In roughly 6 hours the Mick Cronin's Cincinnati Bearcats will embark on the toughest three game stretch of the season tonight against UConn. In 6 days UC will face three top 15 RPI teams, two of them on the road before hosting unbeaten and #1 Syracuse on Monday. Getting a win, any win at all in this stretch would be a huge bonus. So what will it take to snatch a win tonight against UConn? I have some ideas.
Turn the Huskies Over
It is no secret that the Bearcats have had the success they have had this year because they are exceptionally good at forcing mistakes from the opposition. In Big East play the Bearcats have been an astonishing +9.8 per game. In UConn's three losses this year they have been -14 in the turnover margin and they have coughed up an average of 14 turnovers per game in Big East play. If Cashmere Wright and Co. are succsuful in converting turnovers into run outs it will give the Bearcats a big advantage.
UC has very quietly become one of the best fast break teams in the conference. Cashmere Wright runs an excellent fast break and when UC goes with the four guard look the all the guys do a good job with spacing and make the correct decisions. More of the same is needed tonight.
Push The Pace
It's an odd suggestion for the team with less depth, but to my mind it is the best way forward. UConn has a big advantage along the front line with Andre Drummond, and Alex Oriakhi. One way to offset the advantage they have as a combo inside over Yancy Gates and whoever is in at the moment, be it Justin Jackson or Cheikh Mbodj is to play the game at a pace that takes those bigs out of the game. Both are gifted athletes capable of playing and playing in an effective manner in a 65 possession game. UC's goal should be for this game to be a 70+ possession game. That would serve to dilute some of the inherent advantages teams with a lottery pick at center tend to have.
These two guys have to do what they did against Georgetown. The pair are capable of carrying the load for the Bearcats offensively and the combo presents some match up problems for the Huskies. Jeremy Lamb is a tremendous defensive player boasting next level length and athleticism, but he can't cover both Dixon and Kila. He has to take one and only one at a time. Without Ryan Boatright the Huskies don't have a ton of flexibility from a defensive perspective. Shabazz Naiper will play north of 30 minutes and can't really be taken off Cashmere Wright for any period of time because Boatright can't spell him and there isn't another PG on the roster. What will wind up happening is that Bazz will play on the PG, Lamb on Kila or Dixon and some combination of DeAndre Daniels or Roscoe Smith will be on whoever Lamb doesn't take. Daniels and Smith a good players in their own right, but in a match up with the suddenly incendiary Dion Dixon or Kila they could have some issues defensively. Remember that the conundrum I just described is the game thing that killed Georgetown against the Bearcats.