BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
February 12, 2006
Cincinnati travels to Pittsburgh for a Sunday afternoon Big East contest. The Bearcats are coming off an important Rivalry Week win over Louisville, at home, and will look to pad their NCAA resume with a high quality road conference win.
Pittsburgh is coming off a big Rivalry Week home win themselves as they took care of West Virginia Thursday night. The Panthers are in the thick of the conference race for one of the four Big East tournament byes, so winning at home is a must.
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We all know it has not been easy for the Bearcats this season and with a shortage of numbers, playing the physical grinding style of Pittsburgh on the road will be a huge test for Cincinnati. To make things a little more difficult, the Bearcats are really banged up right now. James White and Eric Hicks are battling nagging ankle injuries and Hicks suffered a concussion in their win over Louisville. These two seniors are the heart and soul of the team, so, as they go, so goes the team. With Hicks, you know you will get 110% effort every minute he is on the floor. However, with little size help inside, the banging and bumping with big Aaron Gray is bound to wear on a player.
After losing five of six after Armien Kirkland went done with a season-ending knee injury, the Bearcats have responded by winning two of three. Both wins (USF and UL) have come at home. The road has not been kind to UC of late, lack of depth has really taken a toll, and they have dropped their last four conference road games, by nearly an average of 15 pts a game.
Pittsburgh remains one of the best home teams in the country, enjoying the Peterson Events Center home cooking to the tune of 14-0 on the season and 5-0 in the conference. They will look to continue their home dominance against the road weary Bearcats.
Pittsburgh will look for Carl Krauser to get his offense going again. Krauser has averaged just 9.7 PPG his last three contests, but is usually much better at home, where he is averaging 19.2 PPG in conference play. The Cincinnati guard tandem of Jihad Muhammad and Devan Downey are quick, but Krauser will have a size advantage over both. Even though Krauser has struggled of late, Ronald Ramon has provided a spark averaging 12 PPG in their last five games and is hitting over 55% from 3-pt range in that time. Pittsburgh is bigger at every spot on the floor, except at SF, where James White will prove to be a tough test, and is much deeper than Cincinnati with Sam Young, Levance Fields, Keith Benjamin, Antonio Graves and Tyrell Biggs all more than capable to contribute.
This is a game that Cincinnati needs more for the NCAA Tournament, but going on the road to get it will be extremely tough. Pittsburgh is not a team that will runaway and hide from you and the athletic ability and will of players like Eric Hicks should keep Cincinnati in the game for the most part, but I expect them to wear down over time.
NBE Blogger Prediction:
Pittsburgh 73 Cincinnati 65