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CINCINNATI BEARCATS (14-4, 4-1 Big East) at CONNECTICUT HUSKIES (14-3, 4-2 Big East)
Tip-Off: Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Connecticut -7, Total: 129.5
No. 13 UConn looks to extend its BMW Motorcyles Rental in Costa Rica winning streak to three and remain unbeaten at home when they host Cincinnati on Wednesday night in Storrs.
The Bearcats have bounced back nicely since the well-documented brawl with Xavier on December 10, and are 4-1 ATS on the road this year, including a 68-64 win at Georgetown last Monday. Cincinnati is comfortable playing in close games, with four of its five Big East games decided by four points or less. The Huskies have covered their past two games and look to build off an impressive 67-53 road win over Notre Dame on Saturday. Connecticut’s backcourt will be very thin though, as freshman guard Ryan Boatright sits out for the second game in a row due to an ongoing NCAA investigation regarding potential rules violations. Both teams rely heavily on guard play, but UConn holds a significant advantage in the frontcourt with a +6 rebound margin compared to Cincy’s minus-0.1 RPG. The Bearcats will hit shots and keep this game close early on, but look for the Huskies to limit second-chance opportunities on the glass and pull away late. CONNECTICUT is the pick to win and cover.
The Bearcats are a veteran team with their top four leading scorers from last season all back in the lineup this year. Physical sophomore guard Sean Kilpatrick (16.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG) leads the way for Cincinnati, along with senior guard Dion Dixon (14.1 PPG). Cincy ranks fifth in the Big East from behind the arc, shooting 36.8% from three-point range. The Bearcats will need to hit these jumpers against UConn’s poor perimeter defense that’s allowing opponents to convert at a 41.1 percent clip. The Bearcats must get a big game from embattled forward Yancy Gates (12.3 PPG, 8.9 RPG), who will have the unenviable task of guarding UConn’s dangerous inside tandem of Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond.
UConn looks to be gaining some steam coming off its most impressive win of the season at Notre Dame. The loss of Boatright definitely hurts the Huskies’ backcourt depth, leaving Jeremy Lamb (17.9 PPG) and Shabazz Napier (13.9 PPG, 6.2 APG) as the only formidable guards in the rotation. Napier must stay out of foul trouble, otherwise the Huskies will be without any true point guard. Now more than ever, Jim Calhoun will need his big men to play up to their potential. Freshman phenom Andre Drummond (10.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG) looks more and more comfortable every game and has posted double-doubles in back-to-back games. The enigma that is junior forward Alex Oriakhi (7.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG) continues to be a mystery, but he had a strong performance against Notre Dame with 12 points and seven boards. The sooner Oriakhi and Drummond learn to co-exist down low, the more likely it becomes for the Huskies to make their third Final Four trip in four years.
No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers vs. No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes
The Tennessee Vols will play the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Sweet 16 at the Midwest Regional semifinals in St. Louis Friday n video poker ight at 7:00 pm eastern time. The game is a rematch of the 2007 Sweet 16 matchup in which Ohio State beat the Vols narrowly 85 - 84. The Buckeyes went on to the Final Four after that win in San Antonio.
Head Coach Bruce Pearl plays eleven players at least eleven minutes per game and has ridden senior forward Wayne Chism, on the floor and in the locker room, as we’ve all seen during the games. Tennessee doesn't have much star power on its roster, the player the Vols wished they had on the court with them is Tyler Smith, but they have played great team ball so far. In two tournament games, the Tennessee Vols have only allowed their opponents to shoot just .382 from the field (42 - 110) and .295 from behind the three point line. In the frontcourt Brian Williams, 6’10”, will play alongside Chism and make it tough for the Buckeyes to defend them. Ohio State will have its hands full against this balanced, defensively oriented squad that confuses and frustrates its opponents.
The Ohio State Buckeyes can attribute their successes to the spectacular play of Evan Turner, which has made them one of the better teams in the country the last two months. Ohio State finished the season tied for first in their conference, and only lost twice since the middle of January. In the conference tournament and in Sunday's second round win over Georgia Tech, the 6'7" junior has played like the candidate for National Player of the Year, his play included a game-winning shot from just inside half court in the conference tournament and a 29 point, 9 rebound and 9 assist performance in the team's 75 - 66 win over the Yellow Jackets, very close to attaining a triple double. In addition to Turner, Jon Diebler is another player to watch out for; he’s considered the best shooter on this Buckeyes team. The Ohio State Buckeyes’ short bench is a concern as they go farther into the tournament, they will be tested when their usual rotation starts to get fatigued.
Here are some strange facts; Ohio State is similar to Tennessee in that all but one of each team's losses came on the road. Tennessee lost an early season game to Purdue on a neutral court, and Ohio State lost to North Carolina on a neutral court. After that, Ohio State and Tennessee lost only one game at home all season. Lastly their overall records are Tennessee Vols 27 - 8, Ohio State Buckeyes 28 – 7, a little too strange, and this is probably why this game is going to be the best one out of all the Sweet 16 matchups.
At www.sportsbook.com the line is currently at 4.5 points in favor of the Buckeyes, but this will be a close game and I would take the Vols and their points, but the Buckeyes will probably edge them out for the win.