November 7, 2013

Scouting the Gardner Webb Runnin' Bulldogs

Record: 0-0 ('12-'13 record: 21-13)

Key Wins: N/A
Key Losses: N/A

Starting Personnel

#2 Tyler Strange - 5'10 junior PG: Averaged 5.6 points and a team leading 5 assists a year ago in over thirty minutes a game. Only real returning three-point threat for Gardner Webb, made 35 three's a year ago.

#5 Onzie Branch - 6'6 SG: Averaged 3 points last year in a supporting role off of the bench.

#35 Jerome Hill - 6'5 sophomore SF: Averaged 6 points and 4.7 rebounds off of the bench last season as a freshman. Very good offensive rebounder.

#0 Donta Harper - 6'7 junior PF: Second leading scorer a year ago when he averaged 12.7 points on 45% shooting. Spent a lot of time at the foul line. Also grabbed 4.9 rebounds per game.

#54 Mike Byron - 6'10 senior C: Averaged 2 points and 2 rebounds a year ago in limited minutes.

Bench Personnel

#15 Jarvis Davis - 6'0 junior SG: Averaged just 3 points last year but did make fifteen threes at a solid 35% clip.

#33 Corey Hensley - 6'8 junior C: Averaged 2.8 points and 2 rebounds last year.

Xavier Defensive Keys

• Pressure Early: Gardner Webb had a pretty good team last year. However, they graduated three of their four leading scorers, all of whom were starters last season. Tyler Strange is going to have to be the saving grace on the perimeter for GWU, but like all of the Runnin' Bulldogs players he is somewhat turnover prone. If Xavier can intimidate Gardner Webb early then this could turn into a route in the Musketeers favor.

• Rebound the Ball: This year's Xavier team has strength and size in abundance, and is going to need it against GWU. The Runnin' Bulldogs won a lot of games last year due to their ability to rebound the ball. With a 6'10 center and a very talented 6'7 power forward in returning leader Donta Harper, GWU's only chance to win will be to outwork Xavier on the glass. If the Musketeers can keep Harper and his teammates off the glass it's going to be hard for GWU to score.

• All Year Long: Coach Mack wants this team to be aggressive defensively, especially since this is far from Xavier's most talented collection of offensive players. Look for Mack to create a lot of pressure in the full-court and for him to be especially hard on players early who are not giving maximum effort on the defensive end. This is a great opportunity for the Xavier staff to set the stage for the entire season.

Xavier Offensive Keys

• Make Shots: The biggest concern for Xavier this season on offense is going to be how many jumpers can the Musketeers make on a consistent basis. We know that Myles Davis is going to be the go to shooter on the team, and guys like Dee Davis and Justin Martin can be streaky marksmen. But for this team to be successful, Xavier is going to have to get confident and consistent shooting from their entire core of perimeter players. This Gardner Webb game will show us how far along Xavier is in developing their shooters, as GWU will likely play off of most XU guards.

• Semaj Show: Like most every game they'll play this year, Xavier will have a sizeable advantage in point guard play headed into this game. We'll be interested to see how far Semaj Christon has really come in the off-season, as this will be his first chance in a real game to show his improvement. Xavier's offensive success this year will be heavily dictated by Christon's ability to get to the rim and create for others, while also balancing a scoring role. He's going to have to be consistent, but Christon has established himself already as one of college basketball's best, and has a chance to have a special sophomore year.

• Stainbrook's House: If Xavier wants to be a good team offensively this year they're going to have to get production out of Matt Stainbrook. There's no better way to start then to feed the big fella early and often in their first outing. Look for the coaching staff to try and get touches for Stainbrook and get him confidence heading into the more difficult games on their schedule.

Overall: Gardner Webb is a solid opponent who won over twenty games a year ago, made the postseason and is picked to finish third this season in the Big South conference. However, the Runnin' Bulldogs did lost some valuable pieces from last year, and will have to rely heavily on Donta Harper and Tyler Strange to continue their momentum. Xavier should win this game based on talent, depth, athleticism and raw ability alone. It will be more interesting to see how the Musketeers newcomers look and the improvement and leadership of the returning players. Xavier should roll, but this one will be about more than just the final score.


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