The Purdue Boilermakers will host the Xavier Musketeers in the final installment of the Gavitt Games that pitted the Big East versus the B1G early in the college basketball season. This will mark the 8th meeting between the two schools with Xavier holding a 2-5 advantage, winning five in a row in the series dating back to the 2002-2003 season. The programs have not met since a 2012-2013 game at Mackey Arenda that the Musketeers won 63-57.
Xavier is not ranked but would be placed 36th with 8 votes in the AP Poll while they were 31st in the preseason coaches poll with 17 votes. Xavier is led by Sean Miller who returned to the sidelines for the Musketeers last season after his time at Arizona came to a conclusion. The Musketeers went 27-10 last season and were a 3 seed and lost in the regional semifinal.
Let’s get into the key points for the big game against the Musketeers!
1 | Feed Edey and Let Him Go To Work
It is no secret that Purdue’s big man is the most dominant player in college basketball again this season and may have the argument for the most dominant big man since Shaquille O’Neil. There simply is no denying the 7’4 big man from Canada is anything else at this point. He has played only a total of 44 minutes in Purdue’s first two games but has totaled 34 points, 19 rebounds, 7 blocks, and 5 assists. Last season, Edey averaged over 30 minutes per game and it is likely he will play around that amount tonight against a very good Xavier team. Could we see Edey hit 20 and 10 for the first time this season? That’s a very strong likelihood.
Purdue has shot the ball well to start the season going 46.2% from behind the arc through two games and that means teams are going to be forced to let Edey operate in more one on one situations than they would prefer. Xavier doesn’t have anyone that can really hold up against Edey inside with their biggest player being 6’10 F/C Abou Ousmane so expect a lot of double teams to come to help him and the other interior players. When that has happened this season, Zach has shown an improved ability to get to his spots quickly before the double team can be effective or being patient and finding the open perimeter player.
The interesting piece will be in how Purdue may flex Zach out to the perimeter to set ball screens and get him rolling to the bucket where he and Braden Smith have been incredibly effective and efficient so far this season. That has been another aspect to his game that has really improved so far this season and don’t be surprised to see Zach pop instead of roll to give Xavier something to think about. It could be Zach’s first made 3pt shot and that would mean the roof of Mackey would explode.
2 | Cut Off Driving Lanes to the Rim
Xavier’s offense is predicated around ball movement and guys getting into the paint and making buckets at the rim or finding cutters and shooters at the perimeter. They killed Robert Morris in their first game of the year by consistently getting into the paint and finishing at the rim. Now, how does Purdue defend that? With the best rim protector in the nation.
Zach’s presence inside is typically enough to warrant a lot of questions from opposing teams about how much they want to challenge him inside. Really though, Purdue does a great job of forcing teams into taking contested jumpers instead of getting buckets at the rim or open looks from behind the arc. Purdue is allowing opponents to shoot only 38.4% from inside the arc and just 19.4% from behind the arc on the season while Xavier comes in shooting just 27.5% from behind the arc. They are an impressive 58.2% from inside the arc and that largely comes from their ability to get to the rim and make difficult shots.
Purdue has shown an incredibly amount of growth in their ability to defend in ways they struggled with last year even though Head Coach Matt Painter has said he feels they have defended just ok through two games. The guess is that a lot of attention to detail has been made sine Friday’s game against Morehead State about how to cut off driving lanes, get into better position to rebound misses, and force difficult mid-range jumpers.
3 | Hold the Xavier Duo of Claude & Olivari in Check
Xavier has a really good set of guards in Desmond Claude and Quincy Olivari who average 18.5 and 15 points per game, respectively. Those 33.5 points per game from those two make up 43% of the Musketeers scoring so it is important to hold one or both in check for the game. This is where Purdue’s most growth from last year to this year will come under fire for the first time this season.
Lance Jones’ ability to defend at a high level should be unquestioned at this point after the guard transferred from Southern Illinois where he was an all OVC defensive player for two seasons and has shown to be as good of an on ball defender Purdue has had in quite some time. That, with the growth of Braden Smith and the capabilities that Ethan Morton, Cam Heide, and Myles Colvin have mean Purdue can roll a number of bodies at the two guards to give them different looks.
First to pull duty against the talented guards will be Lance Jones and Fletcher Loyer. Claude, a 6’5 guard, may be too much for Loyer and if that is the case look for Cam Heide to be subbed in quickly as the freshman wing is bigger at 6’7 and more athletic. Coach Painter likes his ceiling as a defender with size who can defend multiple positions. Jones, meanwhile, likely will defend Olivari who is more of a combo guard who shoots well from the outside at 36.4% and averages 3.5 assists per game.
And 1 | Get the Power Forwards Going
Through two games, the power forward position for Purdue has largely gone without making much of an impact. Trey Kaufman-Renn is averaging 7 points 3.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game but the other power forwards in Mason Gillis and Caleb Furst have struggled a bit to get their footing underneath them. Now, I know Caleb is playing more of role as a center this season but his ability to play at the perimeter really makes him more of a power forward when paired with TKR.
If Purdue can get the power forwards to shoot like they are capable of doing while also running the floor to get into transition to pull the defense in for open shots from the perimeter, it means the Purdue offense is operating at the high level efficiency. If that can happen, there may be very few people in college basketball this season that have the firepower on offense to stand toe to toe with Purdue when all cylinders are firing. Heading into a stacked Maui Invite field, getting that to happen is important.
Key Players to Watch:
Desmond Claude | #1 | | Sophomore | Guard | 6’5 207 | 18.5pts, 2.5 reb, 2 ast, 27.3% 3pt
The lengthy guard can cause problems for opposing teams with his length and shot making ability. The former top 100 player in the 2022 class from Connecticut fits Miller’s system well with his length, athleticism, and shot making ability.
Quincy Olivari | #8 | Junior | Guard | 6’2 190 | 15pts 3.5 reb, 3.5 ast, 36.4% 3pt
A guard with the ability to hit shots from beyond the arc, Olivari isn’t afraid to take deep threes when provided the opportunity. Olivari is a transfer from Rice where he played for four years where he averaged 13.2 points per game and shot 37.8% from behind the arc while he was also averaged near 5 rebounds per game.
This is about as great of a game to have to help prepare the Boilers for the stacked field in Hawaii. Xavier is an athletic team that has the capability to shoot the ball well and get into transition, in essence a classic Sean Miller team from Xavier during his previous time with the Musketeers. The Musketeers rely heavily on their top 8 players who all average 16 minutes per game or more but the drop off after that is drastic. The Boilers typically put teams in foul trouble with their post play and sets causing confusion so it is likely those deep bench players will need to play some heavy minutes.
In the end, Purdue is the deeper and more talented team and with this game being at home inside Mackey Arena it is likely just too much to ask for from Xavier early on in the season to come away with a victory. Purdue will get pushed but the experience they have coupled with the athletic wings this year pull this one away at the end.