The Cincinnati Bearcats (24-3 overall; 13-1 American) after their rout over AAC speedbump UCF on Wednesday night are coming into Saturday's game against their biggest conference rival Louisville (22-4 overall; 11-2 American). This game is the most important matchup for the outlook of both teams which could determine seeding in the AAC Tournament and largely the NCAA Tournament. This will be the first matchup of Top 12 teams at Fifth Third Arena since Cincinnati sitting at #4 defeated #9 Marquette 63-62 on Feb. 22nd, 2002. Exactly twelve years to the day of this upcoming matchup. Saturday's matchup will mark only the 12th time two Top 12 teams have met in the Queen City.
Besides the rampant fan base of the University of Cincinnati, the people most excited about this game are the two seniors Justin Jackson and Sean Kilpatrick who have had the largest contributions to the Bearcats' success thus far in the season. Mr. Mean Face entered the week with 81 blocks, which ranks eighth in the country. He is also listed in the top ten in the AAC in blocks (first at 3.1 bpg), offensive rebounds (second at 3.2), field-goal shooting (fifth at 57.0%), rebounds (tied for fourth at 7.0) and steals (seventh at 1.7). Jackson talked about playing against Louisville possibly for the last time and their high-powered offense with Russ Smith and company.
"We know that they are a fast-paced offense and they're putting up big numbers offensively and there's really no way to practice against that type of speed," Jackson said. "But we have to be more aggressive on the boards because they got a lot of rebounds falling their way and luckily we still won the last game we played against them. But we'll be ready."
When asked about the t-shirts that will be given out at the game with Jackson's mean face on the front, Jackson simply chuckled and said "It's an honor".
Then there is the All-American nominated guard from Yonkers, Sean Kilpatrick . A lot of Bearcat fans have spreaded around the trending hashtag #SK2K. Kilpatrick is now ten points away from being the second player (Oscar Robertson; 2,973) in UC history to score 2,000 points for their career. In the Bearcats' last game against UCF, Kilpatrick 23 vaulted him past his mentor Steve Logan for second in UC history for scoring.
"It's such an honor for me to pass a great player such as Steve Logan on the scoring list. He's always been one of my inspirations and I hope to see him at every game we play at home," Kilpatrick said. "I really won't take in the stats until after this game against Louisville."
Finally, coach Mick Cronin talked about the monumental battle between the two best teams in the conference come Saturday.
"Louisville is a dangerous team to play no matter what the circumstance. Their offense is off the charts as of late. It's normal to average in the 80s in November when you're playing the mid-major teams. But to average 80s in conference play in February, no matter what conference is incredible. You can't simulate that type of speed in practice...But if anyone uses the logic that we beat them in their house and we can beat them at home is using poor logic. They're going to fight hard and be aggressive. I think Pitino is that kind, no scratch that, I know that Pitino is that type of coach. That's why he's one of the best to coach this game."
Bearcats and Cardinals tip-off at Fifth Third Arena tomorrow at Noon, ET. The game is the "White Out" and is SOLD OUT! Watch it live on CBS and also follow live coverage via Twitter at @BearcatInsider1.