Guyn plays a similar role for Cincinnati to the one that Randolph plays for Xavier. He starts at point guard, but freshman Troy Caupain actually plays more minutes than he does, which is the same for Randolph and Dee Davis. Guyn is a solid ball-handler, but not much of a shooter or offensive weapon. He's a hard-nosed kid that is a pretty good defender, but fouls a lot. He's coming off of an 0-for-6 performance with three turnovers and no assists in 20 minutes of action at New Mexico. Randolph has actually been better than Guyn as a distributor and overall point guard so far this year, despite being just a freshman. He's averaging 3.1 assists per game compared to Guyn's 1.1, while turning the ball over the same amount (1.0 turnovers per game). Both of these guys are mostly role players for their teams and they should cancel each other out, but if one outplays the other and makes a few shots it would be a huge lift for his team and could be the difference in the game.
Semaj Christon So (6-3, 190) vs Sean Kilpatrick Sr (6-4, 210)
Kilpatrick is the star of the Cincinnati team for the second straight year. He's a great scorer that shoots 44.4 percent from 3-point range, and 89.2 percent from the free-throw line while getting their at a good rate. The Bearcats rely on Kilpatrick to be their best player and the catalyst to their offense. At times, if he isn't creating offense, they become very stagnant on that end of the court. He's actually spent a decent amount of time on the ball this year initiating the offense as the point guard. He leads the team with 3.1 assists per game, and he only turns it over 1.4 times. Xavier is in a similar boat with Christon. Not only is he the Musketeers' best point guard, but he's also their most talented scorer whom they rely on to jump start the offense. He's been doing a great job of getting to the free-throw line the past two games and knocking down his freebies. One of the biggest keys in this game is how Cincinnati will match up with Christon on the defensive end. Kilpatrick is a decent defender, but he's not as quick as Christon and definitely runs the risk of getting in foul trouble with the way the game is being called now. The Bearcats can't afford to lose him, so it'll be interesting if they try someone else on them. There really isn't an ideal option in their rotation. Xavier has to make sure that they push any transition opportunity and give Christon as many driving chances as possible to get to the rim or the free-throw line. If Xavier can do a good job making Kilpatrick settle for contested jumpers and he's inefficient on the offensive end, then Christon could win this game for the Musketeers with a big, cramp-free performance.
Slight Edge Xavier
Justin Martin Jr (6-6, 205) vs Shaq Thomas So (6-7, 205)
Thomas has not been a big part of the Bearcats' offense this year, despite having a lot of talent and receiving 21.4 minutes per game. He's long and athletic, and has found most of his success when crashing the offensive glass. He's not very aggressive, doesn't look for his own shot that much, and doesn't get to the free-throw line. Martin is coming off a game in which he played his best stretch ever as a Musketeer. His final 10 minutes in the Evansville game had a huge impact on the Musketeers' comeback win. If the Musketeers get that locked in, energetic Martin in this game, then it would be a huge boost. As he showed, he can make a big difference on the defensive end and on the glass. If he's not engaged, Xavier could really get gouged on the offensive boards. This is another match-up where these players should cancel each other out and play relatively small roles in the game, but if either one has that big game then it could make a major impact on the outcome.
Isaiah Philmore Sr (6-8, 237) vs Titus Rubles Sr (6-7, 220)
Rubles is probably Cincinnati's second most important player after Kilpatrick. Though more of a power wing, he starts at the four on this undersized UC team, which gives them more speed and athleticism. Rubles does a little bit of everything on the court. He rebounds well, especially on the offensive end where he's tough to box out. He can score in transition and he gets to the free-throw line a lot, but he's another non-shooter. He makes a big impact on the defensive end, leading the team in steals with 1.8 per game and he also gets lots of deflections, plus he's versatile. Philmore was playing steady and seemed unselfish early in the year when the team was winning easily against Gardner-Webb and Morehead State, but as the team has started to struggle he just hasn't been productive enough, particularly when it comes to rebounding. He's averaging just 3.4 rebounds in 21.9 minutes per game, and he hasn't grabbed more than three since the Iowa game. Outside of a second half stretch against Bowling Green where he scored on four possessions in a short amount of time to aid in the Muskies' comeback win, he hasn't been much of a factor on offense this year. He's coming off a two-point effort on 1-of-5 shooting against a terribly undersized Evansville team. Philmore is going to have to prove that he can guard this faster Cincinnati lineup, as well as keep them off the offensive glass. If not, he may lose some minutes in this one.
