Newswire photo by Marissa Nelson | Graduate transfer forward Zach Hankins hopes to make an impact as Xavier matches up with challenging opponents in non-conference action.
As Xavier gets ready to kick off the men’s basketball season, there are some exciting games to look out for that are outside of the annual Big East schedule.
After a preseason exhibition with Kentucky Wesleyan College, Xavier opens up its regular season against the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Jaguars.
The Jaguars finished middle of the pack last year in the Horizon League at 11-19 on the year, although big wins against Morehead State and Detroit Mercy helped define the year.
They look to get off to a hot start by scheduling Xavier, Boston College and Richmond as three of their first four games.
Next on the opening home stretch for Xavier, the Muskies will take on Evansville. The Purple Aces will not have 6-9 forward Deandre Williams available for this matchup after the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the 2018-19 season.
From there, Xavier will play its Gavitt Games matchup, taking on the Wisconsin Badgers for the second year in a row and the third time since 2016.
Wisconsin looks to improve from last season after finishing in the bottom half of the Big Ten.
The Badgers return nine of 15 from last year’s roster and added three three-star recruits.
This leads Xavier to the Maui Invitational where it will open against the Auburn Tigers.
This year’s Maui Invitational also includes a loaded group consisting of Arizona, Duke, Gonzaga, Illinois, Iowa State and San Diego State.
This tournament will challenge the Musketeers early in the season but will allow them to showcase their talents on a national stage.
Depending on how Xavier’s matchup with Auburn goes, the Musketeers will play either the winner or loser of the Duke and San Diego State game.
Fans eager to see the Musketeers battle Duke in Maui will have to get through the game against Auburn first as it returns most of its team. The Tigers come off a pretty good season where they were eliminated in the Sweet Sixteen by Clemson.
After returning from Maui, Xavier will take on Miami (OH), Oakland and Ohio University in a three-game home stretch.
These games against two MAC teams and a Horizon League team will be important tune-ups in preparation for Travis Steele’s first Crosstown Shootout as Xavier’s head coach.
The Crosstown Shootout will be played at the newly renovated Fifth Third Arena and will feature returning starters Jarron Cumberland and Cane Broome attempting to get revenge after last year’s beat down at the Cintas Center.
Following the Crosstown Shootout, Xavier will take on Eastern Kentucky in a cool down game, where the Colonels will try to knock off the Musketeers and make a push to win out the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC).
Eastern Kentucky will be led by first-year head coach A.W. Hamilton after firing Dan McHale, who went 16-34 in the OVC. Xavier will then match up with a Michael Porter, Jr.-less Missouri team in Columbia, Mo.
Aside from the Maui Invitational and Crosstown Shootout, this is the last chance Xavier will have to play a major conference team.
The final game before the Musketeers jump into Big East play will be a matchup with Detroit Mercy.
The Titans finished last in the Horizon League in 2017-18 before firing head coach Bacari Alexander.
By: John Ghawi | Guest Writer