Well, it’s finally here. The regular-season finale for your #15 Cincinnati Bearcats (25-5, 14-3 AAC) concludes Saturday at 12:00pm ET in Piscataway, NJ against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (11-19, 5-12 AAC). Oh, how time flies when you’re a Top-25 team.
Tomorrow is more than just the regular-season finale, however. Saturday’s game against the Scarlet Knights holds major implications in both the Bearcats’ AAC Regular Season Title hopes as well as in AAC Conference Tournament seeding. Luckily, Chris Bains has spared both me and you, the loyal reader, from the pain of sifting through those implications in his lovely sumarization of the AAC champion(s) and conference seeding scenarios. Surely, following the Bearcats’ game, all TVs, radios, and twitter feeds will be tuned to the Louisville v. UConn game. On to the preview!
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are currently 7th in the AAC league standings and are coming into Saturday’s game with a 3-6 record stretching from February to early March. Of their last three losses, all three of them were games decided by 6 points or less which includes their 69-63 loss at #19 UConn Wednesday evening. Despite their record, Rutgers is no shrug of a team and one should fully expect the Scarlet Knights to try to head to the Big Ten running rather than limping. An upset of the Bearcats in the regular season finale would surely do that.
The Scarlet Knights offensive scoring comes in the form of Myles Mack, Kadeem Jack, and J.J. Moore, all of who are averaging more than 10 points per game. Myles Mack runs the point averaging 15.3 points, 4.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. He’s an elusive offensive threat that not only can score but can also distribute the ball inside. His apparent Achilles’ heel also leans on his willingness to spread the ball around as he comes into Saturday’s matchup averaging 2.7 turnovers per game. If Guyn can apply enough pressure to not only deny him from the perimeter but also rattle him from feeding it inside, this game becomes much more favorable in Cincinnati’s direction.
In the case that Mack can feed it inside, it will be to the 6’9″ big man, Kadeem Jack. Jack is the Knight’s leader in both rebounds per game as well as blocks per game at 6.7 and 1.3, respectively. He’s also the team’s 2nd-leading scorer. That shouldn’t really surprise anyone, though, as he’s currently shooting 49.8% on the season. It’s going to take pressure from both Jackson and Rubles to contain Jack in the interior. Although many prefer point guard duels in their matchups of the game, I’m quite excited to see the battle on the inside between these three.
The last meeting between Cincinnati and Rutgers resulted in a 71-51 Bearcat win. However, this was nearly two months ago and much has improved in both the Scarlet Knights’ offensive and defensive ends of the game. Both teams will be playing with something to prove and I truly expect it to be a battle until the end. However, the Bearcats are coming off playing their best offensive game of the season against a very talented Memphis squad. Expect the Bearcats to carry their offensive momentum from Thursday night’s game with them into New Jersey this Saturday. Also, expect them to pack their defense this time, too.
As Titus expressed in the post-game last night, the last time Cincinnati lost two games in a row, they went on a 14-game winning streak. The winning streak was started again last night and the Bearcats fully expect to continue it tomorrow and carry it deep into March. Cincinnati 65, Rutgers 54