By Paul Casey Gotham
Setting: The Reilly Center will be rockin’ Wednesday night when Chris Mack brings his Xavier Musketeers (11-5/ 3-0) to western New York for an Atlantic 10 showdown with Mark Schmidt and his St. Bonaventure Bonnies (9-7/ 1-2). The game will be televised live on the CBS College Sports Network. Pickin’ Splinters will be reporting from court-side. Check in early and often for updates and commentary. Add your own input as the game unfolds.
Plot: The Musketeers look to keep pace early in the A10 season with Duquesne (3-0) and George Washington (3-0). The Bonnies can jump into the middle of the pack with a victory. The Muskies have won three of their last five. St. Bona comes into the game losing three of five.
Sub-plot: Both teams bring short benches into the contest. Injuries have left the Muskies with nine scholarship on the active roster. St. Bonaventure’s starting five average 27 or more minutes per outing. Their top bench player gets a dozen minutes.
Flashback: Jordan Crawford led five X-Men in double figures as Xavier took a 93-72 decision at the Cintas Center last March. The Muskies lead the series 22-15 winning the last nine meetings. Bona last defeated Xavier in the 2001-02 season.
Xavier has earned 21 NCAA Tournament berths, including last year’s Sweet Sixteen run and Elite Eight showings in 2008 and 2004. The Muskies have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen each of the last three seasons. Bonaventure appeared in the 2000 NCAA Tournament. The Bonnies reached the 1970 national semi-finals.
Foreshadowing: Seventeen Musketeers have played in the National Basketball Association, including current stars Derrick Brown, Jordan Crawford, James Posey and David West. Fifteen Bonnies have laced them up in the N.B.A. including hall-of-famer, Bob Lanier.
Conflict: The teams enter play with numbers in common. Both average exactly 70.2 points per game. The rivals each hit 44.8 percent from the field. The Bonnies hand out 12.7 assists. The Musketeers dish 12.9. Bona gets 5.4 steals with Xavier swiping 5.8. Bona makes 5.4 from behind the arc. Xavier hits 5.3.
Which team will be able to maintain the numbers?
Xavier limits opponents to 40 percent from the field and 65 points. How will that play out in the Reilly Center?
St. Bonaventure’s starting five combines for all but five of the team’s points on a nightly basis. Andrew Nicholson is the focus of the offense, but the Bonnies can generate points in bunches. Nicholson’s game has gradually developed during his time in Olean. The 6’9″ Nicholson can finish around the basket using a variety of means. He shows a jump hook in the lane, but can also drop a turnaround baseline jumper. At the same time, Nicholson can power the ball to the basket and grabs more than one offensive rebound per contest.
Michael Davenport creates space for Nicholson to work. The 6’5″ guard has 12 double-digit outputs this season hitting three or more from behind the arc on four occasions. Davenport hit three from long range and scored 22 in a 67-66 victory over St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. Davenport picks his spots well and will not shoot his team out of a game.
Demetrius Conger and Da’Quan Cook have shown the ability to step up when opponents focus on Nicholson. The two combine for nearly 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Ogo Adgeboye is the wild card of the lineup. The senior point guard brings energy and intensity on a nightly basis. He is national leader playing 40.7 minutes per game. Yes, Adgeboye averages more than a full game – evidence of the eight overtime periods played by St. Bonaventure this season. His assist to turnover rate is 1.3:1. Adgeboye had 10 versus Buffalo and nine against Arkansas-Little Rock. He also turned the ball over eight times with one assist against Ohio.
Xavier’s opponents can be fooled into thinking they just need to stop junior point guard Tu Holloway. After all, Holloway averages 20 a night. But the Hempstead, New York is slowly learning to let the game come to him. Because of his speed, it is difficult to defend Holloway off the ball. He knows when to come and get it, and Holloway is distributing to teammates.
Three other Musketeers average double digits.
Senior Jamel McLean is fulfilling the potential he has always had averaging 11.5 with 9.2 rebounds. McLean possesses patience with his back to the basket. He rarely forces shots and knows when to kick the ball back to the perimeter. He is difficult to keep from the offensive glass. Even if he does not get the rebound, McLean forces opponents to expend plenty of effort keeping him from the ball.
Kenny Frease has scored in double figures nine of Xavier’s last 12 games. At 7′ his jump hook is nearly indefensible, and he is hitting 55 percent of shots. The question is whether he can perform away from the friendly confines of the Cintas Center. Frease scored 20 over the weekend against Dayton and 22 versus Wake Forest. At Gonzaga, Frease went scoreless. At Cincinnati, he managed just eight points.
Mark Lyons averages 12 per night, but his offensive production has been up and down throughout the campaign.
Dante Jackson is Xavier’s best all-around defender. The senior averages eight points and nearly three rebounds. Jackson has the potential for an offensive outburst every night.
Andrew Taylor and Jeff Robinson combine for five points and four rebounds off the bench.
Resolution: Holloway and Adgeboye is an intriguing match-up as is McLean versus Nicholson. With classes back in session, the Bonnies will thrive off the energy from the home crowd, but that advantage will not carry them. As is the formula, the Muskies will get a lead and keep it. Holloway will finish plenty of free throws to salt away a road victory for the Musketeers.