Indiana will face its first major test of the season on Friday. The no. 12 Hoosiers will face off against Xavier at the Gavitt Tipoff Games at the Cintas Center.
Friday’s game is scheduled for 6pm ET tip on FS1:
The first of Indiana’s four marquee non-conference matchups is here.
Big East opponent Xavier, 3-0 and coached by Sean Miller, presents Indiana with a tough challenge. The Musketeers are a scheduled NCAA tournament team and bring back many key contributors from last year’s NIT Championship-winning group.
The older brother of former IU coach Archie Miller, Miller began his career as head coach at Xavier. The 54-year-old trained with Xavier from 2004 to 2009 before taking the job in Arizona. Miller enjoyed high-level success in Tucson before his April 2021 release linked to the 2017 corruption scandal involving the FBI.
After taking a hiatus last season and working on the Field of 68 podcast, Miller is back on the sidelines on a program he took on for the Elite Eight in 2008.
MEET THE MUSKETEERS
In his most recent win, a 78-65 win over Fairfield, Xavier played a tight rotation with just seven players clocking double-digit minutes. Rotation was low, partly due to the lack of a junior guard Colby Jones. The 6-foot-6 guard sat out Tuesday with an ankle injury sustained in practice Monday.
Jones is a preseason Big East first-team pick, averaging 13.5 points in his first two games. He also averages seven assists, four rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in 27 minutes per game. The availability of Jones is a major storyline that comes into play. If he can’t play or is restricted, it’s a major setback for the Xavier backcourt.
The rest of Xavier’s backcourt consists of three seniors Ky Ky Tandy, souley boom and Adam Kunkle and freshmen DesmondClaude and Came craft.
The 6-foot-3 Boum is in his fifth season in college basketball and began his career in San Francisco before spending three seasons at UTEP. He switched to Xavier to capitalize on his final year of eligibility. A career 35 percent 3-point shooter, Boum has gotten off to a hot start from the perimeter this season. In three games, the Oakland native is 5 of 9 on 3s. He also shoots it well from inside the arc (8 of 13) and from the free throw line (10 of 11). Boum is third on the list with 13.7 points per game.
Tandy hails from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, who missed most of last season after undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his leg. In three games, the 6-foot-2 guard averages six points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 22.3 minutes per game.
Kunkel, another Kentucky native, started his career at Belmont before joining Xavier ahead of the 2019-20 season. He missed time in preseason with an ankle injury but has played in all three regular-season games. After Jones was out on Tuesday, Kunkel started and scored 21 points on 8-of-13 shots from the field, including a 4-of-8 performance from long range. He is a career 34.6 percent 3-point shooter.
Claude is the program’s future point guard. The product of Putnam Science Academy (Conn.) was the No. 90 player in the final RSCI rankings for the Class of 2022. In three games, Claude logs 19.7 minutes off the bench and averages five points, two assists, 1.3 steals and are tied.
Craft, an Illinois native, was ranked No. 51 in the Class of 2022 according to RSCI rankings. Craft is known in high school as a prolific scorer and marksman, averaging 3.3 points in 13 minutes in three games.
In advance, Xavier’s strength lies in the senior duo Zach Freemantle and Jack Nunge.
The 6-foot-9 Freemantle hit a triple-double in Tuesday’s win over Fairfield. In three games, he averaged 15.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals in 31.7 minutes per game.
Nunge, an Indiana native who played in Iowa before joining Xavier before last season, has thrived in the Big East. The 7-footer averaged 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds last season and has picked up where he left off a season ago in three games. Nunge’s 18 points per game leads the team, and he’s also shooting 62.5 percent on 3s.
Indiana transmission Jerome Jaeger averaged 15.3 minutes and started 17 of the team’s 35 games last season. His role has diminished this year as he only logs 11 minutes per competition. Hunter is averaging 3.7 points and four rebounds so far.
Junior Dieonte Miles could see point minutes in the five if the Xavier frontcourt encounters nasty trouble. The 7-foot gives Miller a big body to use for depth in the post.
THOUGHTS ON XAVIER AND THE MATCHUP
It was just three games against KenPom competitors under 200, but Xavier has a top-30 offense nationally.
The Musketeers don’t need a lot of 3s, but connect with a 45.5 percent clip. Xavier’s point spread of 3s is only 336th on Thursday, according to KenPom.
What’s driving Xavier’s offense right now is offensive rebounding and getting to the foul line. Nationally, the Musketeers rank 19th in offensive rebound percentage and 36th in free throw rate (FTA/FGA), according to KenPom.
Turnovers were a problem as Xavier has a turnover percentage of 20.9 over three games. However, this has been negated by the fact that Xavier has handed his opponents 21.9 percent of their possessions so far.
It won’t be surprising to see Xavier try to wrap it up and force Indiana to take some outside shots to win the game. The Hoosiers have put down shots at home in two games but need to capitalize on some from the perimeter on Friday night. Given that Jalen Hood-Schifino hasn’t picked up a 3-pointer this season and Xavier Johnson can be streaky from long range, it’s not surprising that both players have clean looks.
As good as Xavier’s forecourt is, Indiana’s is better. The Hoosiers have more depth and in Trayce Jackson-Davis they have the best player on the floor. They will also be able to defend more aggressively with Jordan Geronimo, Malik Reneau and Logan Duncomb all available from the bench.
The KenPom prognosis is Indiana by two with a 59 percent chance of winning for the Hoosiers. The Sagarin ratings like Indiana at just under four.
At the various sportsbooks, Indiana is a 2.5-point favorite at FanDuel, a 3-point favorite at Caesars, a 3.5-point favorite at BetMGM, and a 3-point favorite at DraftKings.
This is the first of four difficult tests outside of the conference for the Hoosiers. The list also includes a home game against North Carolina, a matchup against Arizona in Las Vegas, and an away game against Kansas. Of the four games, Friday is the second-best chance of an IU win, according to KenPom.
For Indiana, it’s an opportunity to show that last season’s road problems are a thing of the past. And how Zach Osterman of The Indy Star pointed this out, it would be a rare win outside of the conference for the program. The last time Indiana won an out-of-conference road game against a top 40 KenPom team? The 2002/03 season.
(Image credit: Xavier Athletics)
Filed by: Gavitt Tipoff Games, Xavier Musketeers