It’s a match of the Cats. The 6th seeded Cincinnati Bearcats will play against the 11th seeded Kansas State Wildcats on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Like I’ve said in my previous posts, the team have been waiting for March to come and it’s time to lay everything out on the court. Coach Cronin and his team left Tuesday night and should be in California now to get adjusted to the time change and get some practice time in before the big game.
Now let’s look at our opponent
The Kansas State Wildcats are led by 5th year head coach Bruce Weber and hails in the Big 12 conference. Coming into the tournament they have a 21-13 record with their 21st win against Wake Forrest last night. Even though they had a lot of losses they had great wins against 7th ranked West Virginia and beat the 2nd ranked Baylor Bears, twice. They could’ve had a shot in the Big 12 Conference Tournament finals but they lost to West Virginia in the semi’s by 1 point. Senior forward Wesley Iwundu is the go to guy on the Kansas State roster. He leads the team in scoring and rebounding. Last night against Wake Forrest, Iwundu scored 24 points. 4 of their starting 5 scored in double digits last night combining a total of 78 points. The rest of the team scored 17. Don’t sleep on this team, they’re really good. The Wildcats really distribute the ball well and defend hard too. It won’t be easy for the Bearcats Friday night.
I hope by now that the Cincinnati squad got rid of the SMU loss out of their heads. Now it starts a new season. To win the match up against Kansas State will be 2 things. Defending and the bench. Cincinnati is known for their hard, tough defense. I believe that if this team forces Kansas State to turn over the ball, block shots, and draw fouls, Cincinnati’s offense will come to them. In the past couple of games, they forced way too many shots, which made them miss, to get back into the game. Defending is key to any game, defense wins championships. Kansas State makes 46% of their shots and 36% of their 3 pointers. I’m expecting a suffocating Bearcat defense on Friday. They have a 4 players who average in double figures. In a sense, the Wildcats are much like the Bearcats but we have the advantage of a better bench. Bench players Jarron Cumberland, Tre Scott, Justin Jennifer, and Nysier Brooks all have to step up. If we get into a case if Kyle Washington commits early fouls, Cronin will have no choice to put in Brooks and Quadri Moore (God forbid). Even Cronin has stated that the bench will be key for Cincinnati’s success in the Tournament. It gives those players minutes and our starting 5 fresh and alive. Cumberland is a star and it definitely is showing. He pushes the tempo a lot and goes to the basket every time. We need his energy and everyone else’s to carry us through tough games.
A lot of people in the public has this game as an upset by the Wildcats, which I hope is not the case. I’d love to win this round and get a chance against UCLA (If they are to win their game). I really hope Cronin is stressing the importance of defending and rebounding for this game. We have to rely on that strong, defensive effort to get our offense rolling. I feel that their game in early March is not as what it was during their undefeated tenure in February. I just can only hope that it’s better on Friday. Senior leaders Troy Caupain and Kevin Johnson knows what’s at stake. I know they don’t want their season to finish, just yet. They have much more to prove and show the world what they’re capable of. This is their time, their moment. Can’t wait for the game on Friday. It’ll be a tough one for sure. GO BEARCATS! (FYI, the last time the Bearcats were a 6th seed in the NCAA tournament, they went to the Sweet 16, just saying)