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Cincinnati Basketball Opponent Preview: Who is Colgate?

Colgate, the 2019 Patriot League Champions, come to Fifth Third Arena on Saturday night.

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday night, the Cincinnati Bearcats return to Fifth Third Arena to host the Colgate Raiders. The Bearcats are coming off a loss to Xavier last Saturday and fell to 6-3.

What do you need to know about Colgate ahead of this week’s game?

2018-19 season recap

Colgate finished the season 24-11 and went 13-5 in the Patriot League. As the top seed in the Patriot League Tournament, they beat Bucknell to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament - their first since 1996 and just the third in school history.

As a 15 seed, they lost 77-70 to Tennessee in the first round.

(Side note - ironically, Cincinnati’s next three games are the three other teams from their NCAA Tournament pod from the South Region in 2019. Colgate on Saturday, Tennessee next week, and Iowa a week from Saturday).

2019-20 season-to-date

Colgate comes into Cincinnati on Saturday at 7-4.

After winning their opener against NJIT, they lost three straight road games to Clemson (81-68), Syracuse (70-64), and Auburn (91-62). Since that stretch, they have won 6 of 7 overall, with the one loss coming at Niagara last week.

Matt Langel is in his 9th year as Colgate head coach. He is 115-142 overall.

As a team, Colgate is averaging 74.4 points per game, while allowing 71.9 ppg. Bearcats come into Saturday averaging 74.8 ppg, while allowing 68.9 ppg.

Players to Watch

Jordan Burns is the key guy to watch for Colgate. The 6’0 guard leads the team in points (16.1 ppg on 40% shooting), assists (3.5 apg), and steals (1.4 spg). He led Colgate in scoring last year, averaging 16.3 ppg, and scored 32 points in the NCAA Tournament loss to Tennessee.

Burns’ best performance this season was in a win against Green Bay where he scored 40 points on 14-23 shooting and 8-14 from three.

6’10 senior Rapolas Ivanauskas could pose matchup problems for Cincinnati. He is averaging 12.3 ppg and 7.4 rpg.

Three Questions for Cincinnati

1. What is Jarron Cumberland’s health and mindset?

Physically and at times mentally, it seems like Jarron Cumberland has been far from 100%. This team’s success hangs solely on him.

Based on some quotes from coach Brannen during his weekly media session, Cumberland is questionable for Saturday night as he continues to recover from multiple injuries.

2. What will the freshman trio bring to the table?

Mika Adams-Woods has played really well the last couple of games and eventually should supplant Chris McNeal in the starting lineup. He should continue to play around 20+ minutes a game, as long as he is making positive contributions .

Zach Harvey did not register a minute against Xavier and Jeremiah Davenport’s playing time has been limited.

With Trevor Moore’s decision to transfer and Jay Sorolla sidelined with an injury, the Bearcats bench, which has been an issue throughout the year, consists of these three freshmen and Jaevin Cumberland.

Update - Sorolla is expected to return Saturday after missing the past month with an injury.

3. Will the Bearcats win?

This feels like the only significant question. ESPN gives Cincinnati an 87.7% chance to win. As of Wednesday night, Colgate’s KenPom ranking is #139. For comparison’s sake, Cincinnati is #40. Colgate is a respectable opponent, but while one bad loss is acceptable (Bowling Green), another could lead to a larger discussion come March.

It remains to be seen how good this Cincinnati team is. The win against Vermont last week was the closest thing they have to a complete game (Alabama A&M excluded) and even than, the last 5 minutes were a struggle. Cincinnati must come out and compete for 40 minutes and keep their distance from Colgate.

I see Keith Williams as the key to this game. If he can shoot the ball well and make some plays, in addition to Jarron getting back on track, then I like the Bearcats chances to win comfortably.