The Cincinnati Bearcats are in the NCAA Tournament. That much we know. What’s unclear at this point is just where they will be slotted on Selection Sunday. Right now they are sitting anywhere from a 9 to 11 seed depending upon what source you use and at the very minimum UC will play two more games. To be honest I was initially going to write this post with the theme of taking the day off because the Bearcats are now safely in the Big Dance. For the health of my heart (the past 2 weeks have been crazy) it seemed like it would be nice to relax while watching a Big East game without having to worry about whether Cincinnati won or not.
But after thinking about it for a few minutes, I realized that was absolutely insane. In pro football when a team has locked up a first-round bye in the playoffs with three weeks left in the season, head coaches always face the dilemma of resting their starters or having them play out the final games. I’m n the camp that keeping your starters in a rhythm and building momentum before the playoffs is always a good thing. That’s not to say that I was initially thinking Mick Cronin should rest Yancy, Cash, Killa, Dixon, etc. for Guyn, Davis, Eppensteiner, etc tomorrow but I wouldn’t be overly excited if they beat the Wildcats or disappointed if they lost. Basically that final statement still holds true but I still want the starters to continue to play with a fire in their bellies.
So with that stupidity behind us, let’s get to Villanova:
The Wildcats are the best rebounding team in the Big East averaging just under 40 per game. Villanova has won just 5 Big East games this season but has won the rebounding battle in every single one of them. They are 6 – 6 in the rebounding battle in 12 losses. It’s no secret that if Cincinnati controls the Wildcats on the boards their chances of winning increase exponentially. But another key for the Bearcats is to press Nova and press them hard. Despite having a talented point guard in Maalik Wayns the Wildcats have a horrible assist to turnover ratio (0.88). That’s third worst in the conference. UC players with quick hands such as Cashmere Wright and GeLawn Guyn could for a lot of turnovers tomorrow.
Players to Watch
Maalik Wayns (#2): He dropped a 5/3rd-best 39 on the Bearcats the last go around as Cincy squeaked by with a four point victory. But Wayns has been hampered by a knee injury he suffered a month ago against the Providence Friars. While he’s officially back in the starting lineup it’s clear he isn’t anywhere close to 100% healthy. I never root for a player to be injured (that’s just morbid) but let’s just say Cincinnati is better off if Wayns is slowed down by that knee tomorrow afternoon.
Yancy Gates vs. Mouphtaou Yarou (#13): Both players have been gobbling up rebounds well in the past few game; Yarou tallying 6, 7, and 11 boards with Gates snatching 10, 10, and 13 over that same stretch. Most importantly Yarou had 10 defensive rebounds against Rutgers on Thursday night which prevented the Scarlet Knights from having extra chances to score points. There’s no lack of scoring when playing the Wildcats and Cincinnati will need those extra possessions to keep up the pace.
Final Thoughts and Prediction
Winning in the bandbox that is The Pavilion is one of the most difficult feats in college sports. Villanova fans do a great job packing that joint to the rafters and making it an imposing environment for visiting teams. But Cincinnati is playing with house money right now as they have already punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament with the win over Marquette on Wednesday. All wins from this point on are just for seeding. That fact should by no means insinuate that Mick Cronin will let his boys take the pedal off the metal. Dude works too hard and demands so much from his team to let them take the night off. Bearcats roll tomorrow: