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The rematch is here. These teams played less than a month ago with Cincinnati squeaking out a late win at Louisville. That loss is surely in the back of the Cardinals minds as it's their only one since early January. The Bearcats lost at SMU since then, but still have only one loss since mid-December.
Another win here for Cincinnati will undoubtedly put them in a great position to win the American Athletic Conference. Louisville sits 1.5 games back and need this win. Although no matter what happens, both teams still have remaining games against Connecticut and Memphis so nothing is for certain.
The Bearcats are coming off one of their best wins of the year, completely destroying UCF on the road by 28 points. They are undefeated at home this year so not only do they have the confidence of the last meeting, but they'll also have their fans behind them.
As for the Cardinals, since that loss to Cincy, they have won every game by at least 15 points. Of course none of those opponents rank near the top of the standings, but it still is impressive.
The interesting thing about these teams comes in the rankings. Cincinnati is No. 7 in the AP Poll, No. 14 in RPI and No. 26 in BPI. Even stranger is Louisville at No. 11 in AP, No. 35 in RPI and No. 7 in BPI. Needless to say, no one really has a good hold on this team. Are the Cardinals really the 35th best team in the nation according to the RPI (as of Feb. 20)? That's hard to believe.
In the last game between these teams, Sean Kilpatrick dominated the game with 28 points while making all 11 of his free-throw attempts. Louisville had no answer for him or on the boards where Cincy had a plus-11 advantage. Oddly enough, the Bearcats turned the ball over 20 times yet still won on the road. Not to mention, Luke Hancock, Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell all had decent games for Louisville, but no one else could do anything.
Once again in this matchup, the result may come down to Kilpatrick and what he can do. Kilpatrick is on a run of four straight games with at least 22 points. In Cincy's loss at SMU, Kilpatrick had a poor shooting day going 5-of-18 from the field. Even though he had 22 points, it took a lot of shots to get there. The problem for Louisville is that they don't have a great matchup for Kilpatrick. The best option would be to use Wayne Blackshear on him, and that could be the difference as he only played five minutes last matchup. He has the size and athleticism to stay tight on Kilpatrick.
Outside of Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson is the only other player to watch out for on the Bearcats. Jackson is a beast down low on both ends of the floor. Although guys like Shaq Thomas and Titus Robles can be just as good, they don't have great offensive games.
The big three of Hancock, Smith and Harrell need to step up again for the Cardinals. Harrell and Hancock have to deal with the strength of Cincy while Smith has to hit his shots early. Outside of them, Terry Rozier, Stephan Van Treese and Chris Jones all need to step up.
The first game between these teams was decided by three points and there's no reason why this one won't be as well, with Louisville being a little thirstier for that upset win.
Predicted Score - Cincinnati 67 Louisville 66
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