The Cincinnati Bearcats have looked great in the early going with two blowout victories to start the year, pushing them into the AP Top 25 rankings. Although Albany and Brown are not thought to be much competition, UC has shown the ability to crash the boards and run wild in transition. A couple of early big performances from some young and new faces have made it easy for us fans to look forward to how good we can be, but it is very important to not overlook a solid team like the Rhode Island Rams, who UC will face Saturday afternoon at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut as part of the Naismith Hall of Fame Tip-Off.
Meet the Opponent
After a disappointing 2015-16 season, No. 21 Rhode Island appears to be back on track with its tremendous guards leading the way. The Rams’ hit a bit of bad luck last season when star player E.C. Matthews ended his season early with an ACL tear. Matthews has started strong coming off the injury, posting 20 points per game on 71.9% shooting. Matthews is extremely hard to defend at the point guard position because of his size, as he stands at 6’5” and weighs in at 205 pounds. Across from him will be fellow junior guard Jared Terrell, who is averaging 14.7 points per game. Both backourt contributors will present a lot of problems for the Bearcats on defense and it will be interesting to see who Cronin chooses to guard these talented shooters, you can bet that Kevin Johnson will see a lot of minutes with that task.
Firing on All Cylinders
The Bearcats hot start can be contributed to a total team effort. Although Jacob Evans (21.0 PPH) has stolen the show early on, UC has had all players doing their part on the court. NC State transfer Kyle Washington and junior Gary Clark have done their part on the boards, grabbing 7.5 and 6.5 rebounds per game, respectively. As expected, senior Troy Caupain has been an assist machine with 5.5 assists per game and has been a vocal leader on the court at all times.
The rest of the UC team has filled in where they seem fit. Johnson hasn't provided much offense at all, but has remained a solid defender at the top of the key and is one of Cronin's favorites. Justin Jenifer, Quadri Moore, Tre Scott, and Jarron Cumberland have all chipped in a great deal on the offensive and defensive side of the ball as well.
This battle with Rhode Island will be a tough matchup and a win could lead to an even tougher game against No. 1 Duke on Sunday in the early season tournament finals, depending on the outcome of the Blue Devils’ tilt against Penn State earlier in the day.