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Xavier's keys to victory

By Kyle Isaacs
On February 14, 2012

On Saturday, Xavier will play host to its archrival, the University of Dayton.

The Flyers bested the Musketeers in January 87-72, marking the most points scored by an opponent against Xavier all season.

Regardless of previous games, the Musketeers have always handled

their business against Dayton here at Cintas Center, evidenced by their winning streak that has been intact since Jimmy Carter was president in ‘81.

The Musketeers have struggled recently and are in danger of not finishing atop the Atlantic 10 for the first time in five years.

Xavier has an outside chance at winning its sixth straight conference

title but in order to do so, the team must win its remaining games, starting with this weekend's

tilt against the Flyers.

Xavier must take care of three things (not to mention the basketball

itself) in order to be victorious this Saturday:

  • 1. Defend the pick and roll Xavier fans were introduced to the Flyers' point guard Kevin Dillard in January when he continually found the open man on his way to 16 points and nine assists. Dillard benefited greatly from Xavier's decision to switch to all ball screens. While this approach might limit the number of open shots, it creates mismatches for the Musketeer defenders.  If Xavier is able to fight through any on-ball screens and stay with the primary man, the Musketeers will be able to prevent another quality performance from Dillard.
  • 2. Control the glass In the previous matchup with the Flyers, Xavier was outrebounded 37-25. The increased number of rebounds created 12 second-chance points for Dayton. Xavier is 11-3 on the season when they corral more rebounds than their opponents. If the Musketeers dominate the offensive and defensive glass, they will be able to limit the second-chance opportunities for the Flyers.
  • 3. Free throws, free throws, free throws Xavier's season has been riddled with games where the Musketeers were abysmal from the line, including the last game versus Dayton. The Musketeers shot 50 percent (12-24) from the charity stripe while Dayton excelled, knocking down 79 percent (22-28). In a 15-point loss, fans can only wonder how the outcome might have changed if Xavier was able to hit some free throw shots because the Musketeers shot well from the field in the game (47 percent overall, 57 percent from the three). Additionally, the Musketeers must be sure to avoid another scoring drought. Last weekend against Temple University, Xavier allowed the Owls to break open the game with a 16-0 run early in the first half, effectively putting the game out of reach. While this game is always important for bragging rights, the game might have more implications this season because of the Musketeers' recent struggles. Xavier's NCAA Tournament "bubble" will likely burst if they are unable to defeat Dayton. While the thought of missing the tournament for the first time in eight years seems dreary, nothing can compare to the nightmare scenario of Dayton finally beating Xavier at Cintas Center.

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