Scouting Report: Syracuse battles letdown, Arizona faces adversity
Every Monday morning, the One and One will examine the upcoming slate of games and highlight individual matchups that intrigue us in the weekly Scouting Report.
Syracuse vs. A letdown, Monday. See what we did there? We replaced the usual player matchup structure with a broader conflict, reflecting the predominant challenge facing one of the nation’s remaining unbeatens. You might say: Oh, I get it. How’s that working out for you, being clever? We say great, thank you, and also that kenpom.com puts the Orange’s chance of beating Notre Dame at home at 94 percent. The Irish probably have to shoot about 1,000 percent from three-point range to stay close. So after Syracuse poured such emotion into a win over Duke on Saturday, its only real vulnerability is complacency.
Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross vs. Iowa’s Aaron White, Tuesday. All sorts of ambivalence about this one. Can it be the Hawkeyes’ chance to prove their mettle when they’ve already beaten the Buckeyes, and Ohio State has been in a freefall? Is riding a win anything close to a sign of life from Ohio State? What would beating a second-tier Big Ten team truly mean for the Buckeyes? It seems to be a game that neither Iowa nor Ohio State can afford to lose. Ross showed a flash of defensive competency at the end of a win at Wisconsin to complement his team-best offensive production (14.1 points per game), and White has been a somewhat under-spotlighted performer this year (13.5 ppg, 61.7 percent shooting).
Wichita State’s Ron Baker vs. Indiana State’s Jake Odum, Wednesday. Given the balance on both sides, the matchup of the Shockers’ second leading scorer (12.9 points per game) and the Sycamores’ top producer (12.3 ppg) is really just a way of asking this: Could this be the end of Wichita State’s undefeated season? The Shockers throttled the Sycamores on Jan. 18, winning by 20 at home, but this remains a veteran-laden Indiana State outfit playing in the comforts of the Hulman Center. It’s a second straight road game and a stiff test from the second-best team in the Missouri Valley.
Oregon’s Joseph Young vs. Arizona’s Nick Johnson, Thursday. The Ducks have imploded in Pac-12 play, squandering any relevance gained by a 12-0 start with a 3-6 league record. But Young remains a threat, averaging 18.1 points and shooting 48.5 percent from the floor. And this will be the Wildcats’ first game after their first loss and the first without forward Brandon Ashley, out for the season with a foot injury. Arizona will need to make adjustments after losing Brandon Ashley from its formidable frontline. Until things settle, even at home, it may be on Player of the Year-candidate Johnson to help carry the Wildcats through their first spell of adversity.
Nevada’s Deonte Burton vs. San Diego State’s Xavier Thames, Saturday. The Mountain West appears to be a two-team race … unless the Wolf Pack take advantage of their lone opportunity for a seismic upset and shake up the race. Burton, a 6-foot-1 guard, will have to be at the epicenter of that against the nation’s No. 6 team in adjusted defensive efficiency, just as he’s at the epicenter of just about everything Nevada does with 21 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. For San Diego State, it’s about holding serve after what will be a challenging road game at Boise State on Wednesday. The 6-foot-3 Thames, averaging 18 points per game, will shepherd the Aztecs through it all as usual.