NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (13-1)
at CINCINNATI BEARCATS (13-2)
Tip-off: Monday, 6:30 p.m. ET
Line: Cincinnati -4.5, Total: 134.5
No. 21 Cincinnati looks to avoid a third straight home loss on Monday night when it hosts a red-hot No. 17 Notre Dame team seeking a 12th straight victory.
Notre Dame has shot 48% FG or better in all 11 consecutive victories (79.5 PPG on 53.5% FG), while going 6-2-1 ATS during this win streak. The Irish started off 2013 on a high note, crushing Seton Hall 93-74 at home, but they have lost three straight trips (1-2 ATS) to Cincinnati. The Bearcats have lost their past two home games by nearly identical scores, 55-54 to New Mexico on Dec. 27 and 53-52 to St. John's on Saturday, shooting 31.5% from the floor in the two defeats. That drops the Bearcats to 1-5 ATS at home, but they have not lost any other game SU this season, going 13-2.
Who will prevail in this Big East showdown? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The StatFox experts are a collective 53% ATS (196-176-8) in college basketball Best Bets for the season, led by StatFox Gary, who sits at 60.3% ATS (47-31) for the season, while Dave is at 54% ATS (72-61-3) on the year.
The Irish have been so efficient shooting the basketball this season (51.5% FG, 4th in nation) due to great ball movement and unselfish play (19.9 APG, tops in D-I). The junior backcourt duo of Jerian Grant (12.2 PPG, 5.5 APG) and Eric Atkins (11.3 PPG, 7.4 APG) are both excellent ball-handlers, combining for 180 assists and just 57 turnovers (3.2 Ast/TO ratio) this season. Grant has 13 points and eight assists in each of his past two games, while Atkins has averaged 12.7 PPG and 8.7 APG in his past three contests. The player they like to feed most down low is senior PF Jack Cooley (15.5 PPG, 11.4 RPG) who has ripped off three straight double-doubles, averaging 19.0 PPG and 13.7 RPG during this stretch. Although Notre Dame lost 71-55 at Cincinnati last year, Cooley finished with 15 points, 11 boards and three blocks. The Irish also have a great three-point shooter in sixth-year senior SG Scott Martin, who knocked down 6-of-7 treys as part of a team-high 22 points in Saturday's blowout win over Seton Hall. For the season, Martin shoots 50% from downtown (27-of-54), which is considerably better than he shoots inside the arc (44% FG, 17-for-39).
Although Notre Dame doesn't turn the ball over much (9.7 TOPG since Dec. 1), the Bearcats are quite adept at swiping the rock, averaging 9.2 SPG this season, thanks to the quick-hands guard duo of Cashmere Wright (2.1 SPG) and Sean Kilpatrick (1.6 SPG). Cincinnati is also an elite rebounding team with 44.5 RPG (2nd in nation), but it was outrebounded 40-34 in Saturday's loss to St. John's. On the offensive end, Kilpatrick leads the team with 17.9 PPG, but shoots just 43% FG. Although he has a team-high 5.8 RPG, Kilpatrick has more turnovers (32) than assists (31) this season. Wright is much more efficient with his shot selection, scoring 14.9 PPG on 48% FG. He also leads the team with 3.3 APG after his 23-point, 10-assist, 4-steal performance on Saturday. Junior F Titus Rubles (7.3 PPG) pulls down 5.6 RPG in just 19.5 MPG, and is coming off a career-high 14 points on Saturday. Senior swingman JaQuon Parker's numbers are also solid (11.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG), but he's coming off a horrible performance (3 points, 1-for-8 FG) in the loss to the Red Storm.