For those that are familiar with the play of the Cincinnati Bearcats, they know that one of the biggest issues faces the Red and Black has been getting a consistent effort, game-in and -out, from the players they need to be able to count on. Players like Jihad Muhammad and Armein Kirkland, who have seemed to play better in recent games, have seen their fair share of ups and downs during the early portion of the 2005-06 season.
Much like the ‘Cats, the Blue Demons look like they're going to struggle with inconsistency all season. They have seemed to lack a consistent "edge" for an entire 40-minute period or from game to game. Head Coach Jerry Wainwright is looking for his club to put forth the effort that saw his team knock off the likes of UAB (only home game), Dayton, Wake Forest, and California and jump out to an impressive 7-4 record with a high-RPI of 18. If they can bottle their effort on the offensive end to go with their usual defensive intensity, they could make some early-season noise.
One of the most overlooked, yet crucial aspects of this game will be the play of the bench for each team. Cincinnati, who has added depth to their lineup with the return of Chadd Moore, who gives the Bearcats about eight bodies they like to use consistently, will look to the bench for energy, excitement and quick scoring. The likes of Moore, Muhammad, Ronald Allen (AKA Mr. Too Pumped for His Own Good), and lightly used strong man Erik Murray give the Beracats a nice change of pace and solid athleticism - even on the defensive end. While the guards may be burned from time to time by over-committing/playing their man, the interior shot-blocking ability of Allen and the tenacious, all-out defensive hustle and rebounding of Murray give the ‘Cats valuable minutes when they are on the court.
Depaul, like the ‘Cats, will look to use their bench in an effective, yet conservative manner. The rotation of (starters) (G) Sammy Mejia, (G) Jabari Currie, (F) Karron Clarke, (F) Wilson Chandler, (F/C) Marlon Brumfield, (key subs) (F) Marcus Heard, (G) Draelon Burns, (G) Cliff Clinkscales, (C) Wesley Green, (F/C) Lorenzo Thompson is one that is talented and deep. Athletic and long, the Blue Demons are in a similar boat to the Bearcats in terms of not playing with a ton of size, but they have enough guys ranging from about 6-8 to 6-9 that could create major problems for a UC team that runs a pair of power forwards that are each around 6-6.
While the Demons are not a great outside shooting team, the play of their guards will definitely be crucial - especially off the bench. Possibly the most potent offensive weapon off the bench for Demons will be Burns. Burns (6-4), who is the second on the team in scoring at just over 10 point per game, is a versatile scorer who likes to put the ball on the floor and get to the charity stripe (35-of-40). While he is not a great shooter (.381), this kid can score from all over the floor - including from deep - if you leave him alone (.333 from three-point range). Burns, who is the epitome of a scoring guard, could possibly torch the Bearcats if they are not careful.
While the Bearcats aren't known for their size or rebounding ability, their length, athleticism, and tenaciousness in the paint make them powerful offensive options, especially off put backs and on the run. While Hicks has been the only truly consistent threat for the Bearcats, newcomers Allen and Cedric McGowan have shown the potential to intimidate on the defense end with their strength and shot-changing prowess, and ability to score in the pivot and step out and hit a jumper if left open.
The most important, perhaps game-changing stat for the Bearcats will be there ability to collect off the defense glass. Limiting second-chance opportunities and getting the ball to the outlet to get on the run (the best offensive set for the ‘Cats) will be crucial if Cincinnati looks to pick up their first Big East win.
DePaul will look to the duo of Clarke and Chandler to make a name for themselves against the Bearcats. Clarke, who plays more of a three or small four position, will give DePaul a balanced offensive look. Chandler, a freshman, is becoming a valid threat on the boards and in the scoring column. Chandler is on a hot streak, as he continues to make an impact in his freshman campaign. The 6-8 Chandler finished up the nonconference season with 10 points and 10 boards against FIU.
Player Match-Up to Watch: James White vs. Sammy Meija
Each player is a versatile, athletic scorer, who is leader for his team on and off the court. Both players are long at around 6-6, but play much larger than that with their athletic ability and length. Meija leads the Demons in scoring (15.7) and likes to put the ball on the floor and get to the lane. He is also deadly in the open floor. White, a senior, thrives in the open court but has shown a knack for hitting from the outside earlier this season. In fact, some would say that he is going away from his "bread and butter", on the run or putting the ball on the floor, and is taking too many jump shots. Both Meija and White will be key on the defensive end as well. If they do guard one another (Kirkland may guard Meija at times), it will be key for both players to stay out of foul trouble, as both players will need to play about 32 minutes and score about 15 points if their teams want any shot at winning their inaugural Big East Conference opener.