T Minus 1 hour and counting till the Bearcats host their first Big Monday since joining the Big East. Here are some last minute reads to get you prepped and primed for the showdown with Syracuse. This will also serve as the gamethread
Best game: No. 3 Syracuse at Cincinnati (7 p.m., ESPN). The Orange no longer have a "1" next to their name after losing to Notre Dame on Saturday. Cincinnati is now 10-2 since the brawl with Xavier, including road wins at Georgetown and Connecticut. Syracuse will not have Fab Melo on the inside, which will enable Cincinnati to go with its four-guard lineup more consistently. Cashmere Wright has to take care of the ball, and the Bearcats need to win the battle on the boards.
The Orange failed their first test without Fab Melo, though they likely would not have won in South Bend Saturday night even if he was in the lineup. Tonight, Syracuse tries to bounce back in the place where the bulk of the national media figured they would fall for the first time.
Syracuse (20-1, 7-1 Big East) at Cincinnati (15-5, 5-2), Monday 7 p.m. The Bearcats couldn’t quite hold on in an impressive road performance at West Virginia, so this won’t quite be a first-place showdown in the Big East. Even if Cincy wins, the Orange will remain atop the league. Syracuse showed a surprising vulnerability on the interior of its zone without missing center Fab Melo, but the Bearcats might not be ideally equipped to take advantage.
In any case, don't let the noteworthy absence of a number next to Cincy's name obscure the truth: This is a very good Bearcats team, quite possibly the second-best team in the Big East this season. At the very least, the Bearcats have looked that good these past two weeks. After a home loss to St. John's on Jan. 7, Cincinnati went on the road and beat Georgetown, handled Villanova at home, toppled then-No. 11 Connecticut on the road and, most recently, lost a one-possession game in overtime at West Virginia. Few teams in the country, let alone the Big East, have played this well on the road in the first few weeks of conference play.