I haven't have time for the usual histrionics as Senor Liberty Bowl and the accompanying festivities really conspired to rob me of time to devote to this game. What I do know is that these are two teams that are having quite divergent paths of late. The Bearcats have been through one of the strangest and trippiest experiences possible for a college Basketball team to experience. From the fight and the corresponding wall to wall coverage leading up to the Wright State game, then quickly dispatching three clearly over matched squads in heartening fashion to Thursday nights game with Oklahoma that still defies any form of sober and reasonable explanation.
Meanwhile Pitt has been busy proving that the warning signs exhibited early in close contests with Rider, LaSalle and the loss to Long Beach State are now problems of a hair and full throated variety. They have proved that in back to back losses to Wagner and Notre Dame. None of the Panthers losses are bad per se. But they are signs that the 2011-12 Panthers might be lesser than the sum of their parts.
So while the teams are heading in somewhat divergent directions at the moment the Peterson Events Center is a tough place to play and the Bearcats haven't beaten Pitt in Pittsburgh since 1979. What's it going to take.
One of the biggest reasons that the Bearcats were even in a position to win the Oklahoma game was an abnormally high turnover margin. Cincinnati was +9 against the Sooners primarily because Cashmere Wright has been rock solid in his ball handling and decision making.* Meanwhile the Panthers have been on the wrong side of the turnover margin in five of their last six games and have averaged a hair under 13 turnovers per contest during that stretch. With Pitt all but guaranteed a big time advantage on the boards the Bearcats can't waste possessions on offense.
* Since the suspensions went into affect Cash's assist to turnover ratio has been 31/5 and he has not surrendered multiple turnovers in a game since the Wright State game. He has carried a heavier scoring load but is playing the best he's played as a point guard in this stretch
Fire It Up From Deep
The Bearcats had one of their worst shooting performances of the last few years against the Sooners. File that away in the strange but true folder in the drunk drawer in your head. It was going to happen at some point, law of averages and what not. But to have Cash, Dion Dixon and the resurgent Jaquan Parker all go cold simultaneously was a shock. The Cats need to put that behind them and continue to fire it from distance, percentages be damned.
This is not a typical Pitt team in that they don't play typical Pitt defense. They don't turn teams over at that high of a clip just 15 per cent of possessions, compared with 24 for UC. And Most spectacularly they don't defend the three point line, particularly in their losses. Long Beach State, Wagner and Notre Dame shot 37 per cent from 3, and none of those teams are what you would call great three point shooting teams. Above Average is probably nearer the mark. Pitts defense will present plenty of opportunities for the Bearcats marksmen from deep. They have to take those shots and convert to win.
Something From The Post Would Be Nice
Against Oklahoma the post combo of Justin Jackson and Kelvin Gaines combined for 9 fouls. 10 is the sum total of the former high school teammates other statistical contributions to the cause. 2 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block. All that in 27 minutes of combined work.
That's obviously not good. Simply put the Bearcats need more from Gaines and Jackson to beat Pitt, even an off balance and reeling Pitt on their home floor. I could care less about the score. But these are two guys who's entire existence in the rotation is predicated on playing interior defense and rebounding. Neither brought much to the table against Oklahoma. They have to do it against Pitt. Jermaine Sanders is a guy who I really like. But the fact that he played all 8 crunch time minutes during the comeback at CENTER and the Bearcats somehow won the game is a borderline miracle. Gaines and Jackson need to understand that they are playing for their lives right now. Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj are coming back and there isn't space in the rotation for four posts in this new offense. Either Jackson or Gaines is going to the bench. They need understand that and play the Pitt game like their spot depends on it. Because it does.
Check in later for the game thread