Xavier Musketeers (11-3) St John’s Red Storm (13-8)
There was a point early in the season when Xavier had played the most games of everyone in the country. That hasn’t stayed true, being that Xavier’s played four games this entire year (January-now) that’s an astronomically low amount of games for about 45 days with multiple COVID pauses. There are six more games scheduled for the Musketeers, I’d imagine they try to reschedule a few, but this game becomes extremely valuable to add a Q1 victory to their resume.
The Musketeers got phenomenal production from their leading scorer, Zach Freemantle, with 30 points & 15 rebounds in Xavier’s loss against UConn. Odds are, if Freemantle performers like that, Xavier will win, It didn’t happen this time, but if he does that again, odds are, they win.
Senior leader Paul Scruggs will be exponentially important in this game when facing a feisty defender like SJU’s Posh Alexander. The Red Storm’s super freshman stifled Villanova’s Collin Gillespie, forcing him to turn it over a career-high SIX TIMES. Scruggs is a tremendous play-maker, but sloppiness does occur at times.
A vital thing for Travis Steele’s squad in this one will be the shooting from three. That starts with sharpshooter Nate Johnson & Adam Kunkel.
Mike Anderson’s rugged & tough style of play with fast-paced, constant pressure, forcing turnovers makes for an electrifying game. With Posh Alexander, anything is possible. It’s a must that SJU forces turnovers if they want to win; it’s the most necessary ingredient.
Julian Champagnie leads the conference in scoring with 19.7 PPG on a much-improved 42% from three. Champagnie continues to be underrated nationally with everything he brings to the table. The two constants here are Posh & Champagnie, meaning role guys like Greg Williams, Vince Cole, Isiah Moore & Dylan Addae-Wusu will have to add some scoring punch.
Keys to the game:
The Musketeers likely still aren’t at full endurance level with the elongated pause. They’ll need to play their pace here. Don’t play SJU’s game.
St John’s needs to defend the paint better. Facing someone like Freemantle can make that difficult.
Players to watch:
Xavier: Nate Johnson
SJU: Isiah Moore
Florida Gators (10-5) Arkansas Razorbacks (16-5)
The SEC outside of Alabama is a mix of teams that aren’t great by any means, that includes these two.
Arkansas is trying to stay in the hunt for an at-large bid. However, currently in the field, things are fluid & that can undoubtedly change with them having only one Quadrant one victory; this would add another solid win.
Led by star freshman Moses Moody, a player oozing with NBA potential. A talented player that fits the rampant Arkansas pace in a seamless fashion look for Moody to have major contributions in this game.
Starting forward, Justin Smith is vital to the Razorbacks’ success with his elite defensive ability. In two of Arkansas’s three losses, Smith did not play in those against Missouri & Tennessee. Smith is the team’s top defender, with the ability to defend inside-and-out with solid scoring ability, the X-Factor.
Arkansas will have an emphasis on stopping Florida big-man Collin Castleton. The Michigan transfer’s been fantastic this season, especially in the pick & roll game, but he can find his baskets inside. They’ll need Jaylin Williams & Justin Smith to play stout defense on the opposing big, with Connor Vanover’s defensive hardships.
Mike White’s Gators fresh-off a COVID, so we’ll have to see the way Florida looks after not playing for a fair amount of time.
Assuming everyone is available, that’s not a given, but we’ve yet to see who/won’t.
Look for Scottie Lewis to produce in a big way on both ends of the floor. Lewis is a talented two-way player that hasn’t gotten much of a volume usage from last year. Lewis can shoot from deep with consistency & drive with ease; look for Lewis to have a large game in this one.
A matchup I’m eager to watch is when Arkansas’s Jalen Tate plays on Tre Mann. Two talented, big athletic guards. Two big-time defenders with a shooting ability. Look out for this key matchup.
Keys to the game:
Will Florida be fatigued quickly? If they are tired facing a team that plays as quickly as Arkansas plays, that could be a dangerous proposition.
Arkansas’s post defense will have to be top-tier in this one.
Players to watch:
Florida: Collin Castleton
Arkansas: Jaylin Williams