This is the first of two matchups between these teams and they are easily the biggest Games of the AAC season. When both teams could’ve looked ahead on Thursday, Cincinnati had a comeback win at Memphis, while Houston almost never trailed in its win at UCF. Both are 9-1 in the conference, two Games above everyone else, with a good chance to split this series. The difference for Cincy is that their Schedule is a little more difficult, still with two Games against UCF ahead.
It’s still up for debate as to how good these teams are due to a questionable resume, but playing at home, Houston gets the clear advantage in this Game. As expected, both of these teams are tops in a lot of categories, though the biggest outlier is that Cincy’s defense has had some issues, allowing the worst three-point percentage in the AAC. Even then, it still ranks Fourth in terms of efficiency, which shows how well it does everything else. The other end may be more interesting because Cincy has the most efficient offense and Houston has the most efficient defense.
It’s odd seeing Cincinnati’s offense playing so well, but it’s a wonder if some of that has to do with Schedule. Beating up on a mediocre Conference can only go so far and that’s why the Bearcats lost at East Carolina only a month ago. Like previous versions, they have one guy that does most of the offensive work in Jarron Cumberland, averaging 18.6 points, 4.1 boards and 3.6 assists per Game. He does a little bit of everything, but it’ll be up to everyone else if they want to win this Game. Justin Jenifer shoots 44.9% from deep and if he can’t find open looks against this defense, that’ll be a problem. Keith Williams (10.9 ppg) is the second leading scorer, but he hasn’t surpassed nine points in three of the last Four Games. Cincy has a size edge, but it rarely relies on Tre SCott and Nysier Brooks to win a Game. SCott had 13 points and nine boards last Game, but against a bad Memphis defense.
Dealing with size will be Houston’s biggest issue because Four of its starters come in at 6-foot-5 and shorter. Big man Breaon Brady has a minor knee issue and only played three minutes last Game, though some of that was due to early foul trouble. Still, Brady isn’t often relied on for much as Houston has multiple guys to play down low in Fabian White, Brison Gresham and Chris Harris.
The reason Houston should win this Game is not only because of a better defense, but a more balanced offense. Corey Davis (15.5 ppg) and Armoni Brooks (14.3 ppg) both love to jack up threes and while neither has a great percentage, that may not matter against Cincy’s poor three-point defense. While neither averages as much as Cumberland, both can Scoremore than 20 on any given night. Of course, senior Galen Robinson (8.3 ppg, 5.4 apg) is the one that sets everything up and gets a rare size advantage against the smaller Jenifer and Cane Broome. Dealing with that trio will be Cincy’s biggest problem and unless Cumberland has one of his better Games, Houston’s defense will be too much.
The Bearcats have a scoring edge down low, but the Cougars have shown they don’t need offense from their bigs. And while Cincy has a size advantage at most positions, that may not matter against a more experienced Houston team that has more scoring options.
Our Pick – Houston -4