By Pat Gainor, Staff Writer
November 18 vs. #12 Indiana
Sean Miller’s first big test comes to town on Friday, and will show just how resilient this Musketeers squad can be against a team with eyes on a deep tournament run in March. The Hoosiers have come out of the gate looking like an offensive juggernaut, knocking down 10 3s en route to a 101-49 smackdown of Bethune-Cookman. Forward Trayce Jackson-Davis has looked like a force to be reckoned with, garnering the ability to attack the paint almost at will. Davis, surrounded by a cast of talented players like Miller Kopp, Jordan Geronimo and Malik Reneau, Xavier will have every facet of their gameplan tested in one of the hardest games of the year.
November 24 vs. Florida
Just six days after the most difficult game in non-conference play, the Musketeers will then face off with Florida in the opening round of the 2022 Phil Knight Legacy Tournament. The man running the show is senior forward Colin Castleton, who scored 33 in a win over Kennesaw State. Castleton is a welcome bit of consistency in what is otherwise a highly inconsistent offensive push.
But what are the downsides to having the offense run through one man? Well, according to the Gators, it’s losing to Florida Atlantic, who has never won against Florida in their history. At home. In a game that gave the Gators an 85% chance to win. Yikes. Even then, that shouldn’t cancel out the impact Castleton can truly have on a game when the rest of the offense carries their baggage with him.
December 10 @ Cincinnati
Miller Time returns to the Crosstown Shootout for the first time in 15 years. Last year, Xavier greatly enjoyed a 20-point blowout of the hated Bearcats at Cintas, and this time, the Muskies hope for a similar outcome at Fifth-Third. But even right out of the game, Cincinnati has looked like a much more put together team than the mediocre product they got last year. Senior guard David DeJulius has been the torchbearer of offense so far, leading the team in both points and assists over the first three games of the season. If he and Viktor Lakhin can continue to bolster the Bearcats offense, specifically against Miller’s ex-gig at #14 Arizona, then we might have a Crosstown Shootout with a bit more fireworks than last year.