After outlasting the South Dakota State Jackrabbits on Tuesday night, the Texas Longhorns are set to host the Xavier Musketeers for the second round of the NIT after Xavier cruised past the Toledo Rockets on Wednesday evening.
With the win, which also marked the Musketeers eighth win in 10 games, Xavier improved to 19-15 on the season.
An experienced bunch, Xavier largely relies upon a seven, sometimes eight-man rotation; one headlined by sophomore forward Naji Marshall, who’s contributing 14.4 point per contest. The rest of the Musketeers starting cast — junior guard Quentin Goodin, sophomore guard Paul Scruggs, junior forward Tyrique Jones, and senior big man Zach Hankins — are each averaging double figures in the scoring department, as well.
As the numbers will suggest, Xavier isn’t the most overwhelming opponent on paper.
Per KenPom, Xavier ranks just outside of the top 50 in adjusted offense and sits outside of the top 100 in adjusted defense. For comparison, the Longhorns are No. 25 in adjusted offense, while ranking within the top 50 defensively. That effort, of course, came with a healthy Jaxson Hayes in the lineup for the Horns, so his absence could make for an especially impactful matchup down low with Jericho Sims tasked with sizing up the 6’11, 245-pound Hankins.
As a unit, Xavier is near the bottom of the college basketball totem poll in terms of tempo, though the Musketeers do rank better than Texas in that department, and most of the Musketeers work offensively comes within the three-point line. Quite the opposite is true for Texas, as more than two-thirds on the Longhorns point productivity comes from beyond the perimeter.
The second round meeting between the two should mark a tale of two fairly contrasting offensive styles, though each of which will largely be orchestrated at a lethargic pace. Without its top talent to anchor the interior when Xavier loves the work, can the Longhorns enjoy some semblance of consistency and notch their second win within a week?
The tip off is now scheduled for Sunday, March 24 at 3:00 p.m. Central on ESPN.