The Cincinnati Bearcats welcome another quality opponent into Fifth-Third Arena tonight in the form of the Furman Paladins. Furman has a 4-0 record with all their wins coming in blowout fashion against two Division II schools, South Carolina Upstate, and College of Charleston. Kenpom ranks the Paladins at 64 while the Bearcats are just in front of them at 63. The Paladins return almost their entire team from last season with the exception of their leading scorer. They are a strong offensive and fundamentally sound team that will punish Cincinnati if the Bearcats play defense like they did against Xavier.
Through four games, the Paladins have been red hot from the floor. They come into tonight’s contest shooting 52.5% from the field which is absurd and 34.7% from three, but their 76.5% from the charity stripe is what stands out the most. The Paladins have five players that average more than ten points per game with Mike Bothwell as their new leading scorer at 21.8 ppg. Bothwell, Alex Hunter, Joe Anderson, and Jaylon Pugh all shoot above 40% from behind the arc. Some of those percentages may be a little inflated because of the small sample size but they still show that this is a dangerous team from deep.
Expect Furman to use a zone to defend UC since the Bearcats are only 9/43 from beyond the arc so far this season. Brannen and Co. will have to attack the gaps of the zone and feed the big men to take advantage of Furman’s lack of size. Also, the Bearcats will have to find a way to be more nimble on defense to keep up with the smaller Paladins. I would not expect Chris Vogt to lead the Bearcats as he did on Sunday because he is just too much of a defensive liability.
I would like to see more minutes for Jeremiah Davenport and Zach Harvey as well as a bounce back game from Mika Adams-Woods. David DeJulius will continue to emerge as the offensive leader if Keith Williams keeps fading in and out of games. If the Bearcats can punish Furman for their lack of size, they can win by double digits.
This game will show whether or not Brannen can make the proper adjustments and how mentally tough this Bearcats team is. If Chris Vogt is getting abused defensively, you have to take him out. If Furman is slicing and dicing our man defense, switch to zone and challenge Furman to shoot over our length.
It’s early in the season, but this is a must win for Brannen’s team especially with a very good Tennessee Volunteers team on the horizon. Judging by last season, Brannen was 9-1 after losses. Let’s continue that trend tonight.