Saturday's star-studded showdown

The match-up Orange fans have been talking is their banged-up star forward Wesley Johnson vs. Villanova’s all-NCAA point guard Scottie Reynolds.

When a record-breaking crowd of more than 34,000 fans watch the No. 4 Syracuse Orange play the No. 7 Villanova Wildcats at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, they’ll see a matchup of two of the best basketball teams heading into the NCAA tournament.

What they’ll very rarely see, however, is the match-up that Orange fans have been talking about all week: Syracuse’s banged-up star forward Wesley Johnson facing Villanova’s all-NCAA point guard Scottie Reynolds one-on-one.

Wes JohnsonJohnson was the explosive swingman the Orange relied on to win the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Madison Square Garden in mid-November. Garnering MVP honors for the early season tournament, pro scouts began comparing Johnson to former Orange great and NBA all-star Carmelo Anthony. 

It’s not November for Johnson anymore.  At times, it looks like he hasn’t adapted to the grueling and physical play of Big East basketball after transferring from Iowa State a year ago. 

Johnson’s bruised thumb and sprained ankle suffered down the stretch won’t sting nearly as much as a loss to Big East rival and national title contender Villanova would, however.

Enter Reynolds.

The 6-foot-1 senior was the Big East Rookie of the Year during the 2006-2007 season, and has only gotten better since.  His game winning layup against then top-seed Pittsburgh sent the Wildcats to the Final Four last year.

Reynolds has shined where Johnson has faded, scoring at will against the likes of Pittsburgh and Louisville in the 2009-10 season. Going into the final weeks before the Big East Tournament, Reynolds is out to solidify his case for Big East Player of the Year.

If honors are indeed on the line during the duel in the Dome Saturday, Wes Johnson may not be able to get up to the challenge. He was admittedly tired during the down-to-the-wire game against Georgetown recently, and still wears a soft cast on his hand from the nagging thumb injury. 

Then again, if Reynolds outperforms Johnson on Saturday, it may not be the last time the two are compared. The Big East Tournament is just days away.

After that, there’s always March Madness.

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