Cheik Mbodj's ability to protect the paint could make the difference for the Bearcats - USA TODAY Sports
After brushing aside the Providence Friars in the Bearcats first foray into the final Big East Tournament (as we know it) the basketball team will take on Georgetown in the quarterfinals for the second year in a row. This is a Georgetown team that enters the fray with a ton of confidence lead by Big East player of the year Otto Porter.
12 of their last 13. It can be a bit difficult to pick a starting point with this Georgetown team, but that is as good an arbitrary point as any. The Hoyas have won 12 of their last 13. They had an 11 game winning streak through the heart of Big East play and clinched their first regular season crown since 2007-08. The main reason for that run has been the play of Otto Porter who has been nothing short of amazing this year. He leads the Hoyas in points, rebounds and steals while finishing 2nd in blocks and assists.
All of which is sort of old news. UC played the Hoyas a little over a month ago. All that was proved true about them on February 15th is still true. They still make defenses work their asses off with a never ending series of faints, fades, off ball fakes and good old fashion backdoor cuts. Everyone on that team can still pass.
So what do the Bearcats have to do to come away with a win and a shock birth in the semi finals against the winner of the Syracuse v. Pittsburgh game? Put the ball in the basket. If you go back and look at the boxscore from the first game two things are evident. The Cats challenged the Hoyas defensively in a way that few other teams have. UC while trailing by as many as 12 actually took the lead with 6:53 before wilting down the stretch.
When they are on an focused this team can defend like an elite unit. The Bearcats finished the year 9th in efficiency defense with a mark that equates to 88.8 points per 100 possessions. With Cheikh Mbodj the Bearcats protect the paint and have enough athleticism to be able to switch every screen. Mick also has the luxury of being able to throw a ton of different defenders at Porter. I would imagine that Justin Jackson, Titus Rubles, Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker will all see some extended time on Porter. It won't stop him in his tracks, but it will make him work.
But the Bearcats still have to put the ball in the bucket. To that end the spotlight will once again be on Shaquille Thomas. Shaq stole the show against Providence with 5 points, 8 rebounds, an assist and a block. He wasn't efficient, but I could care less. He was often the only Bearcat trying to make something, anything, positive happen. Shaq was not a factor in the first match up, but I have a feeling that he will be in this game, if for no other reason than requiring someone to guard him, unlike some of the guys who have been playing as the second forward as of late.
UC is a rightful underdog in this game. But the Bearcats are that old sports cliche, a team with nothing on earth to lose. UC will be dancing for a third straight year, that much is for certain. All they can really play for is a slightly higher seed. A win tomorrow morning puts UC on the 11 line, possibly even the 10...
Shit. I think I just talked myself into this team