We're not going to let a little thing like hating their institution and all it stands for stop us from being civil with our UC sister blog. The nice folks at Down The Drive were kind enough to answer our questions about the Bearcats, and our answers to their questions can be found on their blog.
Banners on the Parkway: Cincinnati has more or less hung its hat on defense this year while Xavier's offense has been the driving force for the Muskies. The UC defense has been a tough nut to crack, but a couple of teams have been able to do it. What do teams need to do to have success against UC's defense?
Down the Drive: While they've had a historically good defense under Mick Cronin since he took over, the Bearcats this year have instituted a new hybrid match-up zone that has worked well most of the time. If the Muskies can force the ball to the middle of the zone without turning it over, they'll have some success. And making a few three-pointers, especially from the corner of the floor, would help spread the zone out.
BOTP: By the same token, Xavier's unspectacular defense will be matched up against UC's similarly pedestrian offense. How are the Bearcats going to attack X?
DTD: I haven't watched a lot of Xavier basketball this year, but if they can play a lick of zone defense - that'd be my recommendation. The Bearcats usually attempt to get the ball to either junior Octavius Ellis or freshman Gary Clark on the low post in order to get things moving, and both are average low-post scorers with pretty good passing skills. I'm hoping sophomore point guard Troy Caupain forces it a bit because when he gets into the lane, good things usually happen. How aggressive he is, though, is dependent on the game. And, of course, they'll hope a couple of their streaky 3-point shooters are on target in the home gym.
BOTP: In Jalen Reynolds and JP Macura, X has a couple of guys who aren't shy about mixing it up worth an opponent. UC's roster also has some players who aren't strangers to unfriendly interactions on the court. On a scale of 1 to 2011, how chippy is this game going to get?
DTD: I don't think it'll be close to 2011, so I'll rank it a 10. Sure, there's always the chance - and, yes, the aforementioned Ellis, who was suspended as part of the altercation back in '11 - is back on the team, but after all of the blowback post-brawl and the fact that the game is finally back on campus, I don't see any way it gets out of hand.
BOTP: If there is one factor I should look for to tell me if UC is playing well, what would it be?
DTD: Turnovers. If the Bearcats aren't turning the ball over on offense, watch out.
BOTP: Finally, who wins, by what score, and why?
DTD: Man, this is tough. Sure, the homer in me wants to pick the Bearcats, but after watching them put up 13 points in one half - against Tulane nonetheless - it's really hard to pick them to beat a team like Xavier. If there's a silver lining for UC, it's that the game's at home, and the Bearcats have typically shown up against good teams (SMU, NC State, SDSU). I'll say the Bearcats win, 64-61, thanks to a swarming defense and a few timely 3-pointers. But I wouldn't be truly shocked if either team won by 2 or 20, would you?