College Hoops Thursday: Your Commentary

January 6th, 2011
One of the most surprising teams in America has to be the Cincinnati (14-0) Bearcats, who remain undefeated after opening Big East play with wins over DePaul and Seton Hall. But that only gets you so far in the argument as to who the best team in the city is, a question that will get its answer on Thursday night when Xavier (8-4) comes calling in what's one of the more spirited rivalries in college basketball. Neither coach has to be particularly pleased with this game being played in early January as opposed to December but that won't diminish the focus for anyone involved. The primary task for Cincinnati will be to slow down junior guard Tu Holloway, who leads the Musketeers in scoring (21.3 ppg) and assists (5.6 apg) and has the ability to put the team on his back offensively when needed. Chris Mack's team boasts three other players averaging double figures this season: guard Mark Lyons (12.6 ppg) and forwards Kenny Frease (11.7, 7.5 rpg) and Jamel McLean (10.1, 9.5 rpg), meaning that while Holloway has a green light he doesn't have to shoulder the burden by himself.

Cincinnati on the other hand has six players averaging at least 7.8 points per game, led by juniors Dion Dixon (12.7 ppg) and Yancy Gates (11.5, 6.6 rpg). But they both came into the season as known commodities, with the simple need being that they up their production for Mick Cronin's team. The revelation, not because of talent but the fact that he redshirted last season, has been freshman guard Sean Kilpatrick. Lance Stephenson was the New York area newcomer most everyone focused on in 2009-10, and hopefully they've taken a peak at one of the better sixth men in the Big East to this point in the season as Cincinnati's exceeded early expectations. Kilpatrick's 46.5% of his shots from the field while also making a team-best 23 three pointers, offering quite the supplement offensively to the starting five. Cashmere Wright will likely be the player who garners the attention simply because of the matchup with Holloway, but it will be critical that he not get drawn into a scoring duel. His job in running Cincinnati is a bit different than that of Holloway's and the better job he does of keeping that in mind the better off the Bearcats will be.

Frease and McLean are the two to watch for the Musketeers given the fact that Cincinnati can match their size and toughness in the paint. Frease has reached double figures in seven of the last eight games with the lone exception being a scoreless outing in the Musketeers' loss at Gonzaga. To say the least Xavier can't afford many of those nights if they're to beat their city rival much less contend in the Atlantic 10. He was solid in their loss to Florida, scoring 16 points while grabbing seven rebounds against one of the more athletic frontcourts around. He and McLean will need to avoid silly fouls while hanging tough on the boards (Cincinnati is a plus-8.2 in rebounding margin) if the Musketeers are to beat Cincinnati for the fourth consecutive time. How close have these two been? In the last thirty meetings, with Xavier winning 17, the average score is Cincinnati 72, Xavier 71. Be sure to tune in.

Other games of note include California playing their first game without freshman guard Gary Franklin, who is transferring to another program. Outside of that, and the health of Arizona State's Trent Lockett, there really isn't a lot riding on that matchup from a national standpoint. And Thursday also marks the first game for Washington sans point guard Abdul Gaddy, who tore the ACL in his left knee in practice earlier this week. They should be fine against Oregon but how the Huskies play without Gaddy as the season wears on will be something to watch as the Pac-10 favorites look to win the conference. Robert Morris visits Wagner in NEC action, an intriguing matchup between the two-time defending champions and a young squad that has one of the better backcourt tandems in the conference in Tyler Murray and Latif Rivers, and Northwestern is at Illinois in a game they need to both stop the bleeding and bolster their currently meager resume.

Top 25
7:00 PM (7) Villanova at South Florida (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Northwestern at (20) Illinois (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Xavier at (25) Cincinnati (ESPN2)

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM St. Francis (PA) at Mount St. Mary's
7:00 PM Sacred Heart at Fairleigh Dickinson
7:00 PM Charleston at Furman
7:00 PM Albany at Vermont
7:00 PM St. Francis (NY) at Central Connecticut State
7:00 PM South Alabama at Florida Atlantic
7:00 PM Arkansas State at Florida International
7:00 PM Charleston Southern at Liberty (ESPN3)
7:00 PM South Dakota at Longwood
7:00 PM Quinnipiac at Monmouth
7:00 PM Samford at UNC Greensboro
7:00 PM Gardner-Webb at Presbyterian
7:00 PM Coastal Carolina at Virginia Military
7:00 PM Robert Morris at Wagner
7:00 PM UNC Asheville at Winthrop
7:00 PM Citadel at Wofford
7:00 PM Long Island at Bryant University
7:00 PM Western Illinois at IPFW
7:30 PM Jacksonville State at Eastern Kentucky
7:30 PM IUPUI at Oakland
7:45 PM Tennessee Tech at Morehead State
8:00 PM Wright State at Illinois-Chicago
8:00 PM Denver at Western Kentucky
8:00 PM Fresno State at Louisiana Tech
8:00 PM Detroit at Loyola (IL)
8:00 PM Oral Roberts at North Dakota State
8:00 PM Centenary at South Dakota State
8:05 PM Troy at Louisiana-Lafayette
8:30 PM Stanford at Arizona State
8:30 PM Tennessee State at Murray State
8:30 PM Oregon at Washington
8:30 PM Jackson State at Alabama A&M
8:30 PM Prairie View A&M at Southern University
8:35 PM Idaho State at Northern Arizona
9:00 PM Grambling State at Alabama State
9:00 PM Texas Southern at Alcorn State
9:00 PM Saint Mary's at Loyola Marymount (ESPNU)
9:05 PM Montana at Northern Colorado
10:00 PM Oregon State at Washington State
10:00 PM Cal Poly at Pacific
10:00 PM UC Santa Barbara at UC Davis
10:00 PM San Diego at Pepperdine
10:05 PM Montana State at Sacramento State
10:10 PM Eastern Washington at Seattle
10:30 PM California at Arizona
10:30 PM Boise State at San Jose State
12:30 AM Idaho at Hawaii

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