Basketball Prediction: Cincinnati Bearcats vs Connecticut Huskies

by Joe Rodriguez

Alex Oriakhi - Basketball Prediction: Cincinnati Bearcats vs Connecticut Huskies

Top-ranked Syracuse is the class of the Big East, but who's the second-best team? Cincinnati Bearcats and Connecticut Huskies will each try to state their case Wednesday when the 11th-ranked Huskies host the Bearcats in a key mid-season matchup.

The Bearcats, who have lost just once since an early-December brawl with crosstown rival Xavier, are off to their best conference start since joining the Big East in 2005-06. They rank second in the league in scoring defense (58.8), but had a hard time containing Maalik Wayns in an 82-78 win over Villanova last Saturday.

Cincinnati must correct its mistakes in order to beat the second-best shooting team in the conference (48.1).Connecticut seeks a second straight win without freshman guard Ryan Boatright, and third straight overall. UConn has won seven of the nine meetings.

The Huskies were victorious in both meetings last season, including a 69-58 win in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

- Cincinnati Bearcats @ Connecticut Huskies
When: 7:00 PM ET, Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Where: Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Connecticut
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN 2
Check Live NCAA Basketball Odds on Sportsbook.ag .

Sportsbook.ag currently have the Huskies listed as 6½-point favorites versus the Bearcats.

Cincinnati Bearcats (14-4): The Bearcats have won nine of 10 while utilizing a four-guard lineup prompted by the earlier suspensions of Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj, and Octavius Ellis. The smaller lineup has helped them force an average of 17.7 turnovers over the last 10 games. Offensively, senior guard Dion Dixon was named Big East player of the Week after scoring 22 points in wins over then-No. 11 Georgetown and Villanova. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Sean Kilpatrick, the team's leading scorer, is averaging 20.6 points over the last three games. As for Gates, the 6-foot-9 senior had his best game since returning from the suspension against the Wildcats (16 points, nine rebounds). Gates had 11 points and six rebounds in the NCAA Tournament loss to UConn.The Bearcats fatal flaw could be free-throw shooting. They are second-to-last in the conference (65.1) in that category.

Connecticut Huskies (14-3): The Huskies received contributions from some old faces Saturday against Notre Dame with Boatright on the bench (his eligibility is under investigation again). Forwards Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith–two key components of last season's championship run–combined for 22 points and 13 rebounds. The duo has been limited by the emergence of outstanding 6-foot-11 freshman Andre Drummond, who has three straight double doubles and is shooting nearly 60 percent. The Big East Rookie of the Week has also helped UConn rank fourth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (36.4) and blocks (7.4). Sophomore guard Jeremy Lamb (17.9 points) is averaging 16.0 points in conference play, but was limited to a season-low six points while playing all 40 minutes against the Irish. Lamb did contribute a season-high seven assists.

NCAA Basketball Betting

1. Cincinnati is averaging a league-best eight 3-pointers and ranks second in the conference 3-point percentage (36.8).

2. The Huskies ranks second-to-last in the Big East in 3-point field goal percentage defense (34.4) and last in the conference in turnover margin (-2.6).

3. The Bearcats are seeking to win three road games against ranked opponents for the first time since 1998-99.

BASKETBALL PREDICTION: Huskies 68, Bearcats 60.

Bet on NCAA College Basketball games with SBG Global Sportsbook, click here!

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alex oriakhi - andre drummond - cheikh mbodj - cincinnati bearcats - connecticut huskies - dion dixon - jeremy lamb - maalik wayns - ncaa tournament - octavius ellis