Since the infamous brawl in their rivalry game against the Xavier Musketeers, Buzz Williams thinks the Cincinnati Bearcats are a completely different team.
In the six games during which senior forward Yancy Gates was suspended, the Bearcats went 6-0, and currently are 7-4 in the Big East, fifth in the conference.
Williams also lauded Bearcats coach Mick Cronin's response to the incident, noting the job he has done in charge this year.
"I think they're way better (since the brawl)," Williams said. "Mick Cronin is arguably coach of the year, the job that he's done."
"You lose all of those guys for 4, 5, 6 games, and then to have the response that they've had as a program, including Mick's immediate response after the game, I think that speaks a lot of him, I think it speaks a lot of their team. I think they're really good."
Gates is the best known Bearcats player, and is averaging 12.7 points and 9.2 rebounds in 18 games this year.
Redshirt sophomore Jamil Wilson noted Cincinnati's size advantage over the Golden Eagles, especially Gates. He said they'll just have to focus on doing what they do best to get the best of Gates and company.
"They've got a couple big guys down there," Wilson said, "but you just got to use what you have and what you're blessed with. So I guess I'm just going to try to outrun Yancy, too."
Cincinnati's leading scorer is sophomore guard Sean Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick hit a game-winner at UConn earlier this year, and is the Bearcats' go-to-guy, averaging 15.4 points and 5.0 rebounds for Cronin's team. Kilpatrick is a threat from all over the court, shooting 39.5 percent from beyond the arc on 167 attempts, and is 43.6 percent from the field
Next on the Bearcats' scoring charts is senior guard Dion Dixon, at 13.5 points. Dixon is struggling from the field this year, shooting 37.5 percent overall and 27.8 percent from three-point land.
Six-foot junior guard Cashmere Wright is the last Bearcat who averages double-figures, at 10.0 points. Wright shoots 39.5 percent from beyond the arc, completing the trio of Bearcats who are constant threats from three-point range.
Junior Jaquan Parker is a 6-3 junior guard from Suffolk, VA, and played high school basketball with Marquette sophomore forward Davante Gardner, who is doubtful for Saturday's game. Parker isn't too much of a threat from beyond the arc, but does average just over 2 attempts a game. He averages 8.3 points per game and 4.7 rebounds.
Sophomore forward Justin Jackson averages 5.2 points, but 4.3 rebounds. The 6-8 forward's numbers are impressive for averaging 22.7 minutes per game, a number inflated by playing time he received during Gates' absence.
Marquette senior Jae Crowder noted the Bearcats streakiness. Before winning their last two games, Cincinnati went on a three game losing streak, which was preceded by a three game winning streak.
Without Gardner, Crowder will be asked to play down-low again, alongside Wilson. He says that he and Wilson need to focus on playing their games, instead of focusing on containing the Bearcats.
"They're a hot-cold type team," Crowder said. "They're very capable of coming in here and beating us. They have big bodies with Yancy Gates down low, tremendous guards as well. We know if we play like we know how to play, we'll be fine."
The game is also on National Marquette Day, which Williams admitted is a very special day for not only the school, but the program as a whole.
"I wish every Saturday was National Marquette Day," Williams said, "because we'll need everybody who's going to be there to have a chance to beat Cincinnati. I think it's great."
"Obviously, I wasn't smart enough to be admitted here, so for all of those people that were, for this to be their annual game that they attend, and I know that there are watch parties at different locations throughout the country, I think that says a lot about the institution. I don't know if Cincinnati has ‘National Cincinnati Day,' so I think it says a lot about our place."
Crowder said that not only do the Golden Eagles want to win on National Marquette Day, but they have another goal in mind.
"It's big. We know it. It's big for our school, the alumni," Crowder said. "We're trying to keep that undefeated record at home (in conference play). Only two teams in the Big East are doing it right now, us and Syracuse."
Trebby's Keys to the Game
1. Run the floor: Cincinnati's guards aren't nearly as quick or athletic as Marquette's, so as they did against DePaul in the second half, playing with their controlled aggression, with Junior Cadougan at the helm of the attack, is a must for the Golden Eagles.
2. Rebound: The Golden Eagles shouldn't expect to outrebound the Bearcats on Saturday, as that is a very, very difficult task. But, they need to hold their own. Don't let Gates and company take control of the paint, and rebound as a team, something Cincinnati does very well.
3. Get the crowd into it early: It's going to be a sell-out on Saturday at the Bradley Center, as it is National Marquette Day. The crowd will be itching to get loud early and often, so the Golden Eagles should give them a reason to. A lead going into the half would be great, with their tendency to turn it on in the second half, especially at home.
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