Thanks to the events of Saturday afternoon and their aftermath a dangerous road trip is now even tougher for Cincinnati (5-3), who will be shorthanded on their trip to Wright State (4-6). Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis are all suspended six games for their roles in Saturday's brawl at Xavier while Ge'Lawn Guyn sits one game, meaning that even with the Raiders having lost five of their last seven they've got every chance to defend their home floor successfully. So who steps up for the Bearcats? It will likely have to be three guards who have started all eight games thus far.
Cashmere Wright (8.6 ppg, 4.4 apg) runs the show while Dion Dixon (13.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Sean Kilpatrick (14.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg) will be the likely primary options with the Bearcats lacking an interior game offensively. There is Justin Jackson, and athletic big man who can run the floor and block shots, but to expect him to pick up where Gates left off scoring-wise would be unrealistic. One would have to think that freshmen Jermaine Sanders and Kelvin Gaines, both of whom haven't played much to date, would get a chance early to prove that they can contribute and the return of JaQuon Parker means one more weapon on the perimeter.
As for the Raiders they've struggled mightily on the offensive end of the floor, shooting 36.9% from the field on the season. Billy Donlon's team averages the same number of possessions per game as Cincinnati (66) but they're averaging only 55.5 points per game, a number that ranks 333rd nationally. So with a leading scorer (guard Julius Mays) who averages just 10.2 points per game, how has Wright State found a way to win four games? Defense.
Wright State's allowing just 59.6 points per game and they make opponents battle for everything they get offensively, which could be an issue for Cincinnati given the personnel losses. Opponents turn the ball over on 25.4% of their possessions, and they're third in the Horizon League in points allowed per possession. The field goal percentage defense (42.5%) doesn't jump off the stat sheet as much as the number of turnovers they force per game (16.2), and with both teams averaging more turnovers than assists per game things could get sloppy in Dayton.
How will Cincinnati deal with the possible adversity that comes with being shorthanded on the road? We'll find out, but given losses to Presbyterian and Marshall already on the resume, Mick Cronin's team can't afford to drop this one. Losses in games like this one tend to come back to haunt teams in March. Also on the schedule Wednesday is a rare afternoon game with Iona visiting Richmond, and it will be interesting to see how much energy remains in the legs of Tim Cluess' Gaels. Iona hasn't played a home game all month, and even with the Spiders getting used to life without Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper there's still talent at Chris Mooney's disposal.
Tim Floyd's young UTEP squad heads west to take on a UNLV team that's dropped two of their last three games, and sophomore guard Mike Perez has emerged in recent games as a good scoring option for the Miners. Perez is averaging 18.5 points over the last two games, and with a squad that has five players averaging between seven and ten points per game UTEP needs someone to step up. Also of note is Tennessee visiting Charleston days after losing at home to Austin Peay, and Bobby Cremins' team will be a very tough test for Trae Golden and company. In fact Antwaine Wiggins and company should be expected to defend their home floor, so the Volunteers had better be ready from the moment they walk into the gym.
Top 25 Games
7:30 PM USC Upstate at (2) Ohio State (BTN)
8:00 PM Bethune-Cookman at (7) Baylor (ESPN3)
NCAA Division I Games
3:00 PM Iona at Richmond
7:00 PM Louisiana-Lafayette at Ole Miss (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Marietta at Ohio
7:00 PM Morgan State at UMBC
7:00 PM Long Island at Norfolk State
7:00 PM Princeton at Rider (Comcast)
7:00 PM Cincinnati at Wright State (ESPN2)
7:05 PM Charleston Southern at Citadel
7:30 PM FIU at Maryland (ESPN)
7:30 PM Towson at Coppin State
8:00 PM Louisiana College at Rice
8:00 PM Huston-Tillotson at Lamar
8:00 PM McNeese State at Louisiana Tech
8:05 PM Seattle at Arkansas State
8:05 PM Campbell at Houston Baptist
8:05 PM Chicago State at Wichita State
9:00 PM West New Mexico at New Mexico State (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Tennessee at Charleston (ESPN2)
9:00 PM DePaul at Northern Illinois
9:05 PM Denver at Northern Colorado (Altitude)
9:30 PM USF at Auburn (ESPN3)
10:00 PM Menlo College at Cal Poly
10:00 PM UC Santa Cruz at UC Riverside
10:00 PM UTEP at UNLV (The Mtn.)
10:30 PM Eastern Washington at UCLA