Monday Preview: Cincinnati at #11 Georgetown
While most of the country will be captivated by the BCS Championship Game, there are suitable alternatives on the college basketball schedule for those not interested in watching the rematch. The game that stands out has to be Cincinnati (12-4, 2-1) visiting #11 Georgetown (13-2, 3-1) with both teams looking to bounce back from losses suffered on Saturday afternoon. The situation may be even more important for the Bearcats, who despite their seven-game win streak ahead of their last-second loss to St. John's, still has to account for losses to Presbyterian and Marshall on their resume.
The problem for Cincinnati on Saturday was that for the first time in their stretch of games post-Xavier the four guard lineup couldn't shoot, making just 20 of 76 shots from the field and seven of thirty-two from beyond the arc. That allowed St. John's to get away with 19 turnovers, and the outcome could be even worse against a Georgetown team that does a better job of taking care of the basketball than the Red Storm. The Hoyas average 12.3 turnovers per game on the season, but they've turned the ball over 15 times or more in three of their four Big East games.
Mick Cronin's team is forcing 15 turnovers per game, and their four-guard attack has done a solid job of ramping up the tempo and forcing bad decisions. Leading the way is point guard Cashmere Wright (10.8 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.7 spg), whose game has taken off with Cronin handing him the keys offense. Wright was the chief decision-maker before the suspensions, but in the aftermath he's been given more freedom to look to score. Add in sophomore shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick (15.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and senior Dion Dixon (13.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and the Bearcats have a solid three-headed attack that can score points at a solid clip.
Georgetown counters on the perimeter with a good mixture of experience and youth, and their system can be tough to guard if defenders aren't alert with regards to backdoor cuts and the like. Senior Jason Clark (15.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and junior Hollis Thompson (14.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg) provide the experience and the consistent scoring while sophomore Markel Starks (9.1 ppg, 50.0% FG) has moved into the point guard job left open by the graduation of Chris Wright. The Hoyas are averaging 1.11 points/possession this season, and a big reason for their efficiency is the play of one of the most improved players in the Big East.
Senior center Henry Sims (11.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.9 apg) leads the Hoyas in assists, and his ability to initiate the offense from the high post allows the perimeter players to work off the ball to get their shots. Nate Lubick can serve in a similar role on occasion while freshman Otto Porter has become more comfortable in the system by the game. His versatility will be something to keep an eye on for the Bearcats, who could be at a disadvantage in matching up with Porter due to his ability to go either inside or out. Jaquon Parker (10.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg), who has played the four in Cincinnati's new setup, will need to be at his best if the Bearcats are to win.
That also goes for senior forward Yancy Gates (12.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg), who has come off the bench since returning to the lineup. Justin Jackson starts but he's far more valuable on the defensive end of the floor, allowing Gates to provide an offensive spark when he enters the game. Gates has done his best to fit into things on the floor, at times maybe even being a bit too deferential in attempt to not step on any toes. How Gates performs in the matchup with Sims on both ends of the floor could ultimately decide the outcome. If he's scoring and rebounding in addition to limiting Sims' role as a distributor Cincinnati can win.
Also in the Big East a Connecticut team that went 0-for-New Jersey last week looks to rebound, but it's going to be difficult against West Virginia despite the fact that the Huskies are back home. One big reason why is WVU's Kevin Jones, who as of right now would have to be considered the frontrunner for Big East Player of the Year. Jones went for 22 points and 16 rebounds in the Mountaineers' win over Georgetown, and overall the effort of Bob Huggins' team on the offensive glass could be a problem if UConn isn't ready to meet that challenge from a toughness standpoint. With the likes of Jones and Deniz Kilicli, this is a game where the Huskies need Alex Oriakhi to step up and be accounted for.
There's also the first of two installments of "Bedlam" as Oklahoma visits Stillwater to take on the Cowboys. Oklahoma State has incurred some big losses on the perimeter, most recently losing J.P. Olukemi for the season with a torn ACL. The Sooners have one of the best scorers in the Big 12 in Steven Pledger, and under first-year head coach Lon Kruger they've definitely stepped up their play. Neither would be considered a contender for the Big 12 title, but the winner would take an important step towards being a part of the bubble conversation in the middle of the league.
Other games to keep an eye on include Saint Mary's hosting San Francisco, with this being the kind of game that can trip up an expected title contender like the Gaels. Rex Walters' Dons don't lack for talent but they've been a bit inconsistent, which could be a problem when dealing with SMC's Matthew Dellavedova and Rob Jones. The A-Sun, which looks to be more wide-open than anyone anticipated before the season began, has a pair of key matchups on the docket as North Florida visits and Stetson and Mercer visits USC Upstate. Belmont may very well win the conference again, but the race to the title will be a lot tougher this season than last.
And in the MEAC, Morgan State takes on Savannah State without head coach Todd Bozeman, who was suspended with pay by the school following an incident in the Bears' last game. Along with Hampton the Bears are expected to contend for the league's automatic bid, and a loss in a game like this one could come back to haunt Morgan State in regards to seeding for the conference tournament. Don't worry about not having anything to do if you don't want to watch Alabama and LSU, there's some good basketball to watch as well.
Top 25 Games
9:00 PM Cincinnati at (11) Georgetown (ESPNU)
7:00 PM West Virginia at (16) Connecticut (ESPN2)
NCAA Division I Games
4:15 PM North Florida at Stetson
5:00 PM Jackson State at Southern
6:00 PM Mississippi Valley State at Alabama A&M
6:00 PM Kennesaw State at East Tennessee State
7:00 PM Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Hampton at James Madison
7:00 PM Bethune-Cookman at North Carolina Central
7:30 PM Jacksonville at Florida Gulf Coast
7:30 PM Coppin State at South Carolina State
7:30 PM Mercer at USC Upstate
8:00 PM Grambling State at Alcorn State
8:00 PM Florida A&M at North Carolina A&T
8:00 PM Howard at Norfolk State
8:00 PM Morgan State at Savannah State
8:05 PM Florida Atlantic at Arkansas State
8:30 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Alabama State
9:00 PM Texas-Pan American at Air Force
9:00 PM Idaho State at Wyoming
10:00 PM San Francisco at Saint Mary's