Scouting the Bearcats

Over the next 48 hours, Hawk Hill Hardwood will be rolling out plenty of new content previewing Friday night’s NCAA Tournament game between Saint Joseph’s and Cincinnati. Today, we preview the Bearcats, looking at what makes them tick and what got them to this point.

Mick Cronin’s Cincinnati Bearcats enter Friday night’s showdown with the Hawks coming off a wild 104-97 quadruple overtime loss to UConn in the American Athletic Conference tournament. The game was highlighted by a ridiculous desperation heave with under a second to play by UConn guard Jalen Adams, a shot that sent the game into the fourth and final overtime. In that game, the teams combined to score an absurd 77 points in the extra time. With the loss, Cincinnati found themselves in a somewhat bubbly situation on Selection Sunday. Ultimately they were awarded a 9-seed and a date Friday night in Spokane, Washington with St. Joe’s.

Cincinnati went 22-10 on the year, and 12-6 in the American. The Bearcats went 10-3 in the Out of Conference portion of their schedule, with wins over two Atlantic 10 teams, VCU and George Washington. Their three losses came against Butler (78-76), Xavier (65-55), and Iowa State (81-79).

VCU and George Washington are two of three common opponents between the Bearcats and the Hawks. Cincinnati beat VCU 69-63 and beat GW 61-56. The Bearcats also played Temple, who St. Joe’s beat at Temple this year, twice, losing both times.

Going back to the George Washington game, which was played at the Barclay’s Center, the Colonials gave Cincinnati quite the test. GW led Cincinnati 30-27 at the half, and actually held the lead with just over 2 minutes to go. A Patricio Garino three gave the Colonials a 53-51 lead with 2:52 to play. Octavius Ellis and Troy Caupain made critical free throws in the game’s closing minute however, and Cincinnati got the best of Mike Lonergan’s squad.

Cincinnati’s win over VCU was an impressive one, as it came at on the road at Virginia Commonwealth. The Bearcats did what the Bearcats can do in their 69-63 victory: shut you down on the defensive end. VCU star Melvin Johnson had arguably his worst game of the year against the Bearcats, finishing 0-11 from the field, 0-5 from three, and tallying just 2 points. The Bearcats built a lead as large as seven in the first half, but VCU closed it to a 33-31 deficit at the half. In the second half, Cincinnati built up a lead as large as ten, but the Rams didn’t give up, closing it to a 57-55 Bearcat lead with just over two minutes to go. In the end, the Rams just couldn’t get over that hump, and the Bearcats once again sealed the deal with their free throw shooting.

Temple’s victories over Cincinnati came on the road (77-70) and then at home (67-65, double overtime).

In scouting the Bearcats, two things jump out at you. The first is how tough they are defensively. Then the second is their size. Cincinnati held its opponents to the lowest two-point shooting percentage in the country, at just 40.6 percent. If you take out the quadruple overtime game against UConn, the Bearcats gave up just 59.7 points per game over their final ten games. That’s an astounding, impressive number. They only gave up north of 80 points once this year in regulation, and that was to Iowa State. While the physicality of the bigs jumps out, so does the tenacity of their guards, Troy Caupain and Farad Cobb. The two not only score it on the offensive end, but they get after it defensively.

The Beacats will D you up, and play a physical, imposing, tough brand of defense, Gary Clark is a 6’7, 235-pound utility knife of a forward. Octavius Ellis is a 6’10, 240-pound load in the middle. New Jersey native Shaq Thomas, a senior, comes off the bench and provides versatility, athleticism, and length at 6’7. 6’9, 270-pound senior Coreontae DeBerry comes off the bench for Mick Cronin, and averaged 10 points and 6.5 rebounds in the Bearcats’ last two games. New Jersey native Quadri Moore doesn’t play as much as he likely expected when he committed to Cincinnati, and hasn’t played in the last two games, but he too provides ridiculous size off the bench at 6’8, 230.

While the Bearcats are intimidatingly impressive on the defensive side of things, they are much more human when it comes to putting up points. In their last ten games, Cincinnati only broke the 70 point marker twice in regulation, scoring 88 on South Florida and 75 on East Carolina. On the flip side, St. Joe's broke 70 points in every single one of their final ten games. On the year, the Bearcats are averaging 73 points per game, compared to 77 for Saint Joseph's. Those numbers are also slightly inflated due to huge numbers in early OOC games, like 106 points against Robert Morris, 99 against Arkansas Pine Bluff, and 97 against Western Carolina.

Tomorrow, Hawk Hill Hardwood will go position by position through the Cincinnati and Saint Joseph's rosters, looking at match-ups with insight from the Saint Joseph's coaching staff exclusive to this site. Then on Friday we will roll out a full game-day feature.

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