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January 6, 2012

Scouting the Fordham Rams

Record: 7-7 Overall (0-1 Conference) Fordham has been impressive in winning 4 of last 6.

Notable wins: Georgia Tech, Harvard

Notable Losses: Massachusetts by 4, St John's by 6, Syracuse by 25, 4 bad losses to low major's.

Starting Personnel:

#3 Devon McMillan- 5'10 freshman PG: Averages just 4.5 points and 3 assists in 30 minutes a game but plays an efficient role in managing the team.

#24 Bryan Smith- 6'2 freshman SG: Sharpshooter averages 10.6 points, leads the team in three point attempts and is second in total field goal attempts.

#1 Branden Frazier- 6'3 sophomore SF: 2nd leading scorer averages 11.3 points a game.

#33 Chris Gaston- 6'7 junior PF: Leading scorer is a beast inside with averages of 16.7 points and 11.6 rebounds; a high volume free throw shooter that can take over a game.

#55 Kervin Bristol- 6'10 senior C: Scoring 4.5 points with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks as an enforcer.

Bench Personnel:

#5 Jeff Short- 6'4 freshman SG: Averages 4 points off the bench as 6th man.

#23 Marvin Dominique- 6'7 sophomore PF: Averaging 4 points in limited minutes.

#21 Alberto Estwick- 6'4 senior SG: Averaging 3 points in a leadership role off the bench.

Xavier Defensive Keys:

-Contain Gaston: Taking away Gaston is like taking away the heart and soul of Fordham. His numbers speak for themselves and he is a high energy player. Gaston is an interesting matchup for the Musketeers as this is one of the first games in which they will face two bigger players; as Gaston starts alongside Bristol. Does Coach Mack feel like Andre Walker can hold his own against Gaston? Or, will Mack employ a bigger lineup to try and neutralize Gaston's advantages? That will be one of the storylines to watch early in this game.

-Hold them under 40%: Fordham is only shooting 38% from the field on the year, and a dismal 27% from three point range. If the Musketeers can hold the Rams to that number then they should enjoy a comfortable afternoon of basketball. McMillan and Frazier, their other two double figure scorers besides Gaston, both shoot under 40% from the field; if Xavier can force those two into a bunch of contested looks then their chances of winning are excellent.

-Limit 2nd chance points: Both Gaston and Bristol rebound the ball at a high rate on the offensive end. Xavier has not done a horrible job on the glass during this skid, but they have given away some timely offensive boards. Dominating the glass; against what is not a deep rebounding team outside of their top two guys, is a must in this one.

-Heat up the backcourt: The four primary perimeter players for Fordham consist of three freshman and a sophomore. This is a team, like LaSalle, that is not accustomed to winning big games with regularity. With both teams facing 0-2 conference starts expect Holloway and Lyons to really pressure the guards of Fordham; if Xavier is going to lose it's going to take a break out performance from one of Fordham's ballhandlers.

Xavier Offensive Keys:

-Value the ball: The defensive end is where Fordham is more comfortable; one of their primary methods of offense is scoring off of turnovers. Xavier needs to avoid the turnover bug in this game. If the Rams can't turn the Musketeers over it will be tough for them to score on Xavier in the half court.

-Control the tempo: The Rams strength is in their starting unit not in their bench. Although fans have been critical of the play of the XU bench expect Xavier to still try and play an up tempo style, in an attempt to wear down the Rams. Fordham is giving up 69.9 points a game, there is no reason that a fast paced Xavier attack can't put up 80 points in this game.

-Use the shotclock: Expect Xavier to play up tempo in this game, as we mentioned earlier; but when Fordham does slow the Musketeers down they need to do a better job of working the entire :35 to get a good shot. Too often in the current skid we have seen Xavier guards launch contested jumpers without any ball or player movement. The Rams have inferior talent at every single position; Xavier needs to take advantage of that with quality looks.

Overall: This is an absolute must-win game for the Musketeers. They simply cannot afford to start 0-2 in the Atlantic 10 if they want to contend for another conference championship. Fordham is also facing an 0-2 start, and is playing with some belief after recently knocking off both Harvard (a nationally ranked team) and Georgia Tech. The Rams only draw a little over 1,900 fans a game; meaning that Xavier will have to draw energy from themselves instead of the atmosphere. We're all hoping to see an increased sense of urgency and fire from Xavier. If they can show some more intensity then the Musketeers will dominate this game. If they let Fordham hang around, or jump out to a lead like in the LaSalle game, then an 0-2 start is possible.


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