CINCINNATI BEARCATS (19-7)
at CONNECTICUT HUSKIES (17-7)
XL Center - Hartford, CT
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Even, Total: 127
Big East Foes coming off losses as home favorites will meet on Thursday night in Hartford when Connecticut hosts Cincinnati.
The Bearcats lost their third game in four tries (SU and ATS) on Friday, with all three defeats coming against underdogs (Providence, Pittsburgh and Georgetown). The Huskies had won five of six (4-2 ATS) before its 70-61 home loss to Villanova on Saturday. Although UConn is 6-3 (SU and ATS) against Cincinnati since 2006, the Bearcats have won outright as underdogs in each of their past two trips to Connecticut, by 3 as a 6.5-point underdog last season and by 12 when they were getting 7 points in 2010.
Which Big East team will prevail in this pick 'em game? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The experts will try to build on a strong 10-7 ATS (59%) collective mark in Best Bets over the past two days. StatFox Scott is 59% ATS (17-12) on college hoops Best Bets since Feb. 8, while StatFox Gary is 55% ATS (84-70-3) for Best Bets this season. StatFox Dave is 4-1 ATS in the past two days and is 52.3% ATS (139-127-5) for the season. StatFox Brian has been 50% ATS or better in eight of the past 11 days.
Cincinnati doesn’t quite score 70 points per game (69.8 PPG), but has outscored opponents by 11.3 PPG thanks to a defense that allows just 58.5 PPG on 38.1% FG (29.9% threes). The Bearcats have a lot more muscle down low in this game than UConn does, as they boast a stellar +7.4 RPG margin and block 6.42 shots per game, the seventh-most in the nation. But like the Huskies, Cincy's top three scorers are all guards -- Sean Kilpatrick (18.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG), Cashmere Wright (13.3 PPG, 3.4 APG) and JaQuon Parker (11.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG). Kilpatrick has been misfiring all season (42% FG, 33% threes), and has been especially cold in the team's past three losses, making just 13-of-42 shots (31%) and 4-of-24 threes. In last year's win at then-No. 11 UConn, Kilpatrick scored 16 points including the game-winning three with 2.7 seconds left, but made just 5-of-15 FG that day. Wright was much more efficient in that win with 13 points on 5-of-6 FG (3-of-4 threes) plus five assists, while Parker came off the bench to tally 12 points and four rebounds in just 20 minutes of action. Wright shoots a strong 37% from three-point range, but has been downright horrible over his past six games, making just 19-of-81 FG (23%) and 10-of-49 threes (20%). Parker has come on strong though, with 17.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG in the past two contests. Junior PF Titus Rubles (6.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG) leads the team in rebounding, but he needs to take better shots, and he's made just 32% FG this season, including 4-for-37 (11%) from downtown.
Connecticut's offense revolves around its three-guard set, scoring 70.6 PPG with a stellar 75% clip from the free-throw line. The Huskies outshoot their opponents 45% FG to 40% FG on the season, and don't commit many turnovers (12.0 TOPG). They are a horrible rebounding team though (minus-4.5 RPG margin), and don't shoot particularly well from downtown either (34.3% threes). Guards Shabazz Napier (16.3 PPG, 4.7 APG) and Ryan Boatright (15.4 PPG, 4.2 APG) were both outstanding in last Wednesday's upset win over then-No. 6 Syracuse, combining for 27 points (9-of-16 FG), 11 assists and five steals. But in Saturday's loss to Villanova, the duo scored a combined six points on 3-of-15 FG (0-for-7 threes) and committed 10 turnovers (five each). Boatright did not play against Cincinnati last season, but Napier kept his team in that meeting with 27 points (10-of-19 FG), seven assists, five rebounds and two steals. Napier has been playing tenacious defense lately with 13 steals over his past five games (2.6 per game), putting him at 2.04 SPG for the season. Freshman SG Omar Calhoun (11.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG) has really stepped up his offense in the past four contests with 15.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG. He has also made 78% of his free throws this season, including 9-of-9 in Saturday's loss. Sophomore SF DeAndre Daniels (10.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG) provides the bulk of scoring in the frontcourt, and is coming off a strong game against 'Nova with 13 points on 6-of-8 FG while pulling down four rebounds.