2019-20 NCAA Basketball Jacksonville at Xavier: Preview and Prediction

Dolphins at Musketeers
Courtesy of James Ernest Grueling Truth

The nationally-ranked Xavier Musketeers hope to get off to a good start in its quest to return to March madness this season and contend for the Big East championship when the No. 21 Musketeers host the Jacksonville Dolphins in their opener season opener tonight. After Xavier failed to make the “Big Dance” for the first time since 2013, the expectation is for this team to be among the very best in the country with four starters returning and several newcomers adding to the mix. The Dolphins will bring in 3 JUCO players to replace the players they lost last season to the transfer portal.

Travis Steele took over for Chris Mack as Xavier’s coach last season and the Musketeers started out rough with a 3-8 record in Big East play. They got hot towards the end of the season and almost qualified for the Big Dance but had to settle for an NIT bid where they lost to Texas in the second round of the NIT.

A key newcomer is 6-foot-8 forward Jason Carter, a grad transfer who averaged 16.5 points and 6.7 rebounds last season for Ohio University. He’ll bolster a frontcourt that includes key returnees Naji Marshall (14.7 points, 7.2 rebounds last season) and 6-9 senior Tyrique Jones (7.7 rebounds). Xavier should be able to have its way with Jacksonville, which struggled last season and lost several players from a team that was ousted in the first round of the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament.

ABOUT JACKSONVILLE (2018-19: 12-20)

The Dolphins’ leading returning scorer is 6-6 sophomore forward Tyreese Davis, who averaged 10.1 points and shot 48.2 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from 3-point range in 2018-19. Senior center Dave Bell, an Ohio native, and former Ohio State transfer, contributed 7.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a year ago while shooting 54.7 percent from the floor. J.D. Notae, Jacksonville’s top player a year ago, transferred to Arkansas and second-leading scorer Jace Hogan used up his eligibility.

ABOUT XAVIER (2018-19: 19-16)

The Musketeers, picked in the Big East preseason poll to finish third in the rugged conference, defeated the University of Indianapolis 64-52 in their lone exhibition game last week after going 3-0 on an August trip to Spain. In addition to Marshall and Jones, Xavier also returns starters Paul Scruggs, who was named the Big East all-tournament team in 2019 after averaging 18.5 points and seven rebounds in two games, and Quentin Goodin, whose 451 career assists rank eighth on the school career list.

Prediction: This game should be over by halftime as the Musketeers should control this game with a superior backcourt and an imposing frontcourt.

Xavier 83  Jacksonville 58

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