It’s Cincinnati and South Florida in the first matchup on the hardwood between Big East holdovers. The Bearcats are cruising right now on a nine game winning streak behind a stellar defense and clutch play from Justin Jackson. The Bulls boast ten wins on the season but are just 1-3 in the AAC with losses to Memphis, Houston, and SMU just stomped them by 23. On the surface this looks like another breeze of a win for the ‘Cats but I’m playing this one more cautiously.
The major reason why is because Cincinnati is going on the road tomorrow night. And not just any road game, a road game at the newly renovated Sun Dome. The Bearcats are 0-4 on South Florida’s home court during the Mick Cronin era and haven’t won there since 2005. The confines of the Sun Dome have clearly been unfriendly to Cincinnati over the past decade.
So here’s to hoping that trend doesn’t continue tomorrow night. Let’s break down the Bulls.
Not too surprisingly, USF is a below-average offensive team. They’re averaging just 69.3 points per game (256th nationally), “boast” a true shooting percentage of just 52.1% (248th nationally), and are collecting just under 10.7 offensive rebounds per game (221st nationally). But where this Bulls team kills you, as with all Stan Heath-led squads of the recent past, is on defense. South Florida is strong on the defensive glass collecting 26.1 rebounds per game on that end of the court (67th nationally) and are forcing opponents to shoot just 42% from the field (119th nationally).
But struggles on offense and an overall lack of depth has hindered this year’s Bulls team. Just two players have started every single game this year and those two players are the only ones on this team averaging over 10 points per outing. We’ll break down both of those players in the next section.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Corey Allen (#4): He’s not the biggest of players, just 6’1″ and 147 lbs, but is a Cashmere Wright-like scorer for Stan Heath. Allen joined the Bulls after two years on the JUCO circuit and has made a huge impact already. He averages 11.8 points per game, the most of any guard, but he turns the ball over quite a bit. Allen’s 1.3 assist/turnover is less than ideal so expect the Bearcats to feed off of that tomorrow night.
Victor Rudd (#2): The 6’9″ 229 lbs power forward is South Florida’s rock. Rudd averages 15.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Three times he’s dropped more than 20 points and has four double-doubles on the season. In general the Bulls go as Victor Rudd goes and stopping him is no easy task. Plus he’s adept at not only getting to the line but draining them too, averaging 73% from the stripe. So clearly Rudd can hurt an opponent in a number of ways.
Justin Jackson v. Victor Rudd: This was an easy one to be honest. Rudd is to South Florida what Jackson is to Cincinnati. Neither team can afford to lose their biggest interior post threat for a long period of time tomorrow night. This is especially so for Cincinnati considering how much Rudd gets to the line and how well he shoots form there. It will be interesting to see these two battle in the low post and who can gain an upper hand. He who does will likely be guiding his team to victory on Saturday.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND PREDICTION
The last three times I predicted the Bearcats to win big, they let me down. Don’t get me wrong, UC beat Houston, Rutgers, and Temple but only the game against the Scarlet Knights was a laugher. And it took Cincinnati to the second half to really pull away. So I’m predicting a close UC win tomorrow night in hopes it causes the Bearcats decimate USF on their home court. We’re playing the karma game here, people!
South Florida: 61