The players were posed the question if they were aware who would be their Sweet 16 opponent should they reached the second weekend, Cashmere Wright rocked back in his chair and confidently said, "O-State."
While the fans have openly pined for this game to happen on a regular basis, the players want us to believe that this is just another game in the tournament en route to the ultimate goal. However, what is said verbally can sometimes be a contrast to body language.
Well, it's almost time for the game to be tipped, and BearcatInsider will break down the match-up.
CASHMERE WRIGHT VS Aaron Craft
Craft did an excellent job on Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos, limiting him to just 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting. Defensively, Craft will be one of the toughest on-ball defenders that Wright will face. But, don't tell that to the Cincinnati point guard.
"We'll see," said Wright, when asked the question about Craft's defensive prowess.
Wright isn't a defensive slouch, but also acknowledges that defense is a team effort and no one player will be responsible for carrying the bulk of the load.
ADVANTAGE: Wright … Cincinnati's guard is scoring more than two points per game more than Craft, and is as good an on-ball defender as Craft.
Sean Kilpatrick VS LENZELL SMITH JR.
Smith has shown the ability to score as evident by his 28-point outburst against Indiana, however, he is the fifth scoring option for the Buckeyes. Meanwhile, Kilpatrick leads the team in scoring with 14.2 points per game. His two three-pointers last in the Florida State tipped the scales for the Bearcats.
ADVANTAGE: Kilpatrick … Cincinnati needs him to have a solid game to advance to the Elite Eight. In addition, Smith can be allowed to go off offensively.
Head coach Mick Cronin didn't hide his feeling about the kind of player that Buford is when he referred to him as "the college version of Ray Allen." That is high praise for any player as Allen is a premier shooter and scorer. Buford is shooting 35 percent from three-point land and is averaging 14.7 points per game.
Dixon is having the best year of his career, and his steal and dunk against Florida State was probably the biggest play of the game. In the two tournament games, Dixon is leading the team with 13.5 points per game. However, he is only made one of seven three-point attempts. Dixon is only shooting 24 percent from behind the arc.
ADVANTAGE: Buford … Both players have turned up their defense and are good defenders, but Buford gets the edge.
The match-up is the X-factor for this game. While Jared Sullinger and Buford seem to get a lot of the attention, Thomas has quietly turned himself into the go-to player down the stretch. The 6-7 sophomore is legit match-up nightmare with his ability to score anywhere on the court. He is averaging nearly a double-double in the tournament with 24.5 points and 9.5 rebounds.
Parker has made his mark with the intangibles and his overall toughness. Despite giving up six inches against the Seminoles, Parker hauled in 11 rebounds. Once he returned to the lineup, the Bearcats took off.
ADVANTAGE: Thomas … He has really turned the corner offensively, but the next shot he passes up will be his first. Parker won't yield this quietly, but Thomas has been great in the postseason.
Yancy Gates VS JARED SULLINGER
This could be decided by the referees. Depending on how tight or loose they call this game could dictate how effective Gates will be in defending Sullinger. Bigger more physical defenders have bothered Sullinger during the season, but he is a bonafide inside threat that the Buckeyes run their offense through.
Gates' interior defense has been solid in the tournament, but Georgetown's Henry Sims was able to explode offensively in the BIG EAST tournament. His rebounding and defensive toughness, however, has overshadowed his ability to be a legitimate scorer.
ADVANTAGE: Sullinger … Ohio State will run their through the All-American and future lottery pick. But don't expect Sullinger to overwhelm Gates. The fact Gates didn't earn any Big East consideration has seemed to really ignite him.
Neither team is especially deep as only two players – Sam Thompson and Evan Ravenel – played in all 18 Big Ten games. Cincinnati had four players see action in all of Cincinnati's league games. Justin Jackson's energy is something that won't show up on the stat sheet, and ultimately gives the Bearcats the slight edge.
ADVANTAGE: Cincinnati, barely
Under Mick Cronin, Cincinnati has increased their win total in each of his six seasons and repaired a program that was nearly gutted. While his coaching ability has been sometimes called into question by the fans, there is no mistaking that Cronin has brought Cincinnati back to prominence.
Thad Matta is simply one of the better coaches in college basketball. He had Xavier consistently in the tournament and has done the same with the Buckeyes. However, it can be argued that the Buckeyes have not lived up to their talent level when it comes to NCAA tournament runs.
Even. Matta has consistently had the talent, but what Cronin has done with the players, except Gates, that weren't four, five-star recruits, isn't to be taken lightly.
PREDICTION: When the brackets came out, I had Cincinnati in the Final Four and I am not about to turn my back on a team that is playing very well. Their toughness and ability to win close games give the Bearcats the edge in the game. Cincinnati 57, Ohio State 56