Seton Hall @ Cincinnati, 8:00PM EST
Fifth Third Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio
Opening Line: Seton Hall +8 (SHU 5-6ATS)
Radio: WSOU 89.5 FM
Twitter @SOrangeJuice @JPGuerette @JohnLopiano @The_Bracket_Man
Seton Hall Pirates, Big East, Record: 7-6 (1-0), KenPom: 60, RPI: 131, SOS: 64
Keon Lawrence makes the projected starting lineup tonight based on his impressive performance against USF coupled with Jamel Jackson's inconsistency. The Pirates will need to slow Dion Dixon from getting good looks and finding his way to the line as he's taken more than 10 field-goal attempts and 10 free-throw attempts twice in his last three games. It makes sense for the Pirates to stick their best defender on him from the opening tip in Keon Lawrence. The 6'2 Lawrence matches up well defensively with the 6'3 Dixon, who is shooting 46% from the floor and leading the Bearcats with 13PPG.
The Pirates next four of five are on the road, yet, they're faced with two fairly winnable contests at Cincinnati and at Louisville, before returning to The Rock for a home contest with the Orange. It's asking for a lot, but if the Pirates can find a way to win their next two improving to 3-0 in the conference, they'll be riding high with their eyes set on Jeremy Hazell's return. If the decision is made that Hazell will indeed play this season and the wrist has healed as expected, I'm looking for him to suit up at Pittsburgh (1/15), or even, at DePaul on 1/12. Admittedly, I'm looking ahead of myself and quite a ways ahead, at that. Let's steal one in Cincinnati and go from there.
Cincinnati Bearcats, Big East, Record: 13-0 (1-0), KenPom: 30, RPI: 74, SOS: 333
Despite building an impressive 13-0 record that saw the Bearcats absolutely destroy their opponents (6 games were won by 20+), something has to be said for their strength of schedule. At 333, only THIRTEEN teams in the nation have had an easier schedule, THIRTEEN! That said, they also held Dayton to 34 points and beat them by 34, yes, the same Dayton Flyers that upended the Pirates, in Newark. In their BIG EAST opener Tuesday night, DePaul lead the Bearcats for the first five minutes, yet Cincinnati recovered and took control, essentially putting the game out of reach by the half, leading by 19. In a game that saw the Blue Demons turn the ball over 17 times the Bearcats capitalized and made quick work of DePaul, 76-60.