6 Xavier Musketeers vs. 11 Ole Miss Rebels
4:10 p.m. ET, TBS
Ole Miss is here thanks to outscoring BYU 94-90 on Tuesday night. They're hoping to make this their first NCAA Tournament with multiple wins since 2001, although they did make the Round of 32 two years ago in 2013.
Xavier is entering the bracket after a solid if unspectacular 9-9 campaign in the Big East. Although the Musketeers finished sixth out of the ten teams, they did pick up a win against fourth place Providence and two wins each over second place Georgetown and third place Butler. They also fell to three of the teams below them in the standings to go along with bad non-conference losses to UTEP, Long Beach State, and Auburn.
Xavier enters the game No. 26 overall in the KenPom ratings, while Ole Miss is just a bit lower at No. 39.
Xavier is not terribly far off from BYU as an opponent as far as style goes. The Musketeers, like both the Cougars and Rebels, are more efficient on offense than defense. In Xavier's case, it's 27th in offensive and 55th in defensive efficiency. For Ole Miss, those ranks are 16 on offense and 114 on defense.
The big difference is that the Musketeers don't like to fly up and down the court like BYU does. Xavier averages 65.7 possessions per 40 minutes, which is a slight bit lower than Ole Miss's 66.8. BYU's average is 70.8, so that's why we got a game in the 90s on Tuesday but most likely won't without overtime this time around.
Xavier has played four teams in the neighborhood of Ole Miss in the KenPom ratings, which I define as being within ten ranks above or below. They also played 11 games against teams notably above the Rebels.
|Stephen F. Austin||H||34||S12||W, 81-63|
|Providence||R||28||E6||L, 69-66 OT|
|St. John's||H||46||S9||L, 78-70|
|St. John's||R||46||S9||L, 58-57|
|Butler||N||23||MW6||W, 67-61 OT|
The Musketeers split those games, going 2-2, and there of them were close. Xavier actually just about split the games against teams better than Ole Miss at 6-5, and the record looks great at 6-2 if you factor out the team's three losses to East region 1-seed Villanova. Like LSU, Xavier doesn't have trouble getting up for good teams but struggles at times to be motivated against not so good ones.
On the flip side, the Rebels played six games against teams in Xavier's neighborhood, one game against a team that is notably better, and eight against teams that are worse but not by a ton.
|Kentucky||R||1||MW1||L, 89-86 OT|
|Texas A&M||H||48||-||W, 69-59|
Ole Miss's record against Xavier-like teams is 2-4, although one of the losses was by a single point. The team's overtime close scrape with Kentucky was the time it played someone notably better than Xavier, and it obviously turned out just fine even if the team didn't get a win. You would've liked to see a better record than 5-4 against those teams just below the Musketeers' tier, especially since two of the wins were by only one point. That's a big reason why the Rebels are the 11-seed in this 6-11 matchup.
Players to Watch
The Musketeers can be a tough team to play because they have quality bigs. Senior center Matt Stainbrook is Xavier's standout player, averaging 12 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, and forward Jalen Reynolds teams with him on the front line with 9.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Both are listed at 6'10", which is at least an inch taller than any of the guys in the Rebels' rotation. The team's second leading scorer Trevon Bluiett, who averages 11.7 per game, is also a forward, though the third leading scorer at 10.7 per game is guard Myles Davis.
You all know about Stefan Moody and Jarvis Summers by now. They'll be important, for sure. That said, Sebastian Saiz and M.J. Rhett are going to need to come up big against the tough Xavier frontcourt. They did so against BYU, with Rhett scoring 20 points and Saiz scoring 10 with nine rebounds.
This is Chris Mack's fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament. In his other four, he's gone to the Sweet 16 twice and lost in the Round of 64 twice. Andy Kennedy improved his NCAA Tournament record to 2-1 upon beating BYU. He's 2-0 against teams seeded equal to or better than his own team.
Ole Miss is a guard-focused team, and it can be difficult for such teams to beat ones with strong front lines. We know that a guard heavy team can beat the Musketeers if it plays well enough, since Villanova won all three games against them by double digits. The Rebels aren't Villanova, though.
For the Rebels to pull off the upset, they may not have to clamp down defense despite Xavier's offensive efficiency. We know that Moody can carry the team to a shootout win; we just saw that happen two days ago. Xavier has lost higher scoring games to lesser teams than Ole Miss, like UTEP (77-73), Auburn (89-88 in 2OT; 73-all at regulation's end), Seton Hall (90-82), and Creighton (79-72). If the Rebels can get into transition, push the tempo, and maybe get some of those bigs winded, they've got a real shot at pulling this off.
My head says Xavier will take control and win this one, but I have a gut feeling that the Rebels aren't done yet. Don't let my gut down, guys.
Ole Miss 85, Xavier 78