Cincinnati (21-10) vs. Providence (17-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 13, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Madison Square Garden (19,763) -- New York, New York. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Cincinnati 13-5, Providence 12-4. Away Record: Cincinnati 5-5, Providence 4-7. Neutral Record: Cincinnati 3-0, Providence 1-2. Conference Record: Cincinnati 9-9, Providence 9-9. Series Record: Providence leads, 5-4.
GAMES NOTES: With the hopes that they can find their success from earlier in the year, the ninth-seed Cincinnati Bearcats will take on the eighth-seed Providence Friars in the second round of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
When the Bearcats opened up conference play they were sporting a 12-1 mark and were quickly rising in the national rankings. However, UC was inconsistent during its conference slate, especially at the end when the team managed just a pair of wins in the final six games. Overall, Cincinnati was one of seven teams with at least 20 wins in the conference but they finished with an even 9-9 split in league play.
Providence took an opposite path through the regular season. Before a 63-59 overtime loss in the regular season finale against Connecticut the Friars had won seven of eight contests. That successful stretch at the end of the season allowed the Friars to finish up at 17-13 overall with the same 9-9 split against the rest of the conference.
Though they were tied up in the league standings when the season ended the Friars won the only head-to-head matchup between these teams this season and thus earned the higher seed. With the win the Friars also pulled ahead in the all-time series, 5-4.
At home against one of the weaker teams in the conference, Cincinnati barely escaped with a win in the regular-season finale. The Bearcats escaped with a 61-53 overtime win over South Florida, which had just three league wins all season, in the contest. The Bearcats trailed by until the 14-second mark when Cashmere Wright knotted the game and sent it to overtime with a free-throw. A 9-2 run to open the extra session allowed the Bearcats to survive.
Wright (12.8ppg, 3.1 apg) has been one of three guards that have been carrying Cincinnati this season. Sean Kilpatrick (17.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and JaQuon Parker (11.1 ppg) are also guards that are called on to score quite a bit for the Bearcats, who have no other players putting in more than six points per game. Cheikh Mbodj (5.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.6 bpg) isn't much of a scorer but he can really protect the rim, tying for second in the Big East in blocks. Led by Mbodj the Bearcats have been one of the better defensive teams in the country ranking among the top 25 teams in the league in points allowed (59.5 pg) and field goal percentage (.388).
After rallying from a six-point halftime deficit on the road against UConn, the Friars just ran out of steam in overtime. Providence made good on just 1- of-8 shots from the field in the extra session to surrender the decision. Kadeem Batts finished with a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds in the losing effort.
Big East leading scorer Bryce Cotton (19.6 ppg) has been pouring it on all season but struggled in the season finale as he had just nine points while hitting just 1-of-8 shots from beyond the arc. The junior guard had gone more than three months without scoring in double figures before the regular season finale. Batts (15.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg) was an All-Big East honorable mention and is joined in the frontcourt by another strong scorer and rebounder in LaDontae Henton (13.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg). Vincent Council (9.9 ppg, 7.0 apg) missed a chunk of the season early on but has come on strong since his return especially in running the offense for the Friars.
For much of the season Cincinnati was a nationally ranked team. Though the Bearcats may not be able to retain that success again, they are in desperate need of a strong showing in the league tournament to bolster their fading NCAA Tournament hopes.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 71, Providence 68
03/13 11:13:00 ET