This Game is for the AAC regular-season title, at least a share of it. Houston has a chance to win it outright at Cincinnati on senior night, or the Bearcats can grab a share of it with a win. When they met a month ago, it was a 40-minute battle and while the Cougars led the entire way in the 65-58 win, they never held a lead of more than seven points. Also relevant is that Cincinnati failed to Scorein the final six minutes.
The Bearcats haven’t lost at home in AAC play and that’s their main selling point, though it’s not like things have been easy, barely getting past the likes of Memphis, UCF and SMU. Houston’s lone road loss came at Temple, while it’s already won at UCF, the other team at the top of the standings who just beat Cincinnati. Similar to most Games between the top teams in this conference, this is going to be close and low scoring.
Houston has the best offense and defense in the AAC according to efficiency, while Cincinnati has the second-best offense and third-best defense. The biggest outlying stats are that Cincy doesn’t defend the three well and doesn’t shoot entirely well on the other end. That offensive problem showed up last Game as the Bearcats went just 14-for-45 from inside the arc, a terrible 31.1%.
It won’t be easy to buck that trend because of how well Houston plays defense at every position. It doesn’t have one dominant big between Fabian White and Breaon Brady, but those two held their ground in the first Game and kept Tre SCott and Nysier Brooks below their season averages. The main difference between these teams is that Cincy relies on Jarron Cumberland to do most of the scoring at 18.3 points per Game, but against good defenses, that doesn’t always work. He had 27 points in that first Game, but was just 5-for-17 from two-pointers and no one else had 10 points.
Houston doesn’t get production from its big men, but it has Four guards that can regularly put the ball in the hoop. Corey Davis leads the way and he’ll always get his buckets, as seen in the 16 points last Game, but Dejon Jarreau supplies automatic offensive off the bench with at least 15 points in Four of the last seven Games. Armoni Brooks, the team’s second-leading scorer, only had two points in that first Game, but he’s also Houston’s best shooter and hits double-digits more often than not. Throw in the all-around ability of Galen Robinson and Cincy doesn’t have the guys to match on the perimeter.
Sure, Cumberland and Keith Williams have size, but they also lack speed against the quicker Robinson and Davis. Otherwise, it’s rare when someone other than Cumberland has a big outing in Cincy’s backcOurt even though senior Justin Jenifer is the best shooter on the team. Cane Broome and Williams are good players, but both shoot less than 30 percent from deep. To win, the Bearcats need SCott and Brooks to dominate in the paint, but again, nothing comes easy against this Houston defense.
Cincinnati is at home, but it’s not an automatic win. Houston’s defense has been a notch better all season and with a variety of guards that can score, it gives a major edge to the road team. For the Bearcats to win, they’ll not only need another big Game from Cumberland, but also someone else to step up and score. That hasn’t been an easy thing to rely on against better teams, making them difficult to bet on, even at home.
Our Pick – Cinci by 5