XAVIER (13-5, 4-1 A-10) AT DAYTON (13-5, 3-1 A-10)
Time/TV: 1 p.m./ESPN2
Location: University of Dayton Arena
Xavier 36 (No. 3 A-10)
Dayton 32 (No. 2 A-10)
Line: Xavier +2.5 (137 o/u)
Xavier Players to Watch: G Tu Holloway, 6-0 Sr. (16 ppg, 5.2 apg, 3.3 rpg); G Mark Lyons, 6-0 Sr. (16.3 ppg, 2.7 apg, 40% 3s); C Kenny Frease, 7-0 Sr. (8.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 49.3% FG). Holloway – one of the nation’s best scorers – has become a better distributor of late. He has 37 assists in his last five games, including a season-best 12 in Wednesday’s win over St. Joseph’s. He is currently 32nd in America at 5.6 per contest.
Dayton Players to Watch: G Kevin Dillard, 6-0 Jr. (12.1 ppg, 5.7 apg, 1.9 spg); F Chris Johnson, 6-6 Sr. (10.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 43% 3s); C Matt Kavanaugh, 6-9 Jr. (8.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 80% FT). Kavanaugh is coming off a season-best 23 points in the Flyers’ 79-75 win over LaSalle on Saturday. Kavanaugh was 13-of-14 from the line and had nine rebounds in the victory.
Storylines: In a tight Atlantic 10 race, Xavier and Dayton are the only one-loss teams. The Musketeers are at the top of the standings at 4-1 with Dayton a half-game back at 3-1. After a rough stretch that saw them go 1-5, the Musketeers have won four straight over Fordham, Duquesne, St. Bonaventure and St. Joseph’s. The Flyers have already knocked off two of the A-10’s contenders in Saint Louis and Temple. Their lone league loss was Jan. 11 at St. Bonaventure.
Keys: Dayton has already lost Josh Benson for the season. Now Johnson is day-to-day with a head injury. Johnson suffered the injury in practice and played in the first half of last week’s win over LaSalle but was unavailable for the second half. Flyers freshman forward Alex Gavrilovic is shooting 80 percent from the field (16-of-20) in A-10 play. With Dillard and Josh Parker, Dayton’s guards match up pretty well with Xavier’s threesome of Holloway, Lyons and freshman Dezmine Wells. Where the Musketeers may have an advantage is with Frease’s strength underneath. Xavier coach Chris Mack can allow Holloway to become more of a distributor because his Musketeers have so many offensive options. He has 10 players who play regularly and all of them can score. Dillard, who is 30th in the nation with 5.7 assists per game, has a 1.89-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Xavier forces 13 turnovers per contest. Both teams have very strong field goal defense, especially the Musketeers. Xavier is giving up 38.4 percent from the field, including 27.7 percent from beyond the 3-point line, while Dayton surrenders 44.9 percent. If it’s a close game, Dayton has the advantage at the foul line. The Flyers have made 74.6 percent from the charity stripe, good for 27th in the nation. Xavier, on the other hand, shoots a poor 66.5 at the line. Xavier, which has played its last three games at home, is 3-2 in true road games this season. Dayton is 10-2 at home with the losses coming in the non-conference to Buffalo and Seton Hall.
The Bottom Line: Dayton has done an excellent job rallying after the Benson injury, but the Musketeers are playing well and look like the favorites once again in the Atlantic 10.
The Pick: Xavier 72, Dayton 66