We already took a look at why (or why not) it would be good if the Cincinnati Bearcats play Wake Forest in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But what if the Demon Deacons don’t defeat Kansas State in the First Four and the Wildcats become the No. 11 seed to UC’s No. 6 seed? Here are some reasons that would be good and bad.
Pro - KSU Doesn’t Shoot Well at the Free Throw Line
Kettle, this is pot, over.In no way am I saying that UC has the edge when it comes to shooting freebies. The Bearcats’ struggles at the line have been well documented this year, as they have shot just 68.3 percent, good for 244th in the nation. However, Kansas State isn’t very good at the stripe either, which means if the Bearcats get into a free throw shooting contest late in the game, they don’t necessarily have to start shaking in their Under Armour sneakers. Kansas State made just 68.9 percent of its free throws this season, and even thought that number ticked up to 71.8 in conference play, that was still in the bottom half of the Big 12. If UC wants to employ a hack-a-Shaq type strategy at any point, then Barry Brown (61.9 FT percentage, 3.4 FTA per game) and Dean Wade (66.2 FT percentage, 2.3 FTA per game) should be the targets.
Con - Solid on Both Ends
In many ways, KSU is like UC. Even if the national media wants to paint the Bearcats as a defense only squad once again, we know that’s not the case, as they rank 35th in the country in adjusted offense (114.2). Like UC, the Wildcats are a team that plays well on both ends of the floor, ranking 50th in adjusted offense (112.0) and 27th in adjusted defense (94.5). That means that unlike Wake Forest, which runs it fast and isn’t great on D, KSU presents a challenge to the Bearcats akin to playing against themselves. Aside from the psychological implications of playing yourself, the impact of game planning for a team that plays just like you means the margin for error will be much less.
Pro - No Single Volume Scorer
When UC was upset by UCF on Feb. 26, there was one man who really took control of the game and carried the Knights to victory. That was B.J. Taylor, who poured in 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting. Taylor averaged 17.2 points per game this season and certainly fits the archetype of a potent points producer. Kansas State does not have such a scorer, which could mean the Bearcats won’t have to be as worried about one player getting really hot and sinking their battleship single-handedly.
Con - No Single Volume Scorer
In the same way that lack of one true go-to guy can be seen as a weakness, it could also be a strength. If Wake Forest lines up on the other side of UC on Friday, the Bearcats will have to hone in on John Collins. The go-to scorer on KSU is not as easily distinguished. Four different players average in double figures for the Wildcats, with five putting in at least nine per game. Wesley Iwundu (12.5 PPG) is the leading scorer, but by a hair over Brown (11.7 PPG), Kamau Stokes (11.6 PPG) and D.J. Johnson (11.2 PPG). Brown and Stokes are the better three point shooters, at least in terms of volume, but all four players can have the hot hand at any point. The Bearcats are a defensively sound team and shouldn’t have a huge issue dealing with multiple scoring threats, but sometimes its easier to just put your entire focus on stopping one guy and daring the rest to beat you.
Pro - Plays at UC’s Pace
As I’ve already mentioned, KSU and UC are very similar and that extends into the pace of play. Wake Forest is the Fast and the Furious star of these three teams entangled in this No. 6/No. 11 portion of the bracket, while UC and KSU are trying to get roles in heady dramas. UC plays offense at a deliberate pace and has for years. The Wildcats do something similar under Bruce Weber. They rank 269th in the country in adjusted tempo (65.9), which may still be light years faster than UC, but is still a much slower rate than some of the more high-flying programs. Buoyed by such an offensive game plan, KSU has scored 80 points or more only nine times this season and just three times since Jan. 1.
Con - Strength of Schedule
The Big 12 is a decidedly better conference than the American Athletic Conference. An argument could be made that it is the best in the entire country. KSU competed with the likes of Baylor, West Virginia, Kansas and Iowa State this season and actually knocked off Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament before losing by a single point to WVU. Its non-league schedule wasn’t anything to brag about, but KSU still ranked 20th in the country in strength of schedule rating (+10.97) while UC ranked 84th.
Pro - Bear > Wild
Bear preceding cat is a much more unique and enticing nickname than Wild in front of cat. That has a lot to do with basketball and it’s just science.