Hey guys! So, we here at South Orange Juice want to give you, the fans, the best coverage possible of Seton Hall Basketball.
Sometimes, that includes a visit from our blogger friends from around the Big East, and today, we have a very special visit from Scott of Bearcats Blog, a terrific site for all things Cincinnati athletics. He has graciously agreed to answer some of our questions in advance of the SHU-UC game this afternoon. You can follow Scott on twitter at @BearcatsBlog.
You can also find my answers to his questions here.
Here we go!
SOJ: The Bearcats are a team that prides themselves on their defense. What’s the strategy that Mick Cronin likes to use at that end of the floor? Pressing? Man vs Zone?
BB: Cronin likes to press. When Parker is in the game, they normally press a lot. That's not to say they won't with Jackson in, but Parker is on the press unit. In the halfcourt, UC goes mainly man to man. If you give them enough fits, they might zone. But mainly UC plays man. Dixon will guard the faster point guards instead of Cashmere Wright though. I would look for Dixon on Theodore.
SOJ: Looking at the offensive numbers, Cincinnati chucks even more threes than Seton Hall does. What other dimensions to the UC offense should the Pirates be aware of?
BB: They drive and kick quite a bit. If Wright drives, he'll pass out around the foul line. Kilpatrick and Dixon mainly drive to score. Especially Kilpatrick. Parker is more a spot up shooter. He won't get his own shots. Gates will get some post touches, but he gets his buckets on offensive rebounds. That's how he scores a lot. And he'll dunk and I'll say #GatesDunk on twitter. Follow me. As for Jackson, he goes off of offensive boards, but has started making awkward drives from 8 feet that will make you laugh until he scores.
UC mainly rolls solo on their field goals. Only Wright racks up assists on the reg. Yeah, the reg. That's how Cincinnati bloggers talk.
SOJ: Cincinnati’s leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick is one of the better players that no one seems to talk about. Break down his game, and what he brings to the team.
BB: He brings the scoring threat. If you look at his numbers, you'll notice he's at the top of the Big East leaders in 3s made and attempted. The team took 14 against the team they played the other day, Kilpatrick took 10. Teams have started getting on him a lot tighter, which has made his shooting percentage drop. Kilpatrick has started driving more. He's pretty good when he's going to the basket because he catches people flat footed. He'll get to the line some. Not a lot though. If he is open, he's going to pull the trigger. If he's not, he'll still pull the trigger.
SOJ: Dion Dixon is an intriguing player. He doesn’t shoot the ball well, but seems to do everything else well for a guard. Is he the "glue guy" for this team?
BB: I wouldn't say he's the glue guy. He's definitely a key guy. He plays the off guard. When Wright is on the bench, he runs the point. If Cash isn't getting assists, chances are that Dixon is. Offensively, he's been a wreck from 3 this season. He improved a lot last year but has regressed some this year. He also isn't getting to the line as much as he did last year, which has hurt his offense. When he's got the ball, he goes solo. UC runs a lot of isos with him or high screens. He goes to the paint and makes his old man moves. Every once in a while he'll throw up a dunk. He passes well and plays decent enough defense, even though he's not very fast. Dixon hasn't rebounded very well this year. Before he had 6 rebounds Wednesday, he had 0 the previous 3 games. When he's got the game going, he's a very solid player.
SOJ: Obviously, the brawl with Xavier was a defining moment not only in the seasons of both teams involved but in the college basketball season in general. How has the team responded so well? Did Cronin have a lot to do with it in terms of his stern response? Specifically, how has Yancy Gates responded to the aftermath of the brawl?
BB: The biggest thing that changed with the Bearcats is that they stopped running the offense around Yancy Gates. It wasn't working. People look past the first 8 games, but they played like (redacted). They blew a huge lead to Presbyterian, couldn't put Marshall away and were humiliated by Xavier. Those losses were around uninspiring wins. When the guards became the stars, the offense took off. The opponents got worse, but the guards embraced the leadership role. Getting Parker back helped a lot as well. Mick really got the guys to buy in. It worked very well.
Gates has come back accepting a role as a rebounder and defender of the basket. He cleans up the glass on both ends. He's the only one on the Bearcats who will. I think he would like more touches, who wouldn't, but he gets them the hard way. In a league with few dominating bigs, Gates stands out. He needs to be more consistent offensively though. He gets too cute and doesn't go up strong.
SOJ: With a trio of big games coming up with Louisville, USF and a rematch with Marquette, is there a chance this could be a trap game for the Bearcats?
BB: I don't think so. The motto from Mick has been win the home games. This is a pretty big home game. With the teams in a similar boat, I don't think the Bearcats will be looking past this one. It's too late in the year for trap games. Especially when you are on the bubble.
SOJ: What’s your prediction for the game? Also, who is the player you think will be the "X-factor" for UC tonight?
BB: I expect a tournament style game. Probably Big East tournament. Maybe Maui Invitational. There is a sense of desperation around both teams. If the play isn't sharp, the intensity will be. I'm going to go homer on you and pick the Bearcats in a tight one. I would watch out for Dixon. I think he's going to have an impressive game.