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The Layup Line: Middle Tennessee State

First the Bearcats visited the Bahamas, and now they're headed to Florida to play basketball. While it's 20-something degrees out here in Cincinnati. The life of a D1 athlete, right?

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Ignoring the fact that each member of the Cincinnati Bearcats will be away from their family for Thanksgiving, it's fair to compare the basketball team's travel to that of a wealthy hedge-fund manager. The Bahamas one week; a few weeks in Cincinnati; Destin, Florida for a few days in November.

I recognize it's not all peachy, though, and I think it's a nice reward for the student athletes. These guys work hard - both in and out of the classroom; and that's forgetting the amount of criticism they take for not being absolutely flawless at a sport. But I digress...

  • Game: Friday, November 28 @ 6:00pm ET
  • Location: The Arena at NW Florida State; Niceville, FL
  • TV/Radio: None - but you can live-stream the game at www.emeraldcoastclassic.com; 700 WLW

Let's get the terrible, no good, awful news out of the way first. The news that every Bearcat fan at your Thanksgiving dinner will be complaining about: this game isn't on television.

You can live-stream the game from the event website, though, so hook those computers up to your TVs, invite the neighbors over, and pretend like nothing's out of the ordinary. I can't wait to hear whatever crop of announcers they have for this not-good-enough-for-TV tournament.

If the Bearcats beat the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State on Friday, then the championship game of the Emerald Coast Classic will be on CBS Sports Network. And we'll rejoice. So, let's look at MTSU, shall we?

Like the Bearcats, this'll be the Blue Raiders first contest away from home. MTSU carries a 3-1 record - their only loss coming against Murray State a week and a half ago. Oh, and the teams they've beaten really aren't impressive.

Here's what I do know, though: the Blue Raiders have 8 guys that regularly log minutes each game.

Their leading scorer, Reggie Upshaw (#30 in your program) is a 6'7" sophomore forward who averages 11.3 a game. Just behind him in scoring is guard Marc Tarrance (#23) at 10.5 a game and forward Jacquez Rozier (#42) at 9.5 a game.

The Blue Raiders have 3 guys that have taken 18 or more shots this year and have made those at better than 51% from the field. And that's counting a 12-66 (18.2%) team effort in their loss to Murray State.

Relatively balanced scoring, I guess. Same can be said for rebounding; e'erybody's doing it down in the middle of Tennessee.

What the 'Cats have to do to win:

  • Play great team defense. They're not a huge threat from deep, but MTSU can spread things out - so if the Bearcats eliminate just one guy, 2 or 3 more might step up and fill the void. Teamwork makes the dream work on Friday.
  • Win the turnover margin. The Blue Raiders have a +2.8 turnover margin on the season. Bearcats have to force more than they make to be victorious.

This game wouldn't have concerned me at all last year just due to the defensive versatility several players had on that team. The good news, though, is that UC's had 4 different leading scorers in 4 games. The good news continues for Cronin and crew leading up to Saturday's first big test: Bearcats win 59-52.