Today, the Wildcats prepare to move into the Sweet Sixteen. In their path is the Cincinnati Bearcats, a foe the Wildcats used to know well. Over the years, the relationship has become increasingly distant, despite the mere 85 or so miles between the two schools. In all honesty, Cincinnati is a regular game I wouldn’t mind seeing renewed. Believe it or not, we have a much longer history with the Bearcats than we do with the Duke Blue Devils, and even the Kansas Jayhawks.
|Date:||Saturday, March 21st|
|Time||2:40 PM EDT|
|Place:||KFC YUM! Center, Louisville, KY|
|Radio:||UK Sports Network|
|Live Video:||NCAA March Madness|
|Live Audio:||Westwood One|
Season so far for Cincinnati:
Cincinnati has had an interesting year. Their non-conference season was mostly nondescript except for games against the Ole Miss Rebels, the San Diego St. Aztecs, the VCU Rams and the North Carolina St. Wolfpack. Of those four, the Bearcats won two — SDSU and N.C. State.
In conference, the Bearcats beat SMU twice — no mean feat, SMU is a very good team despite their early exit from the NCAA Tournament — and they split games with UConn, Memphis, Temple and Tulane. They lost to UConn in the AAC Tournament, and were selected a #8 seed at large by the Selection Committee. They got to Kentucky by defeating the Purdue Boilermakers in overtime.
Kentucky and Cincinnati have a long history that dates back to the turn of the 20th century. UC and UK were playing when most other schools hadn’t even heard of basketball, starting in 1904.
The two schools played regularly up until 1948, which began a 35-year break until 1983, when the two team finally met again in what has to be one of the most embarrassingly low-scoring games in Kentucky history. UK won 24-11. Imagine that, if you will - the previous game in 1948 was 70-43, and in 1987, the game was 101-77 UK.
Cincinnati’s best stretch ever against UK was between 1919 and 1927, when the Bearcats went 6-3. Overall, UK is 27-10 against our neighbors from the Queen City.
|3||Shaq Thomas||F||6-7||210||RS JR||S*||22.4||6.3||3||0.6||0.6||0.5|
|1||Deshaun Morman||G||6-3||193||RS FR||R+||10||3.6||0.9||0.7||0.5||0.1|
|42||Rob Blissitt Jr.||G||6-3||173||SO||R@||1.4||0.8||0||0.2||0||0|
|+||Eligible transfer/red shirt|
|&||Injured, not available|
Source: Hampton Pirates Athletics
|Rank and Records||Cinci||UK|
|Strength of Schedule||#68||#44|
|RPI Top 50||6-3||11-0|
Cincinnati Team Notes
- …an offensively challenged team, averaging only 1.05 points/possession in their conference.
- …a poor ballhandling team, turning it over on more than 21% of possessions. They do force about 20% turnovers from opponents, however.
- …a below-average free-throw shooting team at 67% on the year.
- …a below-average 3-point shooting team at 33.5%.
- …a good defensive team. The Bearcats allow only 44.2% eFG%, and only 32.1% from the arc.
- … a good offensive rebounding team at 37%. They are a below average defensive rebounding team, though.
- …a team that doesn’t put up that many threes. 30% of their shots are outside the arc, and 3-pointers account for only 24% of their offense.
- …an experienced team at 1.44 years on average.
- …a very balanced team, much like Kentucky. Nobody averages double-digits per game.
Cincinnati Player notes
- Octavius Ellis is the leading scorer and rebounder for this team. He was ejected for a flagrant-2 against Purdue, but he will be eligible for the Kentucky game. Ellis is an outstanding shot-blocker and gets fouled a lot. He is not a great free throw shooter, but he is a good offensive rebounder.
- Farad Cobb is an undersized 2-guard who can shoot the three, and takes most of them for the Bearcats. He rarely commits a foul and takes good care of the ball.
- Troy Caupain is the point guard and best percentage 3-point shooter. he turns the ball over at a prodigious rate for a point guard, but he gets to the line a lot and was instrumental in the victory over Purdue.
- Gary Clark is an undersized power forward. He is the best offensive rebounder on the team, and an outstanding defender.
- Shaq Thomas is a junior swingman. He’s a slasher, and won’t be shooting any threes (he’s shot 5 all season.)
- Kevin Johnson is a defensive specialist off the bench who is one of the better steals guys on the team.
- Coreontae DeBerry is a huge body who will spell Ellis in the post. Even at 6‘10"/270#, he’s not big enough for Kentucky’s front line, though.
- Alex Poythress is out for the season with a torn ACL
- Jamaree Strickland is expected to transfer
- Ge’Lawn Guyn, a major contributor, has apparently left the team. He has some sort of finger injury.
Cincinnati is kind of a pauper’s version of Kentucky. This team defends well, rebounds well, but cannot score. They share the ball, they don’t mess around, but at the same time they are just not quite at the level where the better teams in the country are. There are no real stars for this team even though Octavius Ellis gets most of the press, and the are big enough to give Kentucky all they want.
The most important thing when dealing with Cincinnati is their rebounding. The Bearcats are a really good rebounding team, better offensively than defensively, and it drives their offensive efficiency. If Kentucky can take away their offensive board work, the Bearcats will probably not be able to generate enough offense to be competitive, let alone win.
Unfortunately, defensive rebounding is the weakest part of Kentucky’s game. If there is one thing they can do to make this an easy victory, it is to overcome that tendency, because without offensive rebounding, Cincinnati is no match for Kentucky. If UK gets beat on the offensive glass, this game could get very competitive indeed.
On offense, the Wildcats must move the ball and be patient. The Bearcats will force you to run offense in the half court, and they are a solid transition defensive team. Kentucky isn’t likely to run them out of the gym, so the Wildcats will need to focus on grinding out this game by leveraging their big guards inside the arc, getting it inside to the taller UK bigs, and making free throws.
This is most unlikely to be anything other than a grind-it-out half-court struggle. UK is better, but they must understand that the Bearcats are very defensive-minded, physical and tough. This wil be a bruiser, but Kentucky has handled games like this all season long. There is no reason why this should be any different.