1. Orange::44: What are the things every opposing fan should know about this Bearcat basketball team?
Bearcat Blog: 1) This Bearcats team is a pain to watch on offense. I don't know how many of your readers have watched UC play, so I'm going to apologize in advance. They have 3 players capable of scoring explosions in Lance Stephenson, Yancy Gates and senior Deonta Vaughn, but they go quiet an awful lot. The Bearcats shoot under 30% from 3, and they love to shoot 3s.
2) The Bearcats rebound, and defend relatively well. They have slumped lately, but they are a very good defensive rebounding team. They lead the Big East in defensive rebounding percentage. The Notre Dame game notwithstanding, UC plays tight man to man defense, and everyone besides Vaughn guards well.
3) The Bearcats are good at home and god awful on the road. Unfortunately for the Orange, this game is in Cincinnati where the Cats have only lost to Pittsburgh.
2. Orange::44: Who is the MVP of your team halfway through the Big East slate?
BB: Just in the Big East, it's been Deonta Vaughn. Vaughn was averaging single digits in scoring until conference play started, and is putting up 14.5 a game in Big East play. Overall for the season, it's been Lance Stephenson. Stephenson leads UC in scoring, and is second in assists and rebounds. Stephenson has been banged up lately, missing a game against South Florida and not playing much against Providence, but seems healthy now.
3. Orange::44: What do you think of Mick Cronin as coach?
BB: That's a pretty tough question. I'm sure there a whole bunch of UC fans who don't like Mick because he's not Bob Huggins. Yes, Cincinnati fans are STILL bitter about Huggins getting fire. I like Mick, I really do, but a lot of the fanbase is getting tired of his act including myself. Cincinnati legend Oscar Robertson is not a fan. Mick came into a terrible situation, and has rebuilt Cincinnati to a respectable program. No one thought UC would make the tournament last year, but when they were getting mentioned in late January, expectations raised. UC went in the tank and didn't play in any tournaments. This year, the bar was raised with a McDonald's All American (Stephenson) and the highly touted Gates and Cashmere Wright coming back after missing last season. Add in Deonta Vaughn and people thought UC would compete. However, UC has been horrible on the road. The only road win was against Rutgers. UC gave away a game, literally, to St John's, and gave away another big lead at Seton Hall. Then there was last night. The offense is awful. It makes a Bob Huggins offense look like the 6 seconds or less Suns. Cincinnati is only getting 8,000 a game, which shows the fans aren't buying in. It I don't think the clock is ticking on Mick, but the drum beat for change is starting. It will escalate if UC tanks again late, like they have every year under Cronin. It's not all his fault, but Cincinnati has won 0, that's right 0, games in March in Mick Cronin's 4 years.
4. Orange::44: Cincinnati has not faced a team as talented as Syracuse so far this season. How will they try to contain this Syracuse team and attack the 2-3 zone?
BB: They will play man to man on defense, and may switch up into some zone. Expect to see Rashad Bishop, Darnell Wilks, maybe even Lance Stephenson on Wesley Johnson. As for offense, expect Cincinnati to shoot many, many 3s. Even if they aren't open. Notre Dame zoned UC, and the Cats shot 28. No one on UC besides Stephenson, and maybe Cashmere Wright, drives to the rim. Gates can score down low, but he doesn't demand the ball, nor does he have the highest running motor. UC will look highly disjointed on offense for 5 minute spurts, and you will wonder how they won 14 games.
5. Orange::44: How do you see this game going down?
BB: I think this is going to be a tight contest. The lead won't balloon to more than 9 or so. Seth Davis went out on a limb and picked UC to win, but I'm not that bold. The Bearcats need this one as a bounce back and a resume builder, but I really don't see it. I love this Syracuse squad. Unless they are looking forward to UConn, I think the Orange win by 5.
6. Orange::44: Finally, where do you see Cincinnati ending up at the end of the year?
BB: After last night I said NIT, and while that was an anger post, it's looking like it. UC hasn't played any of the top 4, and end the year with the other 3 who aren't Syracuse.
Thanks again to Scott for answering the questions. Stay tuned here for all your postgame coverage, and check out Bearcat Blog for all your Cincy info and their take on the upcoming game.