Are you ready for some championship basketball? Well you better be, because the No. 12 Cincinnati Bearcats will play the Wyoming Cowboys for some real life hardware on Wednesday. No, its not a national title or an American Athletic Conference crown (that’s for later this season). Instead, its for the title of Cayman Islands Classic champion of the known universe. (I may have added that last bit).
How to Watch, Stream, Listen
- Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
- Television/Stream: Flohoops. Can only be streamed online and you need a subscription. So good luck.
- Radio: 700 WLW AM
- Announcing crew: Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Terry Nelson (analyst)
- Series history: It has been 22 years since Cincinnati last played Wyoming. On Nov. 29, 1995, the Bearcats bested the Cowboys 101-51. UC has won three of five all-time meetings.
Who are the Wyoming Cowboys?
When I think of Wyoming basketball, I think of Larry Nance Jr.
The Cowboys were pretty good when Nance was on the team, making it to the NCAA Tournament in his senior year (2015). They have not made it back since but they did win 23 games last season and are off to a 4-0 start this year, the second under Allen Edwards.
With that perfect record, Wyoming has risen to No. 73 in KenPom’s rankings with a positive reading in KenPom’s strength of schedule rating. Of course, that 123rd-ranked schedule has featured wins against the likes of Chattanooga, Oregon State, South Dakota State and Louisiana at Lafayette, which it beat in this tournament’s semifinals. A matchup with the Bearcats is easiest the highest profile game on the Cowboy calendar.
A balanced attack powered the Cowboys to victory against Louisiana. Alex Aka Gorski scored 16 points off the bench to lead four players in double figures. Wyoming shot 42.2 percent from the floor in the game and made 25-of-30 free throws. Surprisingly, lead scorer Hayden Dalton only managed four points in the semifinals win. He is averaging 18 points per game and is a dangerous shooter both near the hoop and from long range, with shooting splits of .571/.478/.813.
Getting to the line is a key part of the Cowboys’ game, as they rank among the top 100 teams in the country in foul shots. They are also a pretty decent defensive team, ranking 54th in adjusted defense.
Back to Bearcats Basics
This year’s Bearcats are undoubtedly a talented offensive group. With five real threats to erupt for 20 every night, and a few who you could make arguments for, this team can fill up the cup, especially against weaker opponents. However, a Mick Cronin team is never going to be all offense and no defense. That was clear in the semifinals against Richmond as the Bearcats played their best defensive game of the season.
It started with a stifling effort in the first half. Active movement along the perimeter helped keep Richmond off balance, with the Spiders making only 4-of-18 field goal attempts, including a 1-for-8 showing from three-point range. In total, the Spiders were held to 38.1 percent shooting, while being outscored 26-10 off of turnovers. To nobody’s surprise, Gary Clark turned in the premiere day, posting an offensive rating of 166 and a defensive rating of 70 while producing eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Every other player that got in the game had a defensive rating below 90 as well.
In a clash of two teams that have strong defensive roots, the Bearcats should have an advantage. Wyoming doesn’t always have the offensive firepower to balance its defense, even when Dalton is draining shots. Expect a focused Bearcat squad to be aggressive on defense once again and to spread the wealth en route to the Cayman Islands Classic title.
Cincinnati 72 Wyoming 58