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College Basketball Pick
Behind Louisville and Syracuse, the Big East is still up for grabs for the next best team. Either one of these schools could fill that spot. Marquette was an afterthought in the conference race after a subpar start to their season. The exact opposite can be said about Cincinnati after they started 12-0. However, a couple home losses in conference play have diminished their outlook.
The Golden Eagles play teams close, maybe a little too close. Two of their early season losses came against Butler and lowly Green Bay by a total of three points. On the other side of that they only beat LSU by four points. Their ability to compete with anyone has stuck with them in conference play as they have overtime wins over Connecticut and Pittsburgh and a one-point win over Georgetown. Of course, not all of their games are by such slim margins. They lost at Florida by 33 points, but beat Wisconsin by 10 points at home, try and make sense out of those two games.
The Bearcats had a weaker non-conference schedule which is the main reason they started with 12 straight wins, but they still deserve some credit. They managed three straight wins over Iowa State, Oregon and Alabama, three quality Big 6 schools. Throw in their beat down of rival Xavier, and many were high on Cincinnati entering Big East play. They started with a nice road win at Pittsburgh, but fell apart losing two straight home games to St. Johns and Notre Dame.
Marquette has shown they can win on the road and Cincinnati has shown they are susceptible at home, yet that doesn't automatically give the Golden Eagles the upper hand.
Starting with the road team, Vander Blue and Davante Gardner are the players to watch out for. Both are the leaders of the team in their third season and are the only two players scoring in double-digits. Each of them has made strides in every year of college. Gardner doesn't get a ton of minutes, but when needed he'll put in 28-29 minutes. He is also their top rebounder which isn't saying much with 5.4 rebounds per game. The Golden Eagles will need to figure out a way to pull down more boards against the sixth best rebounding team in the country. Jamil Wilson (4.7 REB) and Trent Lockett (4.9 REB) are big guys, but can they stop the athleticism of the Bearcats?
Cincinnati has four players averaging at least five rebounds per game and that includes guard and leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick. While his minutes are down this year, he's scoring more and playing smarter. By driving to the lane more often this season, he has almost doubled the amount of free throw attempts he has per game. Seniors Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker have been inconsistent (especially in losses) and will need to bring their A-game if they want to beat Marquette. Wright has at least 20 points in three of his last four games, but in that one game he only made one shot for five points against Notre Dame. Against St. Johns, Parker shot 1-for-8 and had only three points. When your best players have games like that, it's not easy to win.
These teams are evenly matched and will more than likely play to a game that comes down to the final minutes.
Predicted Score - Cincinnati 65 Marquette 60
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