Cincinnati is one of the hottest teams in the country with 14 straight wins, but even with a No. 7 ranking, not many are considering the Bearcats one of the top teams. They have a nice two-Game lead in the American Athletic Conference and already have road wins at Memphis and Louisville. With eight Games remaining, it would be a major let down if Cincy didn’t win the regular season title.
Connecticut is back in the rankings at No. 22 after three straight wins. While none of those wins were great, they got some revenge on Houston (80-43) who beat them earlier in the year. After losing their first two Games in Conference play, the Huskies are starting to figure things out a bit. OUtside of the loss at Louisville, they’ve played well, including a win at Memphis.
The Bearcats feature one of the best defenses around and that’s how they win Games. The offense can be problematic at times, often going through scoring droughts, but so far that hasn’t been a problem. Some of those deficiencies showed up in their last Game against South Florida (11-11), as they shot 33.3% from the field and only won by five points at home.
The area to watch in this Game will be the paint, where the Huskies continue to struggle. They have a guard-heavy team with the 6-1 Shabazz Napier (17.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.7 APG) actually being their point guard and top rebounder. You don’t see that too often. Amida Brimah and Phillip Nolan are their two top true big men and neither of them averages more than three boards per Game. The good news for UConn is that Cincy doesn’t really have a true center either.
The Bearcats are very similar with guard Sean Kilpatrick (19.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG) leading the way, and a few athletic forwards that can all Scoredown low. The deciding matchup of the Game will likely be Kilpatrick vs. Napier. Napier has a better stroke and is better all-around, but Kilpatrick is just as vital to his team, especially in the scoring department.
Kilpatrick is joined by a trio of forwards in Justin Jackson, Titus Rubles and Shaquille Thomas. Jackson (11.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG) is a monster and does most of his damage in the paint, on both ends of the cOurt. He also leads the team in steals (1.8) and blocks (3.3) per Game.
The key for this Game will be the status of DeAndre Daniels (13.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG) who missed the last Game due to a sprained ankle. He practiced earlier in the week and should be ready to go. Unfortunately for Daniels, he’ll likely draw the matchup of Jackson. The one thing Cincy doesn’t have that UConn does, is another scorer in the backcOurt. That’s where Ryan Boatright (12.4 PPG) comes in. He’ll likely be matched with shooters Ge’LAwn Guyn and Troy Caupain.
With winning, comes a ton of pressure and that’s what Cincinnati will continue to face at the top of the conference. It almost got the best of them against USF and this Game will be a bit harder. If Napier and Boatright are hitting their shots, this could easily be an upset. Will the Huskies be healthy and strong enough to compete down low? That’s the difference between being a top Four seed and a seven or eight in the Big Dance.
Predicted ScoreCincinnati 67 UCONN 64