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Game Preview: No. 22 Cincinnati Bearcats vs. ECU Pirates

The Bearcats will try to push for their eighth straight win.

NCAA Basketball: East Carolina at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, Cincinnati will travel to Greenville, North Carolina to face a reeling East Carolina team that’s lost seven of its last nine games, including four-straight. This will be the 12th time the two teams have faced, with Cincinnati winning 10 of the previous 11 contests. The Bearcats won both games last year, including a 75-60 victory in Greenville.

Get To Know The Opponent

The Pirates will be without BJ Tyson, their leading scorer, due to a knee injury suffered in their game against Houston on Wednesday. Tyson was schedule for an MRI on Thursday, and is expected to miss two to four weeks. Making matters worse for the Pirates, their head coach is scheduled for hip surgery on Monday and will be out indefinitely to recover.

On the court, the Pirates are one of the worst offensive teams in the country. They rank 329th in the country in offensive efficiency according to KenPom, and are especially bad at three point shooting. They’ve hit just six of their last 36 shots from behind the three point line in the past two games.

With Tyson sidelined, the Pirates will likely lean on freshman Jeremy Sheppard to pick up the slack. Sheppard and sophomore guard Kentrell Barkley are the only real scoring threats on the roster. Sheppard had shown flashes of becoming a solid contributor in non-conference play, but has seen his playing time and production dwindle since conference play began. He’s averaging just 4.6 points per game in ECU’s five AAC games.

#ToblerTime

Even with just a couple of days to prepare for the Pirates, the Bearcats should win this game easily. Expect the bench to see plenty of action after being relatively quiet offensively in games against Houston and SMU. ustin Jenifer could certainly use some extended playing time. He didn’t score in the Bearcats past two games, and only took three shots. The sophomore guard has made modest strides in his second season, but his development pales in comparison to teammate Jarron Cumberland. Cumberland has become a key contributor, even logging minutes in important late-game situations.

That can partly be attributed to the fact that Jenifer is backing up Troy Caupain, and the Bearcats need Caupain on the floor to win these competitive games. However, Jenifer appears to be the likely replacement for Caupain next year, and will need to play more meaningful minutes to prepare him for such a big role next year.

Prediction

If BJ Tyson were healthy, I’d be a little bit more worried. Without him, this game will likely be as competitive as a game against Tulane or South Florida. The Bearcats should have it won by halftime, and Zach Tobler, Jackson Bart and John Koz should be on the court to finish it off. Final score: Cincinnati 82, Pirates 52