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Cincinnati vs Wichita State Basketball Preview

Cincinnati looks for the 5th win in a row this season and against Wichita State

NCAA Basketball: East Carolina at Cincinnati David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bearcats are riding high, as they enter Thursday night’s game at Wichita State on a season-high four game winning streak. Cincinnati is 14-7 and 7-2 in AAC play after a dramatic comeback and 64-62 win over Houston on Saturday night.

About Wichita State

Wichita State had a dramatic game of their own, losing on a crazy buzzer beater to first-place Tulsa on Saturday night.

Wichita was previously ranked, but have fallen out of the top 25 this week. They are 17-4 overall and just 5-3 in AAC play now.

Out of conference, their one loss came to West Virginia. Mountaineers have been one of the top teams in the Big 12 all season, and won 75-63. Oklahoma, South Carolina, Ole Miss, and VCU are the most notable OOC victories for Wichita.

In AAC play, they lost to Houston two weeks ago and Tulsa last week. Prior to the Houston game, they were stunned on the road at Temple, losing 65-63, to a team that is currently 11-11 on the season.

Worth noting, Temple lost by 7 at home to Cincinnati. That Tulsa team that upset Wichita Saturday? They lost to Cincinnati by 31 points. And the Houston team that beat them? Lost by 2 to Cincinnati.

Wichita scores 73.4 ppg and allows just 63.2 ppg (38th in country).

They are ranked 40th in the latest KenPom rankings and 37th in NET. Cincinnati is 43 in KenPom and 47 in NET.

Players to Watch

Part of why Wichita State struggled in 2018-19 was because they had a young team. Part of their success in 2019-20, is because that young team went through the growing pains and suffered the losses together, that have helped them become the tough team they are today.

This is a very balanced team, in true Gregg Marshall fashion. Seven players play 20+ minutes per game, no one person averages more than 27 mpg.

Erik Stevenson leads the team in scoring at 12.1 ppg and also in steals at 1.7 spg.

Jaime Echenique is second in scoring at 11.1 ppg and leads the team in rebounding at 6.1 rpg.

Jamarius Burton leads the team in assists at 3.4 apg, and also has 10.3 ppg and 3.7 rpg.

History of Cincinnati vs Wichita State

Cincinnati is 22-12 all-time vs Wichita State. The history mostly spans from the late ‘50s to the early ‘70s. Before Wichita State joins the AAC, these teams hadn’t met since 1981.

Wichita State won the first AAC meeting in 2018 in Cincinnati. The game was played at NKU’s BB&T Arena, while Fifth Third Arena underwent renovations. Cincinnati came into the game ranked #5 and the loss snapped their 39 game home winning streak.

Bearcats would get revenge, winning the regular season finale at Wichita, which clinched the outright regular season AAC Championship for Cincinnati.

Cincy swept Wichita State in three games last season, winning 66-55 on the road, 72-62 at home, and 66-63 in the conference tournament semifinals.

Importance of this Game

While this game is significant for Cincinnati, it’s actually not as huge as the recent games against Temple, SMU, and Houston. Cincinnati, with 7 losses, has a very slim margin of error. Given Wichita State’s track record this season, the possibility exists that Cincinnati can lose Thursday and still make the NCAA Tournament. This option only exists in two scenarios - Thursday at Wichita and 3/1 at Houston. Any losses beyond that, may be too damaging to overcome.

The Charles Koch Arena, where Wichita State plays is one of the best atmospheres in college basketball, making it extremely difficult for visiting teams. The good news, is Cincinnati has won two straight years at Wichita State.

Overcoming obstacles

In addition to the crowd noise and the tough opponent, Bearcats may have to overcome their own exhaustion.

This is not the first time, Cincinnati has had plane issues this season - there were issues getting to Tulane earlier in January.

Depleted Bench

Backup center Jaume Sorolla announced earlier this week his intention to leave UC and go play professional ball in his native Spain. Sorolla averaged 3.3 ppg and 2.4 rpg in 15 games.

He was not the most impactful player, but he was a big body off the bench, able to fill in for Chris Vogt. Because their games are similar, in the sense that they are big bodied, strong rebounders, and back-to-the-basket scorers, they were the perfect tandem.

Now, Cincinnati must get more playing time and production out of Mamoudou Diarra, who has been steadily improving over the last few weeks and freshman Jeremiah Davenport, who is averaging just 7 minutes per game.

The Bearcats are down to 10 scholarship players for the rest of the season.