Setting: The Joel Coliseum, on the campus of Wake Forest University, is the scene for the first annual Skip Prosser Classic as Chris Mack brings his Xavier Musketeers (8-4) south for an inter-conference battle with Dino Gaudio’s Wake Forest Demon Deacons (10-2).
Plot: The game is the last one before each team enters conference play. The Musketeers travel to Philadelphia on Thursday for a game with LaSalle. Wake Forest travels to Miami on Saturday. Both teams are un-ranked, but the Demon Deacons received votes in the most recent polls.
Sub-plot: The game is the first of a ten-game series between the schools both coached by Skip Prosser. The late coach led the Muskies from 1994-2001. Prosser then coached the Deacs from 2001 until his death in 2007. Current Wake Forest head coach, Gaudio, and Xavier coach, Mack, served as assistants to Prosser from 2001-04.
Flashback: Xavier leads the all-time series 1-0. The Muskies downed the Deacs in the second round of the 1999 NIT Tournament, 87-76. Xavier has made eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament over the last nine seasons including two Elite Eight finishes (’04 and ‘08) and a spot in the Sweet Sixteen last season. Wake Forest has made 21 appearances in the tournament with one Final Four showing, seven occasions in the Elite Eight, and 10 Sweet Sixteen showings.
Foreshadowing: Wake Forest has sent 26 players to the NBA including current pros—Tim Duncan, Josh Howard, James Johnson, Chris Paul, Darius Songaila, and Jeff Teague.
Sixteen X-Men have graduated to the league. Derrick Brown, James Posey, and David West currently earn paychecks from NBA teams.
Conflict: Xavier is 8-0 when scoring 70 points or more. Wake Forest averages 76 points per game while holding opponents to 62. The Musketeers average 78 and hold rivals to 66.
Terrell Holloway has been the engine of Chris Mack’s train. The 6′0″ sophomore point guard averages 10 points and three assists per contest. Holloway plays his best against the toughest opponents. Holloway scored 20 and dished out six assists in an 89-65 victory over LSU. Versus Cincinnati, Holloway scored 26 with four assists.
Jason Love provides the brunt of Xavier’s interior offense. The senior scores 10 points a game with nine boards. Kenny Frease got his first career start against LSU and responded with 12 rebounds. Jamel McLean had a double-double off the bench as the Muskies took a game from the SEC rival.
Jordan Crawford, Mark Lyons, Dante Jackson, and Brad Redford get it done on the perimeter. Xavier hits 41 percent from behind the three-point arc. Crawford leads the way with 18 points a game. Redford and Crawford share the team lead with 24 trifectas. Redford is 50 percent from long range. Jackson and Lyons combine for 14 points per contest.
Xavier’s long-range proficiency will be tested by the Deacs. Wake Forest is fifth in the land holding opponents to just 24 percent from outside.
Al-Farouq Aminu leads the way averaging a double-double per game. The sophomore scores 16 and grabs 11 per contest.
Ishmael Smith averages 11 points with five and half assists. The senior point guard has an assist to turnover ratio better than two to one.
C.J. Harris and L.D. Williams combine for 20 points per outing. Chas McFarland gets six points and six boards night to night.
Xavier will need to establish their ability to score in the paint. Love will be challenged. His jump hook has been unstoppable up until now. How successful will he be against the 7′0″ McFarland? Aminu and Crawford should be an elite match-up. Aminu has shown the ability to defend premier players. He held his ground against Purdue’s Robbie Hummel. Crawford will need to step up to the challenge.
Holloway versus Smith could decide the game. Which point guard can go the longest without foul trouble?
Redford has bailed out the Muskies with his ability to knock down threes. The sophomore might not get any open looks against the Deacs. He will need to adjust and use his upfake to get penetration for open shots.
Both teams have deep benches. Gaudio has nine guys getting more than 10 minutes every night. Mack has eight guys averaging 10 or more with Andrew Taylor playing eight minutes a game.
Resolution: Xavier holds an advantage from the free throw line finishing 68 percent to Wake’s 65 percent. The Deacs have been to the line 298 times. Xavier has made 296 trips to the stripe. The big difference is Holloway finishes 88 percent from the line while Smith finishes 38 percent of his free throws. Holloway has been to the line 44 times. Smith has been to the line 31 times. Xavier pulls out a close one with the difference coming at the line.