Scouting Report: Big East bubble battle, Arizona's revenge, Syracuse's ACC title chase
Every Monday morning, One and One will examine the upcoming slate of games and highlight individual matchups that intrigue us in the weekly Scouting Report.
Xavier’s Semaj Christon vs. St. John’s D’Angelo Harrison, Tuesday. The Musketeers shouldn’t have issues making the NCAA tournament barring a total collapse down the stretch, though an 8-6 league record is just nerve-wracking enough (much like an 8-7 mark is for the Red Storm). This is a significant bubble-implication game, especially for St. John’s, especially after a chance for a statement win against Villanova slipped away last weekend. Two of the league’s top producing guards – Christon averages 16.5 points per game, Harrison 17.8 – will help define the night.
California’s Justin Cobbs vs. Arizona’s Nick Johnson, Wednesday. The Wildcats have regained their firm grip on the Pac-12, thanks to UCLA stumbling last weekend and thanks to a schedule that features four winnable games from here to the end of the regular season. The first is interesting because it’s the rematch of the first game Arizona lost all year, and the game in which they lost Brandon Ashley for good. Can Cobbs (15.7 points, 6.1 assists per game) make enough plays against the backcourt of Johnson (16.0 points per game) and T.J. McConnell to forge another upset?
Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis vs. Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon, Saturday. This is the chance for the Cavaliers to put a stranglehold on an ACC regular season title, coming out of the weekend with a one-game lead over the Orange and getting the lone meeting of the season between the teams in Charlottesville. Will Ennis rebound from the first real adversity he’s faced as a collegian against Virginia and Brogdon, who somewhat quietly is one of the best do-everything players (12.3 points. 5.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists per game) in the ACC?
Louisville’s Russ Smith vs. Memphis’ Joe Jackson, Saturday. This makes two consecutive weekends in which the Cardinals have a chance to notch quality wins that have eluded them all year. First, Smith helped fell Cincinnati with a high-arcing jumper with 2.2 seconds left on Saturday. No one will confuse Louisville 2014 with the club that won it all in 2013, but another win would underscore how dangerous the Cardinals have become. In the way is another moderately sized but not moderately productive guard: Jackson, and his 14.7 points and 4.7 assists per game. Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins vs. Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Saturday. They may or may not spend time matched up, depending on how much Wiggins decides to freelance on the defensive end. But it’s futile to deny the intrigue here. Wiggins has now averaged 18.7 points in his last nine games and has shot 58.8 percent in his last three entering a Monday tilt against Oklahoma. With that consistency, he is beginning to validate what people expected of him. Meanwhile, Smart has the opportunity to lead his team to a statement that can help save a season. He had 16 points, 10 assists, six steals and two blocks in his return from a three-game suspension last weekend. He still can change a game. This is his best chance to change the Cowboys’ fortunes.