Xavier's men's basketball team can do itself a monumental favor on Wednesday night (6:30 p.m., CBS Sports) by putting a complete game together against Providence, the team currently at the top of the Big East Conference standings.
Coming off Sunday's loss at Marquette, Xavier (14-4, 4-3) sits at No. 21 in the latest Associated Press poll. Providence (16-2, 6-1) has won three straight and is No. 17 in the AP Poll, making Wednesday night the third time this season the Musketeers have hosted a top-20 team.
The Friars play a physical brand of basketball and Xavier has to be ready to match that for 40 minutes.
"I think they're one of the stronger teams in our league, one of the bigger teams, and they're always good on the glass," Xavier head coach Travis Steele said Tuesday in his pre-game press conference. "So we know what to expect of Providence."
It's important to be ready for Providence and all the challenges the Friars present, whether it's fifth-year big man Nate Watson, the guard play of Jared Bynum, or guys like Noah Horchler, Al Durham or A.J. Reeves, who can all drastically impact a game.
But it's just as important for Xavier to start finding its best basketball, something Steele said his team hasn't done yet.
"I don't think anywhere close yet," Steele said when asked if his team has played its best basketball. "Obviously, we've had some good moments. We've had some bad moments as well.
"... I think sometimes people get caught up in wins and losses, I'm more focused on the quality of play on both ends. You want to put 40 minutes together. You want to be good defensively, be good offensively. I feel like our group has always played hard, regardless of the circumstances, our group's played really, really hard. We've competed every single night, but our execution level's gotta be better."
The bottom line is for Xavier to become a really good team that can make some noise in the Big East and beyond, the Musketeers need to start executing like it, and at home against a good Providence team is a great opportunity to start doing it.
Tipoff: 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Cintas Center.
TV/Radio: CBS Sports Network with play-by-play from Tom McCarthy and analysis from Bob Wenzel. AJ Ross is the game reporter. Byron Larkin and Joe Sunderman will have the radio call on WLW-AM (700). Broadcast is also available on Sirius (138), XM (204) and the SXM App. (966).
Series info: Xavier leads the series 11-9. The two teams have split the home-and-away series each of the last five seasons.
Xavier Musketeers (14-4, 4-3)
Coach: Travis Steele, fourth season (65-41 overall)
Offense: 74.5 ppg
Defense: 64.3 ppg
Player (Position, Height, Key Stat)
Paul Scruggs (G, 6'5", 11.1 ppg)
Jerome Hunter (F, 6'8", 6.4 ppg)
Colby Jones (G, 6'6", 11.4 ppg)
Zach Freemantle (F, 6'9", 8.2 ppg)
Nate Johnson (G, 6'4", 11.3 ppg)
Providence Friars (16-2, 6-1)
Coach: Ed Cooley, 11th season (210-137 overall)
Offense: 70.4 ppg
Defense: 64.1 ppg
Player (Position, Height, Key Stat)
Nate Watson (C, 6'10", 14.1 ppg)
Al Durham (G, 6'4", 13.3 ppg)
Justin Minaya (F, 6'7", 5.9 rpg)
Noah Horchler (F, 6'8", 9.9 ppg)
Jared Bynum (G, 5'10", 8.9 ppg)
Players to watch
Xavier knows all too well how problematic Watson is to deal with. He's big, physical and entirely capable of dominating the area around the basket. Jack Nunge and Freemantle need to be ready for a 40-minute battle in the paint.
Kunkel's been consistently impressive off the bench for Xavier. The Musketeers need to make it a priority to get him the ball and let him work. He's made a habit out of making the right play, whether it's getting his own shot or making the right pass.
Keys to the game
Xavier's been inconsistent lately in conference play. The Musketeers need a complete performance. That means offense, defense, rebounding, and taking care of the basketball. This team's capable of putting it all together and that needs to happen against good teams.
KenPom.com: Xavier (23); Providence (56).
NET: Xavier (19); Providence (39).
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Big East: Can Xavier put a complete game together against Providence?