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Cincinnati Bearcats vs Texas Longhorns: March Madness Scouting Report And Predictions

First, read this helpful interview from Peter Bean with SB Nation's Cincy blogger Matt Opper from Down The Drive. You should also peruse ReggieBall's statistical breakdown of Cincinnati's shot selection. It'll give you a great sense of the Bearcats.

By the way, you're probably wondering what a Bearcat is. It's not a bear, it's not a cat - it's a Binturong.




At first blush, you probably think this animal is an insect or some sort of mollusk, but it's a mammal.

These South East Asian charmers are a cross between a fruity badger, a labradoodle, and a skunk, but they emit the sweet scent of buttered popcorn and cornbread from their anal glands instead of ass musk. They also make chuckling sounds to themselves when pleased, like I do when I'm winning at a board game. They have prehensile tails, are often made into pets by the Oran Asli people of Malaysia, and are also known as Tree Canopy Fuck Otters. One of those statements was false.

Although they are classified as carnivores, they primarily eat fruit. In that sense, they're very much like Jack Lalane.

They respond readily to simple verbal commands by zookeeper ladies, demonstrated here.

I want one.

The learnings I've gleaned from Cincinnati are as follows:

  • They're not long, but strong. Yancy Gates goes 6-9, 260. Sean Kilpatrick goes 6-4, 215. JaQuon Parker goes 6-3, 210. Dion Dixon is 6-3, 195. These aren't skinny guys you can push around. They're quick and physical, hit the glass on offense, but the lack of height does mean they'll struggle to close out an opponent's possession
  • They play hard and typically weather bad spells with defense and 3 point shooting
  • They defend well early and extend pressure to break down your guards before you can start your offense. Texas has a tendency to get turned over when teams extend on us, our early offense is typically 10-15 seconds of purposeless passing around the perimeter, and Kabongo rarely has a plan when he's forced to drive if he can't get a lay up. Cronin's defensive focus will be firmly on forcing Myck Kabongo to our bench with a towel on his head, six turnovers, and 1 of 7 shooting
  • They don't create for each other very well and are in love with the three point shot. They're not selfish per se, as they each take turns on alternating possessions jacking up shots
  • Like Texas, they play 7. Cronin isn't particularly happy when he goes to his bench
What Texas needs to do:
  • Extend on shooters. Gates doesn't need a double team and it won't really slow down how he gets most of his buckets anyway. Limit Gates with early positioning work and fresh legs, not defensive overcommitment. We can't win if Cincy's shooters find rhythm
  • Don't flee pressure. Attack it directly with the dribble, a screen, and quick ball rotation while bigs present themselves with cuts to the basket and backside shooters ready to catch and shoot. JCB has a vital role as a secondary ball handler to relieve the burden on Kabongo, particularly given his knack for attacking pressure and getting fouled or dishing for a good shot. Kabongo can't waste possessions, particularly with plays that allow easy transition the other way
  • Julien Lewis shot discipline. We need him for defense on Kilpatrick, but he can't hurt us on the other end. His green light is for corner 3s and put backs. Beyond that, focus on Kilpatrick
  • Sheldon M - don't pass up any open shots
  • Hit the offensive boards. Chappy, Bond, and Holmes all have an opportunity to exploit them if they're active. There's a cheap 8-10 points to be found here
  • Win the scramble. Cincy excels when they can make the game choppy, irregular, and rob you of composure. Win some loose balls, play transition defense, and avoid the bonehead plays that drain confidence
  • Pace - Cincy can play any pace, but we're notably better on offense when ours is north of Wisconsin. Push open-ended situations, attack the rim in transition knowing it's not being guarded by a shot blocker, and look for any way to short circuit Cincy's half court defensive plans

I can envision a number of scenarios in which Texas wins this game (J'Onions McTournament sees the bright lights and goes off, Kabongo grows up and neuters the Bearcat pressure, Sheldon and Chappy turn in strong supporting cast performances as Cincy goes cold from 3), but I think the greatest likelihood is an an ugly, hard-fought game played in the 60s or low 70s in which both teams shoot around 40%, Texas wins the rebounding battle, our turnovers gift Cincy with easy baskets and extra possessions, and Cincy's 9 point lead holds up to a furious 2nd half Texas rally that leaves us two points shy.

We're very young and have a decent chance of reeling from their initial pressure in a tournament setting. Similarly, I'm haunted by what I saw from us last year against Arizona when simple trapping and ball pressure puzzled us for an entire half of play.

Call it 69-67, Bearcats. What's your prediction?