Cincinnati Personnel: The only player of note who returned from last year's 21-13 team is 6-7 SR forward Cedric McGowan, who averages 9.6 ppg and 5.8 rbg. McGowan had a good deal of success against SU last year and has the kind of mid-range game that can give the SU zone fits.
The Bearcats' leading scorer is 6-1 FR G Deonta Vaughn, from Indianapolis, IN. Vaughn is a major talent, but has been asked to shoulder a difficult load as a freshman. He takes over 13 shots per contest and about half of them come from beyond the arc, where he's not terribly effective (28% 3pt). Vaughn is also the team leader in assists.
The rest of the squad is made up almost entirely of JUCO transfers. Juniors John Williamson (6-6 F), Marcus Sikes (6-8 F), and Jamual Warren (6-2 G) are all in their first year of Division 1 play. While they have all made positive contributions this season, they have also been overwhelmed at times. Williamson has been the best of the bunch, averaging 13.4 ppg and close to 8 rebounds. He can score from the perimeter and is also very good in the paint.
McGowan, Sikes, and Williamson form a decent, if undersized, frontcourt. The biggest issue for the Bearcats has been their guard play. Warren and Vaughn have combined for over 80 turnovers and neither is a consistent shooter from beyond the arc. Juniors Tim Crowell and Marvin Gentry get most of the minutes off the bench, and neither of these two players has helped when it comes to perimeter shooting.
Game Outlook: The Bearcats are certainly a talented team, but their vast inexperience in Big East play and their inability to score in a halfcourt set has greatly hindered their chances to be competitive. They shoot only 41% from the floor as a team, and compound that problem with a league-worst 27.8% from beyond the arc. Add these stats together and your answer for Syracuse spells: Z – O – N – E. You can bet that Boeheim's 2-3 will be in full effect tonight.
Another big factor in SU's favor is that freshman lead guards have a history of horrific play upon first exposure to the zone. Vaughn is a rising star in the Big East, but look for him to make his share of mistakes tonight. Rushed shots and poor decisions are usually the main mistakes that zone virgins make.
Prediction: The Bearcats keep it close with tough defense early in the game, but the Carrier Dome crowd starts to get to them eventually and the Orange dominate the interior to pull away with a 10-15 point victory. Syracuse 76 Cincinnati 64