Welcome back to Friends With Bennies, where we sit down with opposing bloggers to talk about their team. Today it's Scott from Bearcats Blog. I answered a few questions for him, which you can find here.
TheUConnBlog: First of all, I couldn't be happier to see Yancy Gates has graduated -- he would have killed UConn this year -- but Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick are still around to take on UConn's backcourt. What's the best way to slow them down?
Bearcats Blog: The best way to slow them down right now is keep them shooting 3s. Kilpatrick's 3 percentage is down from last year. Wright has been in a miserable shooting slump ever since his return from injury. He's 10-49 from 3. He hasn't made more than 2 in a game since January 5.
Kilpatrick is much more of a scorer than Wright. He will slash inside and get to the foul line. He may have to take a lot of shots, but he will get his. Hot or cold, the ball is going up. As for Wright, he has been more of a 3 point shooter lately. He doesn't go to the foul line often. He doesn't really drive to the basket a lot. The key to slowing them down is pushing them off the 3 point line. They will both attempt long range 3 pointers and make some, but forcing their many attempts to be deep is obviously better. And it's worked for teams so far.
TUB: Since Gates is gone, who should UConn be worried about in the frontcourt?
BB: No one seems like the best answer here. Titus Rubles plays around 20 minutes a game. He will go to the basket. He's been brutal from the field at 32% this season. UConn doesn't have to worry about him much if they keep him off the line. Rubles is probably the second best passer on the team.
As for the rest, Justin Jackson has his moments. Cheikh Mbodj can get offensive rebounds and dunk when people throw him alley oops. Kelvin Gaines has no offensive game. David Nyarsuk is a tall man.
TUB: The Bearcats have played .500 after a 12-0 start, is that just a reflection of the schedule, or has something gotten the team off track? How do you think this team stacks up for the postseason?
BB: The offense and defense just haven't been up to par. The team has major scoring issues. They are a bad shooting team who relies on jump shots. Some nights, like last Wednesday against Villanova, they get hot and make a lot of 3s. Other nights, like Georgetown and Pitt, they miss a lot from 3 and they are sunk. They were 8-49 from 3 in those games. UC hasn't hit 61 in any of their losses.
The defensive numbers aren't bad, but UC will through periods where they can't stop people. Georgetown and ND tore them up. Syracuse made everything late, as did Pittsburgh. Late game execution is also a problem.
As for the postseason, it absolutely depends on who they get matched up against. If they play someone who can defend them, I worry that they are going to be 1 and out. With such an experienced back court, they could go far if they end up playing people they can defend and make shots against. That sounded really cliche. If they play Creighton they are in luck. If they play Colorado St, they are in trouble.
BB: I went past the point where I pretend to care about realignment. I want the ACC to do something or just shut up. I have resigned myself to the stupid new Conference USA so if Cincinnati gets out of it, I will be very happy. I'm not going to hold my breath because I don't think anything happens for a couple of years. Even with the Maryland thing going down this spring or summer.
I spent a lot of time sending Valentines to the ACC presidents. I hope they got them.
TUB: Do you have a prediction for tonight's game?
BB: I'm going to say Cincinnati wins. It will be a close game. It will probably be an ugly game for most of the time because that's Cincinnati basketball. UConn's guards can make things happen against Cincinnati's, which is a big concern. Wright is still battling his knee injury and comes out of games late for defensive purposes. The main reason I'm picking Cincinnati is because the prospect of losing 4 of 5 is depressing.