(6) Cincinnati vs. (11) Texas: East Region
Cincinnati 24-10, 12-6 Big East (At large)
Texas 20-13, 9-9 Big 12 (At large)
Time: 12:15 p.m. Friday
Location: Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
Winner will face: (3) Florida State or (14) St. Bonaventure, Sunday
Cincinnati No. 27 AP; No. 29 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Line: Cincinnati -2 (O/U 129½)
Players to Watch
Cincinnati: F Yancy Gates, 6-9 Sr. (12.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 47.2% FG); G Sean Kilpatrick, 6-4 So. (14.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.1 apg); G Cashmere Wright, 6-0 Jr. (10.9 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2 spg). Fitzpatrick showed flashes as a freshman, but his performance as a sophomore was still a pleasant surprise. Although he struggled in the Big East title game against Louisville, Kilpatrick scored 48 points, grabbed 14 boards and handed out 10 assists in the Bearcats’ 4-game conference tourney run.
Texas: G J’Covan Brown, 6-1 Jr. (20.1 ppg, 3.8 apg, 3.3 rpg); G Myck Kabongo, 6-1 Fr. (9.8 ppg, 5.3 apg, 1.2 spg); F Jonathan Holmes, 6-7 Fr. (7.2ppg, 4.8 rpg, 48.8% FG). Looking for a breakout star in 2012-13? Holmes might be the guy. The freshman struggled down the stretch, but he showed why the Longhorns have such high hopes for him in Friday’s Big 12 semifinal loss to Missouri with a 5-for-7, 11-point, 4-rebound performance in the loss.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Cincinnati: The Bearcats are playing their best basketball of the season. They’ve won four of their last five, including a win over No. 2 Syracuse in the Big East Tourney semis, and seven of their last nine – and they’re doing it with defense. The Cats are holding their opponents to 41.2 percent from the field, 31.7 from 3 and they’re forcing 14.1 turnovers per game, including 8.1 steals per contest. Cincy’s offense is balanced. All five starters average at least 9.2 points.
Texas: The Longhorns are guard-oriented and they’re capable of big scoring run. They have one of the nation’s most spectacular scorers in Brown, and six different Texas player average at least 7.2 points. Texas has made more 3-pointers (243) than any other Big 12 team (31.3 percent of their points come on 3s). The Longhorn defense forces 8.1 steals and 13.7 turnovers per game.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Cincinnati: The Bearcats really struggle to score. They scored 14 first-half points in Saturday’s Big East Tournament championship 50-44 loss to rival Louisville. They shot just 20-of-51 and turned the ball over 11 times in the loss. Despite some good size, the Bearcats were out-rebounded by Big East opponents.
Texas: The Longhorns have only one player over 6-7 on their roster, so Gates could have a big advantage for the Bearcats. The Horns shot just 43.6 percent from the field and 32.7 from the 3-point line and they turn the ball over 12.6 times per game. Kabongo and Brown, Texas’s two most talented players, combine for 5.6 turnovers per game.
The Bottom Line: This game could go a lot of different ways. The Cincinnati defense could be the difference. Expect the Bearcats to take advantage of their size and their pressure.
The Pick: Cincinnati 71, Texas 67
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 198-150-6