Time: 9 p.m.
TV: ESPN (Mike Patrick play-by-play, Len Elmore color).
Location: Fifth-Third Arena in Cincinnati
Louisville 20 (No. 4 Big East)
Cincinnati 80 (No. 10 Big East)
Line: Cincinnati -1½ (O/U 131)
Louisville Players to Watch: G Peyton Siva, 6-0 Jr. (8.5 ppg, 5.6 apg, 1.7 spg); G Kyle Kuric, 6-4 Sr. (13.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.4 spg); C Gorgui Dieng, 6-11 So. (10 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.3 bpg). Kuric was benched early in the second half against DePaul, but he was hot when he returned, finishing with a game-high 25 points (on 9-of-17 from the field and 5-of-10 from deep), four rebounds, three assists, three steals and a blocked shot.
Cincinnati Players to Watch: G Sean Kilpatrick, 6-4 So. (15 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.3 spg); G Dion Dixon, 6-3 Sr. (13.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.3 apg); F Yancy Gates, 6-9 Sr. (12.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 47.8% FG). Dixon had 20 points, six rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal in Saturday’s 62-57 win over Seton Hall. It was the fourth time this season that Dixon, who moved into 28th place on UC’s all-time scoring list with 1,167 points, has scored 20 points or more.
Storylines: Louisville overcame a 34-17 deficit with 5:31 left in the first half to beat DePaul Saturday for its seventh win in its last eight games. The Cardinals are 9-5 in league play, tied in sixth place with Cincinnati, which has won its last two and 4-of-5. The Bearcats are coming off wins over Providence (81-66 on Feb. 15) and Seton Hall – both at home. Still, many bracketologists aren’t convinced that UC is NCAA material and needs some big wins to get an invite. The outcome of this game could also have Big East Tournament seeding ramifications.
Keys: Louisville averages 9.2 steals per game, which ranks second in the Big East (to Syracuse) and seventh in the nation. It has converted 68 points off opponent turnovers in its last five games. Cincinnati ranks fifth with 8.1 steals in Big East contests. The Cardinals’ 37.6 field goal defense is sixth in America. They have held eight of their last 14 opponents under 40 percentage, including in the loss to No. 2 Syracuse, which shot 34.4. The Bearcats are 19th in the nation in turnover margin (plus-3.4) and 29th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.22-to-1). The Bearcats are also third in the Big East in offensive rebounds per game – trailing only Villanova and West Virginia – at 14.1 per contest. In Big East games, only Seton Hall makes more 3-pointers per contest than the Bearcats, who connect on seven per outing. The Cardinals allow just 32.5 percent from the 3-point line in Big East play. Louisville leads the all-time series 53-41 against Cincinnati, but the Bearcats owns a 23-21 advantage at home. Cincinnati won the last head-to-head matchup, 63-54 last February. The Bearcats are 12-4 at Fifth-Third this season, including wins in their last three home games. The Cardinals are 6-3 in true road games, having won their last four away from home.
The Bottom Line: Even Louisville coach Rick Pitino says you never know which Cardinal team you’re going to get. On Thursday, will the Louisville team that beat up on Pitt, West Virginia and Seton Hall show up? Or will it be the one that fell behind last-place DePaul by 17 points early? It really is hard to tell.
The Pick: Louisville 67, Cincinnati 62
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 77-47