Opponent: Pitt Panthers
Record: 20-2 (8-1)
Last Five: 4-1
Venue: Peterson Events Center
TV: FSN Ohio/Big East Network/ESPN3
This will be brief because, let's face the fact straight away. It will take a herculean effort for this Cincinnati Bearcats team to beat Pittsburgh at the Peterson Events Center. Notre Dame game aside Pitt has done little wrong all season long. Their defense has been fantastic and their offense is currently rated as the most efficient outfit in the country by Kenpom.com. What makes this game a near lock for Pitt is their rebounding. When Yancy Gates and Ibrahima Thomas are interested and engaged in the game UC is a very good rebounding team, but neither of those guys is always interested and the moments when both of them have been interested have been few and far between. Both of those guys have to show up, that means no stupid fouls early, no hard shows and the inevitable reaches on the high pick and roll. It is vital for UC's chances for Yancy to play his customary 30+ minutes.
When I watched Ben Hansbrough eviscerate this Pitt defense during the Panthers only loss in the month of January I thought it might bode well for UC's chances in this game. But the cold eventuality dawned on me during this week off. Notre Dame went into that burn offense where they run the clock down give the ball to Hansborough and just let him go make a play and that worked wonders for the Irish, but I don't think that will work nearly as well for the Bearcats. UC is essentially in a burn offense all the time and the reason is simple. In Basketball as in Football the key for any team hoping to pull an upset is to shorten the game and limit possessions. That is what this UC team does all the time. UC plays so many games in the 60's because they always try to limit the oppositions possessions by playing on a geological time scale on offense and by making teams work on offense for 94 feet. What made the burn offense so effective for Notre Dame was Hansborough the Younger and his ability to first of all get quality shots off the dribble and second make them. That was the difference in that game down the stretch. The difference though is that UC can't use the Notre Dame gameplan to beat this Pitt team. There simply aren't enough players on the roster who can make the kind of plays Hansbrough made down the stretch in that game. UC has a ton of spot up shooters, a ton of guys who can make contested shots if their feet are set, but no one who can make pull up jumpers off the dribble. The only person who has shown the slightest propensity for doing just that in the past month and a half is Cashmere Wright who reigned jumpers on West Virginia last Saturday. Cash needs to have a better game against Pitt than he did against WVU for UC to have even the slightest chance. But when you look at his performance on a game by game basis last Saturday's performance was an anomaly. UC needs another offensive anomaly from Cash or someone else. If everyone on the team regresses to their mean offensively this game will be a slaughter.