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Cincinnati's difficult schedule isn't over yet. The Bearcats get their last big test of the season on Thursday when Memphis comes to town. Both teams still have a possibility to improve their seedings, but the Tigers can make the bigger leap of the two.
Memphis is sitting around the 8 seed range for most people which is not where you want to be. Best-case scenario for them would be to win this game and have a solid AAC tourney and grab a 6 seed. Of course, if they lose this and don't do anything of importance in the tournament, an 8 seed might be waiting for them. In addition, they finish the regular season with a home game against SMU.
Cincy is a level above Memphis and despite their two recent losses, still look like a 4 seed, mainly due to teams around them losing. Unless they lose this game and lose earlier than expected in the conference tourney, a 4 seed looks good for them, but they still have a chance to move up to a 3 if they win out.
The first time these teams played, the Bearcats dominated in the second half en route to a 69-53 road win. Cincy had three players reach double figures led by Sean Kilpatrick, and also 23 bench points. Memphis had no answers on the offensive end, going 2-of-17 from long range. That won't win many games.
The difference in this game for the Tigers could be Austin Nichols, who wasn't a factor in that first game, playing 11 minutes and scoring two points. Nichols has continued to improve on the season and has scored double digits in four straight games now. He gives the team a down low presence, and also a big man that can stretch the paint for Shaq Goodwin. Combine Nichols with a backcourt that should shoot better than 33 percent from the field and this is set to be a much closer game.
The Tigers still have one of the most versatile backcourts in the nation with Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson. Throw in Michael Dixon Jr. off the bench and they have four guys that can all score for themselves. Of course, usually only one guy goes off per game.
Cincy's defense dominated that last game, led by seven blocks from Justin Jackson. And while the Memphis backcourt is good, they don't really have anyone to mark up Kilpatrick, although not many teams do. Limiting Kilpatrick's good looks is the first thing defenses have to do against Cincinnati and if that doesn't happen, they'll need to stop other areas.
Justin Jackson is a little too much for Nichols to defend, so that may be part of the reason Nichols didn't play much last game. But even then, you can't justify Nichols getting only 11 minutes in this game. He'll have to match up with either Shaquille Thomas or Titus Rubles while Goodwin deals with Jackson.
The Tigers have struggled in recent road games and that includes a loss at Houston. That isn't good news as the Bearcats have been dominant at home all season outside of a recent loss to Louisville. Unless Kilpatrick has a poor shooting game, Cincy has the upper hand.
Predicted Score Cincinnati 72 Memphis 63
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