consequences. That isn’t exactly UW’s strength but Franck Kepnang might get baited into trying to take on a bigger offensive role.
This isn’t an unbeatable Xavier team. There isn’t one player that scares you the way that Blackshear dominate Washington last Sunday. Leading scorer Desmond Claude is in the midst of a breakout start that doesn’t seem entirely sustainable and the two players who have averaged 15+ points per game before at mid-major stops are off to slow starts.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Washington wins this game. The Huskies’ poor shooting against Nevada seems like the low end of variance for this team and hopefully they’re healthier than they were. I’m still going to need to see this team beat a true NCAA tournament contender though before I predict it to happen.
My record this year: 3-0 Straight Up, 1-2 Against the Spread
Washington Huskies- 68, Xavier Musketeers- 76