USA TODAY Sports
St. John's faces Cincinnati tomorrow afternoon. We asked Scott of the Cincinnati blog with the original name Bearcats Blog what to expect.
We have one question and answer session with Scott of the Bearcats Blog. You may know Scott from previous Qs and As where we have discussed our mutual love for the show The O.C. Sadly, our friend at Cincinnati blog Down the Drive hung it up so we can't have two Q and As. But one is excellent, and informative, and will get you ready for tomorrow's St. John's road matchup.
Or you may know Scott from Twitter, where he is quite cussy and also quite prolific.
He's a good follow, especially late at night. He needs to sleep more. I like Scott and am happy to have traded answers with him. One day we will have him on the Not Half Bad podcast.
Here are some questions and some answers about how the Red Storm can beat the Bearcats, how Mick Cronin's team has changed after Yancy Gates, and who to watch for. Enjoy, be informed, and expect a game preview later today from the Rumble.
Q. Cincinnati's defense looks impregnable, especially inside the arc. Am I hyperbolically hyperventilating? Are those defensive percentages a mirage? Or are the Bearcats that good?
Scott, Bearcats Blog: They are that good. The guards play very solid defense. The big men block and alter shots in the paint. It's very hard to get a good look in the half court against this Cincinnati team. The worst defender is probably JaQuon Parker, but UC is able to hide him well. The Bearcats were very good at defense last year, they have been elite this year. Pittsburgh had scored over 1 point per possession in every game this season. Until they played Cincinnati. This team is good.
Q. Tell us about how Yancy Gates' departure has changed the team.
Bearcats Blog (BB): Gates' departure removed any kind of inside threat for the Bearcats. You could dump the ball down in the post and watch Yancy work. You could not do that and he could dominate the offensive glass. The lack of a post game is really hurting Cincinnati in the half court. It's harder for them to get baskets when they are essentially playing 5 on 3 with their regular lineup.
Defensively, Gates was very solid. The Bearcats haven't missed him that badly because of the other guys stepping up in shot blocking and rebounding. Sean Kilpatrick especially has improved as a rebounder.
The biggest way it's changed Cincinnati though, is that Cincinnati tries to get up and down the floor faster. They averaged under 65 possessions a game last year, they are over 71 possessions. There is a lot more room for the guards to create and score. They've averaged more assists than last season and they've offensive rebounded better this season. I think more guys try for rebounds instead of letting Yancy handle it.
Plus, no one has punched anyone in the face.
Q. How would you rate the Cincy offensive attack? Who are the offensive facilitators? Who do the passers look for in the half court?
BB: The Cincinnati offensive attack is pretty solid. The guys who make the offense work are Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker. Off the bench, you have Titus Rubles. Most of the time, the guys look to pass to each other because they are good at basketball.
Cashmere Wright has turned into one of the best 3 point shooters in the nation (ed note: 46% three-point shooting), let alone the Big East. He leads the conference in 3 pointers made. He's the guy who will have the ball in his hands late. He leads the Bearcats in assists as well. He's turned in a big time senior season so far.
Sean Kilpatrick is probably the star of the Bearcats. He's averaging 18 points a game, which is 4th in the conference. He shoots a lot of 3 pointers. He is the Big East leader in 3 pointers attempted. He's been in a cold stretch lately and is only at 34% this season. Kilpatrick has started getting to the basket, and as a result, the foul line more to add to his point total.
JaQuon Parker is the 3rd leading scorer on the team and the other guy averaging double digit points. He's almost like Dion Dixon in a way, except he doesn't take horrible shots and he can actually make a 3 pointer. When Wright and Kilpatrick are on the bench, Parker looks to take over.
Q. Do the Bearcats like to run or do they prefer a grinder game? Not a grindr game, that's a different thing & we're not here to out anyone.
BB: I don't know what a grindr game is, so I'll leave that one alone. The Bearcats like to run. They've been dragged down into slower paces ever since the Marshall game. They have only broken 65 possessions once the last few games. There's a reason all of those games have been relatively close. When you slow down the Bearcats, you can really take advantage of the fact they have 3 guys who can score.
None of that matters though. We both know the final score of this game will see at least one of the teams in the 50s. We know that one, or both, of the teams will shoot 30% and it will be an eyesore. Hopefully more of the eyesore it was when Cincinnati won at St John's last year.
Q. What flaws does the team have? What does St. John's have to do to earn a win?
BB: I have touched on what I think is the biggest flaw a couple of times, the half court offense. Cheikh Mbodj, David Nyarsuk, Justin Jackson, they can't get their own shot. Ge'Lawn Guyn, the back up PG, isn't a threat offensively. Cincinnati always has at least one guy on the floor who isn't a direct threat to score unless someone sets him up. Jackson less so than the other 2 because he can go off the dribble. When you slow Cincinnati down, you make the 3 best players have to beat you. That's worked out in every game but New Mexico.
St John's is going to have to take away the 3 point shot, be highly efficient offensively and knock down their free throws. Cincinnati's opponents are shooting something like 59% at the foul line this season. They put Nova at the line at lot last night. They also gave up a lot of 3 point attempts. Those are going to be things they can't do against Cincinnati.
Also, they should score more points.
Q. Do you lament the Big East's coming changes? What do you do when you wake up in a sad, sodden sweat about it?
BB: I lament them very much. Even more so because Cincinnati is going to be stuck in an awful league unless the ACC ravages itself. Which I hope they do but kind of don't think they will. It's a damn shame.
Basketball wise, they will still have UConn and Temple and Memphis and you hope someone else is decent. That's a solid 3-4 bid league every year. Kind of like when the Bearcats were in Conference USA. I hope it means that Cincinnati will step up the non-conference scheduling as a result. Playing Louisville every season would be nice.
Football wise, it blows. It really, really, really blows.
When I wake up in a sad, sodden sweat about it, I look at pictures of Autumn Reeser, who is very lovely and you are crazy for not liking (ed note: I like her just fine, I simply prefer Melinda Clarke.), and the world makes sense again.
Q. Where are we having lunch on Saturday? (Or, where am I having lunch alone?)
BB: You are having lunch alone because I'm not even going to see the game live. The Bearcats have had many games conflict with football. The last 2 or 3 football games went up against basketball. Now this game goes up against the Bengals playoff game. It's very annoying. I would recommend you go to Montgomery Inn. They have ribs. Ribs are damn good.