Travon Woodall or Cameron Wright or J.J. Moore vs. Cashmere Wright
Woodall could be a game-time decision after making his first appearance in nearly a month, in the Notre Dame game. Woodall played 18 minutes, and went 0-for-5 from the field—far from the type of production he had in his first seven starts of the season. Jamie Dixon held him from practice Friday. He still feels Woodall can go, but admits Woodall just doesn't look himself yet. Cameron Wright could also get the start if Woodall is not ready to go. Dixon did not rule out the possibility of someone like J.J. Moore moving up to play the point as well.
Wright has been a pretty good shooter for the Bearcats this season, and is as good a setup man as there is in the Big East. His 3-of-14 performance was unlike the rest of his season, where he's shot nearly 45% from the field in 13 games. He's averaged over six assists in his last five games, and is averaging over five a game for the season.
Ashton Gibbs vs. Dion Dixon
Woodall didn't look like he was ready to return to the floor on Tuesday, and neither did Gibbs. Gibbs has been in a rut the last two games. He was 0-for-7 from the field in the first half of the Wagner game, and even though he finished in double-figures against Notre Dame, it was the first game all season Gibbs did not have a three-pointer. Dixon revealed on Friday that Gibbs has been bothered by a sore ankle, which may be a reason for why Gibbs has looked sluggish in the last couple games. If Gibbs isn't able to go, watch for Dixon to move Lamar Patterson up to the two, and start J.J. Moore at the three.
Dion Dixon isn't a threat from three-point range, nor is he a setup man, but he can score. Prior to the loss to Xavier, Dixon had not put up two games in a row where he shot at least 35 % from the field. In this current five-game stretch (the five games since the Xavier game), Dixon has shot at least 35 % from the field. He may not be the three from three-point range, but he can drive and he can score from pretty much anywhere else inside the arc.
Lamar Patterson vs. Jaquon Parker
The weight on Patterson's shoulders seems to grow with each game. With Woodall missing a stretch of six games, and Gibbs being a bit off in these last two games—Pitt has needed every bit of Patterson. Unfortunately, in the last two games, Patterson is just 4-of-17 from the field. In 12 starts this season, he's reached double-figures five times and shot below 40% from the five times this season. Two of those five games have been Pitt's last two games.
Parker could also be a four with this smaller lineup. He is pretty strong with the high-percentage shots inside and can rebound. He has played in six games this season, and has started the last five. He's been Cincinnati's leading rebounder over this last five-game stretch, averaging 6.3 boards a game.
Nasir Robinson vs. Sean Kilpatrick
Robinson has been one of Pitt's most consistent players all season. Offensively, he's having a career-year with 12.5 points a game. He's also Pitt's leading rebounder with 6.2 boards a game—this coming from the undersized 6-5 power forward. For Pitt to increase its presence in the paint—both offensively and defensively—they need it from Dante Taylor and Talib Zanna.
Kilpatrick and Parker can be interchangeable at the three and four positions for the Bearcats. Parker is the more similar player to Robinson—undersized, but with an ability to grab the rebounds. Being that Pitt's four position is similar to their from a size standpoint, Cincinnati can get away with either player at the four. That hasn't always been the case in some of their matchups this season. Kilpatrick is Cincinnati's leading scorer with 15.5 points a game. A lot of this matchup could also be where Kilpatrick is on offense. In that case, it's likely that Jamie Dixon will move Robinson up to guard him. Kilpatrick has hit double-figures in every game except for one—and that was the second game of the season. He's also shot at least 40 percent or better in 9 of 13 games this season.
Dante Taylor vs. Justin Jackson
Taylor will have the size advantage on Jackson from a height and weight standpoint. Taylor is at 6-9, 240 while Jackson stands at 6-8, 210. For Pitt to be successful on the defensive end—both in the paint from a presence standpoint and on the boards—Pitt needs Taylor to step up in the worst way. He hasn't been giving starters minutes the way he should be, partly because of getting into foul trouble in several games. In the last two games, he's averaged 17 minutes, 5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
Jackson has been playing out of position since the Gates suspension, and has been averaging just under five boards a game since moving up to play the five. The game could come down to the play of these two players—which ever one gets the best of his opponent, has the power to make the difference.
Cameron Wright, J.J. Moore, Talib Zanna, John Johnson vs. Jeremiah Davis, Ge'Lawn Guyn, Jermaine Sanders Kelvin Gaines
Pitt seems to have settled in to a rotation on the bench. Malcolm Gilbert could get a few minutes, and will certainly get minutes if someone like Taylor gets in foul trouble. Of all the bench players, Zanna has been most consistent as of late. Since the departure of Khem Birch two weeks ago, Zanna has gone 14-of-25 (.640) from the field, has two double-doubles (South Carolina State, Notre Dame), and has averaged 9.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in the four-game stretch. If either Woodall or Gibbs are unable to go, we'll also see more from John Johnson and Isaiah Epps. Both of these players saw significant time while Woodall was out. When he returned, Johnson played 18 minutes and Epps did not get any.
The bench could be the determining factor in Sunday's outcome. The Bearcats have also been going to four players off the bench—Jeremiah Davis, Ge'Lawn Guyn, Jermaine Sanders and Kelvin Gaines. All four freshmen are averaging at least 10 minutes a game. Against Oklahoma—a game that Cincinnati had to rally back from—the four bench players combined to go 0-for-7 from the floor. It was the first real test Cincinnati had since the loss to Xavier three weeks ago; also the first test with this reshuffled lineup. Only Sanders and Gaines had significant minutes with 19 and 14 respectively. The minutes can change as conference play begins. All four bench players have hit double-figures in at least one game this season. If they're held in check like they were against Oklahoma, perhaps Pitt has a shot.