Cincinnati is playing with a narrow margin of error as they reach the latter parts of their regular season slate. The Bearcats, sporting an 18-7 overall record and an 8-4 record in the American Athletic Conference, find themselves on the fringe of the current bracketology projections and need to close out the rest of their schedule strong. East Carolina is the next team on the docket.
Meet the Opponent
East Carolina is a bottom-feeder in the AAC this season with a 2-9 conference record and a 10-14 overall record. While it doesn't make much sense, the Pirates' two wins, in conference, have come against Temple and Memphis by a combined four points. Still, East Carolina is being outscored 80.2 points per game to 69.5 in conference games, which doesn't bode particularly well for the Pirates. For what it's worth, the Pirates are coming off a 100-92 loss to Tulane that came down to triple overtime.
On the court, B.J. Tyson is the guy to watch for the Pirates, averaging 15.5 points per game and five rebounds per game while shooting 43.7% from the field. Three other players contribute more than 10 points per game with Caleb White (12.8 ppg), Kentrell Barkley (10.3 ppg) and Prince Williams (10.1 ppg) playing big-time minutes. Barkley is the team leader with 6.2 rebounds per game while Williams dishes out 4.1 assists per game.
Shutdown the Three
This is essentially a given focal point week in and week out now for these game previews. Despite giving up points in bunches to good three-point shooters against the matchup zone defense, the Bearcats...well... continue to give up points to good three-point shooters.
On Tuesday, Cincinnati allowed UCF's Matt Williams to find an incredible rhythm en route to an 18-point first half. While Williams would only finish with 24 when the comfortable Bearcats win was all said and done, the shooter was able to hit half of his three-pointers on the game, going 6-of-12.
East Carolina doesn't shoot the ball as well as UCF as a team, statistically speaking, but has guys like White and Prince Williams who are hitting 38.2% and 40.3%, respectively. The Pirates shouldn't be able to make this a game, but if they do, it will likely be thanks to a big game from a solid deep-ball shooter.
The Curious Case of Octavius Ellis
After entering the season as one of the top players to keep an eye on in the AAC, Octavius Ellis has struggled to make the consistent impact like so many expected. The senior is currently averaging 9.7 points per game and is reeling in 6.8 rebounds per game.
Ellis is capable of even more and that became even more apparent when he scored 10 points and secured 14 rebounds on Tuesday against UCF. Now the question is; is he turning a corner? Gary Clark has overshadowed Ellis in the paint this season, but if Ellis returns to form over this final stretch, the Bearcats could have quite the productive combo down low.