In getting ready for tomorrow's contest against the Cincinnati Bearcats, I asked Scott at the Bearcats Blog (& this is his Twitter) for some insights into the Cincinnati team. At 3-3 in the Big East, the 'Cats are right in the middle with St. John's in the standings. This is an important battle in the league's creamy middle, as I will discuss later in the pregame post - coming in a few hours.
1. The first question is the one that comes up whenever some media/ blog pundit discusses St. John's "Are the for real?" I assume that your team is not made of ghosts and fictions, but I'll ask the question anyway: "Are the Bearcats for real?" (Please define realness, and not in hip hop terms.) Is their top-25 ranking deserved?
I think the definition of realness is if the team is an NCAA tournament caliber team. I think that they are for real. This team is better than the version from last season, which was held in higher regard because of Lance Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn. The wins are kind of hollow outside of Xavier, mainly because Dayton isn't very good. There was bound to be a wobbly stage with the tough schedule to start conference play, but now we see what the team is. I think they are for real though.
As for the ranking, no. I didn't think they ever deserved to be ranked, and I'm pretty sure that I wrote that. If anything, they should have been ranked after the Xavier game. It's good to see a number by your name though.
2. The Bearcats have very strong turnover numbers, and those have stayed fairly constant in Big East play, it seems. What does Cincinnati like to do on defense that has been so effective? Is their defense dependent on stealing?
They put on a press that gets some turnovers. The guards are tough, in your face defenders. Both Cashmere Wright and Dion Dixon get over a steal a game. Rashad Bishop is a very good defender, as is Ibrahima Thomas for the most part. They play hard for the most part on D, but have some lapses like everyone does.
The defense doesn't give up a ton of 3s. They are one of the better 3 point defending teams in the country.
3. So Yancy Gates... explain his game and his pluses and minuses to my peoples out here.
Yancy Gates when he is willing and ready, he's a monster. He can take nearly anyone off the block, either inside, or with a jumper he's developed. He can be a force on the offensive glass, and will block some shots.
The big thing is the motor. People have been questioning it a lot the past 2 seasons. He's got a ton of talent, and he doesn't seem to want to turn it on all the time. It's evident the way he rebounds, or rather, doesn't rebound. He had 3 against Syracuse, even though he was hurt, and I think he had 5 last night.
4. Has anything improved about the offense? Who are the go-to guys and have they maintained their effectiveness in Big East play? (And why doesn't Sean Kilpatrick start?)
The offense has gotten worse. Rashad Bishop killed the smaller competition, but has struggled as of late. Ibrahima Thomas is 6-20 the past 4 games, with a couple of scoreless efforts. The 3 point shooting has started to turn around after the Nova game, so that's good.
The go to guys are Dion Dixon, the leading scorer, Sean Kilpatrick off the bench and Gates. One of those 3 will take most of the shots for the Bearcats.
There has been a fan revolt going on about seeing Kilpatrick in the starting lineup. Unfortunately, UC keeps rolling out the same 5 with not great results as of late. I think Kilpatrick should start. If it were me playing NCAA 11 or something, I would start Wright, Dixon, Kilpatrick, Thomas and Gates. But, Mick likes the offense of the second unit.
4a. Sean... why didn't he come to St. John's? Sniff. That's less of a question and more of a lament, though each decent recruit that came to the Red Storm slowed the removal of the old staff and the installation of a school that would pay for big time coaches.
I actually asked him on twitter. Kilpatrick committed to St John's before prep school, and then de-committed. I asked why, and he didn't answer. Probably because of that thing Norm Roberts does with gerbils.
5. What are the Bearcats' flaws? How can they lose to St. John's? And what's with those turdy road performances?
Ohh, 3 part question. Let's answer the last part first. The road performances have been tough. The Bearcats have gone to the 3 places where dreams of road wins go to die, Nova, Syracuse and ND. The bad news is they a) had a 5 minute span at Nova where they were down something like 4, and suddenly it was 16, and then 20 right out of halftime, b) shot the lights out from deep in the first half against SU, c) played horrible offense against ND. They ended up making runs against Nova and ND, but it was too little too late in both. Nova was a winnable game, they played with them for 35 minutes. Syracuse was just better, and ND exploited the flaws.
The flaws that are an offense that goes very stagnant because UC doesn't move without the ball, and because they can't hit a GD lay up. Mick Cronin said something how UC missed 7 lay ups against Syracuse, and 5 against last night. That's a lot of points left on the floor. UC has been straight up horrible scoring inside the arc the last 2 games, both under 40%. Rebounding has also been a problem in the losses. Mainly, it's the offense bogging down and falling behind.
How they can lose to St John's is simple. They can not score. As all of you know, StJ's locked down Notre Dame, a much better offensive team than UC. The Bearcats will shoot as many 3s as Louisville, but less will probably fall. The Red Storm have to lock down on Dion Dixon, the Bearcats leading scorer and my best friend, and Sean Kilpatrick, mentioned earlier. If Yancy Gates is motivated, the Bearcats are hard to stop. If he's not, then UC is not as good. Or, UC will give away the game again like they did last year.