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Opponent Preview: South Florida

The Bearcats open conference play against the Bulls

NCAA Basketball: Holiday Hoopsgiving-Wofford at South Florida Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bearcats open conference play at Fifth-Third Arena against the South Florida Bulls who come in at 105 in the latest kenpom rankings.

Coach John Brannen and the Bearcats cannot afford to lose this game since it would go down as a Q3 loss on their resume and greatly harm their NCAA tournament aspirations. You and I both know what the Bearcats need to do in order to win this game: play tough defense without fouling, limit turnovers, and get to the free throw line and convert.

Although USF added top 100 guard Caleb Murphy to their roster, they are still one of the least talented teams in the American Athletic Conference. Subsequently, they try to make games very ugly. As a team, they shoot less than 60% from the free throw line and only 45% from the field. Expect UC to utilize Brannen’s his half-court zone defenses to force USF into shooting from distance.

David Collins is the leading scorer for the Bulls but I expect a healthy dose of Mika Adam’s-Woods and David DeJulius to neutralize the Youngstown, Ohio native.

I’ll be focusing my attention on UC’s three seniors to see how they rebound from their atrocious performances against Tennessee. Can Keith Williams get out of his head, stay on the court, and play smart basketball for 30-35 minutes? Can Rapolas Ivanauskas protect the ball? Can Ivanauskas and Chris Vogt sat out of foul trouble and contribute positively to the team?

Fans should continue to monitor the progress of the younger Bearcats to see if they pick up where they left off against Tennessee. Will Tari Eason continue to emerge as two-way force? Will Jeremiah Davenport and David DeJulius continue to be the focal points of the offense?

This is unlikely, but I’m interested to see if Gabe Madsen gets any run against the Bulls.

Bearcats 68

Bulls 56

JUNCTA JUVANT