Wildcats host Bearcats on Sunday

Joseph DeNicholas

Opponent Overall

The Wildcats will host the Cincinnati Bearcats men’s basketball team on Sunday, Feb. 1 at the Pavilion. The Bearcats enter the week with an overall record of 13-7 (3-4 Big East). Having already matched its number of wins from the previous season, Head Coach Ben Cronin’s team is on the rise. There were rumblings that Cincinnati might be able to sneak its way into the Big Dance after beating teams like UAB and UNLV in their out-of-conference schedule. However, the Bearcats missed out on some great opportunities to plead their case by dropping crucial games to Florida State, Xavier and Memphis. Although the Bearcats have managed three wins in the Big East, they came against teams with two combined wins in conference play.

Opponent Strengths

Cincinnati’s greatest strength is team rebounding. No Big East team has grabbed more offensive rebounds than the Bearcats, who average 15.5 per game. A large part of Cincinnati’s rebounding comes from frontcourt centerpiece Yancy Gates. The 6-foot-8-inch freshman is the Bearcats’ leading rebounder (6.1 rpg) and second leading scorer (10.1 ppg).

Opponent Weaknesses

Although a drastically improved team, Cincinnati still has some glaring weaknesses. Deonta Vaughn and Gates have established themselves as a couple of offensive options, but failing to establish a consistent third and fourth scorer has limited the Bearcats. The team is not aggressive and as a result, it struggles to get to the charity stripe. Defensively, Cronin’s squad has not been particularly exceptional defending the 3-point shot. Opponents have shot 33.8 percent from long distance, which ranks 13th in the conference. They are often guilty of giving up easy baskets by not moving their feet on defense. Averaging over 35 minutes per game, Vaughn has been counted on to carry the load. However with so much playing time, fatigue can weigh on his defense.

Who to Watch

Having earned All Big-East First Team honors as a sophomore, there is no doubt that Vaughn is the Bearcats’ biggest offensive threat. Last season he lit up the Wildcats for 25 points. Since Cincinnati lost its only true point guard, freshman Cashmere Wright, to an ACL injury in the preseason, Vaughn has been counted on to shoulder both ball-handling and scoring responsibilities. Although his points per game average has dipped from 17.3 to 15.4 from last season, he has stepped up his point guard role by getting others involved, averaging 4.9 assists per game.

What to Watch For

The last time these teams met, Villanova lost 69-66, and Dante Cunningham did not make a single field goal attempt in 28 minutes. As ‘Nova’s top defender and most reliable scorer, he is the key to the game for Villanova. Having fouling out against UConn and being limited to 19 minutes against South Florida, he must avoid foul trouble.

Cincinnati goes as Vaughn goes. Its worst loss was a 34 point loss to Marquette, where Vaughn was held scoreless. Expect Coach Wright to throw different looks at him including bigger guards like Reggie Redding.

Villanova 70, Cincinnati 61