Preview: Cincinnati Bearcats

The Marquette Golden Eagles will close out the 2010-11 home campaign against the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Marquette Golden Eagles (18-11, 9-7 BIG EAST) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (22-7, 9-7 BIG EAST)

Bradley Center-Milwaukee, Wis.

7:00 PM CST Wednesday

TV:, TWS 32

Broadcast Team: Jim Barbar (play-by-play) and Dickey Simpkins (analyst) will call the action.

Marquette seniors Jimmy Butler, Dwight Buycks, Joe Fulce and walk-on Rob Frozena have what-looks-to-be one final chance to play collegiately at the Bradley Center.

The Golden Eagles (18-11, 9-7) can all-but-cement their status as an NCAA tournament team when ex-CUSA rival and fellow bubble team, the Cincinnati Bearcats (22-7, 9-7 BE) visit Milwaukee. A win would also give the Golden Eagles their sixth straight season of double-digit conference victories in as many years. Of Big East teams, only Pittsburgh can make the same claim.

The task, however, will not be as simple as it sounds. These are not the Bearcats of the past couple seasons. Coach Mick Cronin seems to have found the right mix this season and the team chemistry seems to be better than the past couple of seasons. Also, Marquette's past senior days have not gone as planned. The previous two seasons the Golden Eagles have dropped overtime thrillers to Notre Dame and Syracuse on Senior Day, respectively.

When speaking about this year's Cincinnati team, the one thing that stands out is their balance. No Bearcat averages over 11.3 points-per game and they feature just three double-digit scorers. It's not a surprise then to see the Bearcats rank just 13th in the BIG EAST in scoring during conference games.

What they have been able to do is shutdown opposing offenses, allowing just 62.7 points against in BIG EAST play. The defense ranks 11th in the country in defensive efficiency according to It has looked dominant at times, like last Wednesday at Georgetown, where they held the Hoyas to 46 points on 25 percent shooting.

The mix of size and athleticism has given opponents fits. Leading the way for the Bearcats is their anchor in the middle, 6-foot-9, 260lb Yancy Gates. Gates, has been inconsistent all year but seems to be peaking at the right time. He has put up games of 21, 17 and 14 points in his last three games. Gates' emotion can get the best of him at times, as Cronin suspended him for a game in mid February. In last season's matchup, Gates scored 14 points in just 22 minutes of action.

The ability or inability of Marquette center Chris Otule to neutralize Gates defensively could be the key to the game. Otule, along with Marquette forwards Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder must attack Gates, trying to get him in foul trouble.

Gates is joined in the frontcourt by forwards Rashad Bishop and Darnell Wilks. Bishop has been nursing an injured big toe but is expected to play on Wednesday. Both he and Wilks provide a length defensively and an ability to play inside out on the offensive end. Ibrahima Thomas and freshman Justin Jackson provide depth off the bench. Bishop scored 17 points against MU last season and Thomas scored eight and grabbed 6 rebounds.

While the loss of Deonte Vaughn and Lance Stephenson was huge for UC from a talent standpoint, one can argue the more evenly distributed look they are showing this year might be better for the team.

Cashmere Wright and Larry Davis start for Cronin in the backcourt. Wright averages 9.2 ppg and has done a solid job distributing the ball. Davis provides a solid scoring option and senior experience. While he is solid, Cincinnati brings better scoring options off the bench.

Second and third leading scorers Dion Dixon and Sean Kilpatrick provide a scoring punch off the pine. Dixon, a native of Chicago, Ill., has been more consistent from the three-point line this season. He has also improved defensively, averaging 1.1 steals per game. Kilpatrick, a redshirt freshman, has been the Bearcat's best three-point threat. He has scored in double-figures in nine of UC's 16 Big East games.

While the Cincinnati players may not ‘wow' you with their individual numbers they have been able to put together solid efforts on both ends of the court. Because of their defensive prowess, it will be important for the Golden Eagles to get to the free-throw line rather than settling for jumpers.

The slashing ability of Darius Johnson-Odom and Dwight Buycks will be put to the test on Wednesday night. Additionally, Junior Cadougan can continue to make his case for being the team's best point guard option by setting up teammates for easy shots.

On a night when five Big East teams are in action, no matchup may be more intriguing or have more NCAA tournament implications on the line.

Cincinnati Bearcats Projected Starters

G–#1–Cashmere Wright (6'0" 175 lbs.) --- (9.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.4 spg)

G–#11–Larry Davis (6'3" 185 lbs.) --- (5.1 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 1.0 apg, 36% 3PT)

F–#15–Darnell Wilks (6'7" 205 lbs.) --- (3.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.2 apg)

F–#22–Rashad Bishop (6'6" 220 lbs.) --- (8.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.1 spg)

F–#34–Yancy Gates (6'9" 265 lbs.) --- (11.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 53% FT)

Key Reserves

G–#3–Dion Dixon (6'3" 190 lbs.) --- (11.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.1 spg)

G–#23–Sean Kilpatrick (6'4" 215 lbs.) --- (10.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 39% 3PT)

F–#32–Ibrahima Thomas (6'11" 235 lbs.) --- (5.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg)

F–#5–Justin Jackson (6'8" 215 lbs.) --- (2.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 53% FG)

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