If Saturday's double overtime thriller against Nebraska left you wanting more offense from the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, Wednesday's matchup against San Diego State should do more of the same.
In a lot of respects, these teams are mirror images of each other. Which means the Shoe will likely be packed with thousands of fans groaning at the offensive output of offense. And millions of eyeballs around the country looking to throw their remote controls through their television.
- Game: Wednesday, December 17 @ 9:00pm ET
- Location: Fifth Third Arena; Cincinnati, OH
- TV/Radio: ESPN2; 700 WLW
Promise me you won't do that to your beautiful flatscreen, okay?
The Aztecs come to Cincinnati after a full day of travel (can you believe there aren't any nonstop flights to Cincinnati from San Diego?) thanks, in part, to a broken football schedule. San Diego State was supposed to journey to Cincinnati for football in 2012 but was pushed back so the Aztecs could play Washington State that year. So rather than fulfill that football date, Mick Cronin somewhat lucks into a strength-of-schedule-boosting game against the #19 team in the nation.
SDSU's focus on the hardcourt? Defense. Rebounding. Effort. Stop me if you've heard any of this before.
Here's a quick rundown of how similar the averages are for these two teams so far in the season:
|Points per game||62.3||61.2|
|Free Throw %||62.1||65.3|
|Rebounds per game||37.3||37.2|
|Turnovers per game||13.3||
And I didn't just cherry-pick the most similar stats. Both teams rank in the bottom 25 in average possessions a game. No one averages more than 10.2 points a game for either team. I could go on, seriously, but we'd be here all day.
So the question is, will the Aztecs out-Bearcat Cincinnati at their own game? In their own arena?
What the 'Cats have to do to win:
- Protect the Ball. The Bearcats haven't forced as many turnovers as I've hoped for this year. In fact, UC's turnover margin is a negative number (-0.5). If that margin's negative tonight, the final score won't be in Cincinnati's favor.
- Keep SDSU off the Line. The Aztecs average 5 more free throw attempts a game than Cincinnati. Their offense - like the Bearcats so far this year - hasn't come easy. Don't give them freebies at the foul stripe.
- Shoot 35% from the Arc. Seems specific, I know - but the point is that the Bearcats have to hit at least a third of their attempted 3 pointers in order to space out the Aztec defense.
Speaking of defense, San Diego State has one of the best in the country, and that should worry the fanbase of any college basketball team - let alone a fanbase that's watched the Bearcats try to put the ball in the hoop this year. On the other hand, though, it wouldn't surprise me to see Cincinnati feed off the home crowd and win a good-old-fashioned-Big-East slugfest (a la their Louisville victories in the past). Allow me to be optimistic for a moment, will you? Okay, done.
I really, really want predict a victory for the Bearcats; it's just a feeling I have deep down. I think the Cats come ou ttonight with energy and focus. But no one in their right mind is betting moneyline on Cincinnati - regardless of how inconvenient SDSU's travel was: Aztecs 54-51.