By Charles Jay
Houston may be far away the top team in the league, but two teams from the American Athletic Conference who have aspirations to be considered as at-large entries for the NCAA Tournament are the Cincinnati Bearcats and the UCF Knights, and they will square off in an AAC tilt on Thursday night at 7 PM ET at the Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati. Remember that at BetAnySports, you’re going to have the opportunity to place wagers on this game with reduced juice and then also participate in the action after the tip-off with Live Betting Ultra.
Cincinnati (21-4) is almost certainly going to be part of the 68-team NCAA field, unless there is a total collapse. They are a team that is ranked in the top 40 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, according to our friends at KenPom.com. They are going to be at a size disadvantage here, but nonetheless they have a big man who can make an impact in Nysier Brooks, who is among the nation’s top 100 in offensive rebounding percentage and 26th in blocked shot percentage. Largely, it is with defense that they hope to get ahead, and they are going to have to concern themselves with the mountain of a young man who occupies the middle for UCF.
Of course, we are talking about Tacko Fall, the 7-6 senior who may have a limited shooting range, but is pretty hard to move around in the middle. Fall has stepped up a little in terms of offensive production lately, scoring 14.8 ppg over his last four contests.
In the college basketball betting odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, Cincinnati is the home favorite:
Cincinnati Bearcats -7.5
UCF Knights +7.5
Over 128.5 points -110
Under 128.5 points -110
When Fall takes a shot, he usually makes it. In fact, he has an effective field goal percentage of 75.9%,. which is best in the nation. Can Brooks deal with him? That’s the big question, and he answered the bell against Wichita State, with five blocks. One thing that has to be pointed out is that Fall, as an individual performer, is second in the country in free throw rate, and the Knights are in that same position as a team. But they don’t shoot well (63.7%), and Fall is one of the worst at 35%. So you could reasonably undertake a strategy of fouling him, rather than giving him the easy shot, and expect to get some positive results.
Results were, in fact, VERY disastrous for UCF last season in two meetings with Cincinnati. In the process of scoring a total of 78 points in those two meetings, they shot 29% (5-31 from three-point range). Leading scorer BJ Taylor had six points in 33 minutes over those two games. It was obvious that Bearcats’ coach Mick Cronin had a formula through which to deal with the UCF offensive attack, and the onus would be on the Knights to reverse that. Unfortunately for them, having a big guy like Fall is both a blessing and a curse.
UCF is 16th in the nation in two-point shooting defense (allowing just 44.4%). Cincinnati shoots 35.7% from three-point range. While that is not among the national leaders, and in fact is not that far above average, it may be good enough to keep Central Florida honest on defense. And that would allow the ‘Cats an excellent chance to create some space between themselves and this opponent, enough to cover the number.
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