Previewing the Cincinnati Bearcats vs the West Virginia Mountaineers

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One of the games that most Bearcat fans circle on their schedule is the one against WVU. If you have a breath, you know the connection between Cincinnati and West Virginia revolves around that guy above. There’s not much more to say other than that he made UC basketball a dominant power in the 90’s and early 2000’s, Mick coached under him for a time, his dismissal created a rift between fans and the university’s administration, and now the Bearcats face their former coach at least once a year.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to tomorrow’s matchup:

Key Numbers

Games with the Mountaineers are bound to be high-scoring affairs. West Virginia not only scores the ball with ease (47% FG’s) but also allows other teams to get plenty of buckets themselves (44% FG’s against). This game could become a shootout. The perplexing thing about it is that WVU isn’t scoring in bunches from beyond the arc like the traditional gunslinging offenses of Villanova and Marquette. The Mountaineers are only shooting 34% from three-point-land. With a power forward like Kevin Jones underneith, it appears Huggins has elected to work the ball inside more this season to get the gritty points.

Players to Watch

– Kevin Jones vs. Yancy Gates: Jones has been going apeshit around the rim this year. The senior averages a staggering 11 boards per game. Getting easy putbacks has helped him lead the Big East in points per game (20.4) and come in 9th nationally. He has yet to have a game where he scored less than 12 points. It’ll be a tall task for Yancy Gates to contain him but the fellow senior has been playing phenomenal defense of late and even held super-frosh Andre Drummond to just 4 points on Wednesday. The difference is that Jones is a much more experienced player but Gates has been owning the paint so well recently. This will definitely be a matchup that can swing the game in either team’s favor.

– Darryl Bryant: He does well complimenting Jones on the outside. Bryant is just behind the forward with 18 points per game and shoots the three-ball pretty well despite the rest of his team, outside of Jabarie Hinds, lagging behind. It will be interesting to see how the Bearcats guard him as Huggs will more than likely use the strengths of both Jones and Bryant to get either of them easy points.

– Everybody Who Shoots Threes for UC: West Virginia doesn’t shoot the three-ball well but they certainly lock it down on defense (31% allowed). I’m not sure who it’s going to be (Kilpatrick, Dixon, Parker, Wright) but someone needs to break them. Remember, WVU gives up a lot of points but not that many threes. One of the four sharpshooters I mentioned has to get hot and give Gates room to work on Jones near the basket.

Final Thoughts and Prediction

Playing a Bob Huggins-coached team is never an easy win. As Bearcats fans, we should know that by now. It also doesn’t help that he’s got the horses like Jones and Bryant to carry the team to victories almost every night. But Cincinnati is on a roll winning 10 of their last 11 including a monumental win at UConn on Wednesday night. They are just oozing with confidence but not playing outside of themselves. No player is bigger than the team and that’s the biggest reason the Bearcats have played so well in the past three weeks. WVU is a dangerous team, but UC is just too hot right now and the Mountaineers aren’t the ones to cool them off:

Cincinnati: 77

West Virginia: 70