There's no perspective on the opponent better than that of someone who watches them play all the time, so I exchanged a few questions with Matt Opper from SBN's Bearcats blog Down The Drive. Check over there for my answers to Matt's questions, as well.
Give us a quick profile of Cincinnati's starting five, and how they fit together.
The usual starting five has Cashmere Wright at the point, Dion Dixon at the 2, Sean "Kila" Kilpatrick at the 3, JaQuon Parker at the 4 and Yancy Gates at the 5. Its a good group, because its an esoteric group. That four guard starting lineup isn't all that common among power 6 schools. It's hard to prep for particularly JaQuon Parker. He's only 6'3" 200 pounds, but he guards and most importantly rebounds like a 4.
Texas has seen this before with Missouri but there is a difference. A couple actually. One is the pace. Missouri is in the 90th percentile in terms of pace in the country. UC is in the 50th. The other is that the Missouri offense is predicated on great ball movement to get good shots. The ball movement for the Bearcats isn't great. Just 52 per cent of field goals are assisted. So while the lineup that Bearcats trot out is similar to the Tigers, the actual style of play isn't similar at all.
Who do the Bearcats rely upon from the bench, and how are they used?
No one. Not really. Not for offense at least. The Bearcats went to a 7 man rotation in getting to the Big East Championship. The starters plus Justin Jackson and Ge'lawn Guyn, both of whom are used for defense almost exclusively. Guyn can hit the occasional three. But his virtue is his on ball defense which is excellent. He is probably the best on ball defender on the team. Jackson is a tazmanian devil -- and a total Trick-or-Treat player: phenomenal plays on the defensive end are followed by boneheaded plays. Usually the trick and the treat take place within seconds of each other.
Describe to us the types of teams/games where Cincy has struggled. What gives them problems?
Thats a tough one to answer because there isn't one real set answer, and has varied depending on the time of year when the game took place. Early in the year it was the teams who really slowed it down. But now the Cats have won 9 of 12, playing many of them in slow-paced defensive struggles. The simple fact of the matter is that this team is capable of beating any team playing any style. But they are also capible of losing to any team playing any style. It really just depends on catching them on a good or bad day. --Ed: Sounds familiar.
By contrast, when have the Bearcats thrived? What types of teams do they do well against?
The first things that I look for when I scout a team that UC is going to play is look at the turnover rate. If a team turns the ball over often UC is capable of jumping to a lead and sustaining it. The biggest factor in the Bearcats wins over Georgetown was turnovers, and generating turnovers means generating offense for this team. The easiest way for this team to score is on the turnover induced fast break, and after that it's scores from work on the offensive glass.
Building on your answers to the first two questions, if you were building a game plan for Cincinnati, what would it look like?
1. Don't turn the ball over and make the Bearcats defend for 35 seconds
2. Hit the offensive glass hard
3. Extend the defense beyond the three point line
4. Pressure the passing lanes
5. Don't turn the ball over
Any other thoughts or predictions for this match up? Do the Longhorns strike you as a good match up for Cincinnati?
J'Covan Brown scares the hell out of me. But he is the only guy who really gives me pause. In terms of athletic ability its probably a draw between the Horns and the Cats. UC has more experience, in general and in this tournament, and the Bearcats are a tough match up for most teams because of their odd style of play. But Brown can erase all the Bearcats paper advantages. If Brown plays to his averages, then I think UC wins. But if Brown has a brilliant game then Texas can definitely beat this Cincinnati team.