"He's going to be a small forward in the NBA," Cronin said. "For them he's a hybrid big guy, he's really not a big guy. The advantage we have when we play a team with two bigs, I don't see that in this game, because he can move. I don't think we have an advantage in the aspect where he has to guard someone he can't. I think he can do it."
According to Ken Pomeroy's Adjusted Defense measure, Cincinnati has the 22nd best defense in the country, making them the toughest defense Ohio State has faced so far in the tourney. Much of that toughness comes from Gates, who led Cincinnati to a double-overtime victory against Georgetown in the Big East quarterfinals with 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals. Without Gates, the Bearcats would have no talented size, which strengthens the case that he's Cincinnati most valuable player if only for scarcity purposes.
"You always like going to the gyms and looking up and seeing the history,’’ Ohio State sophomore guard Aaron Craft said. "But I think if you take a step back, you still understand it’s still the same arena. It’s still the same place where so many great games took place and great basketball teams have played.’’
Believe it or not, the Bearcats are sitting pretty heading into the program's first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2001. With wins over Texas and Florida State last weekend, Cincy got by with defense, as Mick Cronin's club didn't do itself much of a favor with its inconsistent outside shooting. Big, physical and experienced, the Bearcats have shown that they can muddy up any game and be competitive. So why couldn't they do the same against a talented-yet-vulnerable Ohio State squad on Thursday night? If they can, there's the possibility of a third meeting with top-seed Syracuse on Saturday, who the Bearcats have already beaten once (and almost twice). The key for Cincinnati this weekend? Dominant performances down low from senior Yancy Gates, who could prove to be trouble for Ohio State star Jared Sullinger.
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