Slight Edge Cincinnati
Matt Stainbrook Jr (6-10, 263) vs Justin Jackson Sr (6-8, 230)
Jackson (and the UC coaches) embraced the role of being the team's big man and enforcer down low this offseason, and he bulked up a bit to give him more size and strength to pair with his length and athleticism. He's probably not actually 6-8, but he definitely plays like it. His scoring production has been really inconsistent, and his big games have mostly coincided with the games where he gets second chance opportunities by hitting the offensive glass. He's a really effective shot-blocker at the rim that definitely changes the game in the lane on the defensive end. Stainbrook and Jackson couldn't be any more different as players. Where Jackson is all about mobility and athleticism, Stainbrook is all about size, strength and using angles to outsmart the defender. These guys are probably going to frustrate each other and each will have their moments where they shine/struggle, but unless foul trouble limits one of them, it's hard to imagine that they both don't play solid and finish with a modest double-double.
Xavier Bench vs Cincinnati Bench
There is a lot made about Cincinnati's depth, and the biggest reason the Bearcats' depth plays such a factor is because they have nine guys that are serviceable (and really not all that different in terms of production other than Kilpatrick), which allows them to press and defend aggressively the whole game without having to worry too much about foul trouble. Freshman point guard Troy Caupain has been the most impressive reserve for the Bearcats so far. The youngster has provided a spark for UC's offense, while also showing the ability to create for his teammates and make good decisions. He's even shown more confidence in his outside shot over the last two games, as he knocked down 4-of-7 from beyond the arc against USC Upstate and New Mexico. After Caupain, the Bearcats have reserves that can be inserted into the game without a huge drop-off, but they aren't real productive either. Jermaine Sanders plays the next most off the bench as a three, and sometimes as an undersized four when Cronin goes with a small lineup. He's a capable 3-point shooter, so X will have to keep an eye on him when he gets on the floor. Cincinnati product Kevin Johnson has given them good energy and athleticism when he enters the game, but he's struggled to finish on the offensive end. He's looked similar to Brandon Randolph for Xavier, in the sense that he looks like he belongs already as a freshman, but he hasn't been able to score. Freshman big man Jermaine Lawrence, a skinny 6-10 face-up forward, has played 18 minutes a game but has yet to have a break out game. He's done most of his damage as a mid-range jump-shooter ,and he's also blocked some shots on the defensive end. Xavier will look to Myles and Dee Davis early and often in this game off of the bench. Dee is going to be asked to help handle the Cincinnati pressure, and the Muskies need Myles to hit a couple of big shots to loosen the Bearcats' D up. James Farr could play a big role in this game, as he has the size and length that could give UC trouble, plus he's one player who could spark Xavier's offense with his outside shooting. Jalen Reynolds is another guy to watch in this game. He's a very emotional player, so if he gets any type of extended action keep an eye on him. Landen Amos and Erik Stenger will likely dress, but don't expect either one to play. Amos could potentially see a few possessions as a defensive sub.
This is the toughest shootout to predict since I've been covering the team the last four years. Both teams struggle to score efficiently, and need their star player (Kilpatrick/Christon) to carry them offensively. Defensively, Cincinnati is better than Xavier, but both are good. They also both struggle to get stops at times due to giving up offensive rebounds.There's always a player that comes from out of nowhere to make a big impact on this rivalry, but without knowing who that will be, it seems like these teams match-up pretty well. So, the question becomes, how do they guard each other's star player? Stopping Kilpatrick is easier said than done, but theoretically Xavier has a few decent options with Christon, Randolph and Davis that are all athletic enough to stay with him and strong defenders. Cincinnati seems to be in a tougher spot matching up with Christon. Kilpatrick is a decent defender, but not nearly as quick as Xavier's lead guard, and it's very possible Cronin wants to keep him out of foul trouble. After that, Guyn is probably the best option, though he is prone to fouling, which could also be costly. Kevin Johnson may actually find himself in the game a little more often specifically to match up with Christon. He's probably the quickest laterally on the Bearcats' roster, plus he has great familiarity with the Winton Woods product's game, growing up together in Cincinnati and playing together a lot over the last several years. While this game could go either way, I'm leaning on the game coming down to Christon and Kilpatrick, and I like Xavier's answers for Kilpatrick better than I like UC's answers for Christon. Taking care of the ball and rebounding will be crucial for Xavier to even have the opportunity to pull off the upset though.
Score Prediction: Xavier 65 Cincinnati 63