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Big East Tournament Cincinnati Bearcats vs Providence Friars

The 2nd round of the Big East Tournament takes place today and we will see the Cincinnati Bearcats take on the Providence Friars. The game is scheduled for a 12:00 pm (Eastern) start time and will be televised on ESPN. Currently the Odds for the game have Cincinnati favored by  3.5 points while the total sits at 122.

Analysis: Cincinnati used a runner-up finish in the Big East tournament last season as a springboard to a run to the regional semifinals in the NCAA Tournament. One year later, the ninth-seeded Bearcats may need another strong showing in the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden, starting Wednesday in a second-round matchup against No. 8 seed Providence, to rest easy on “Selection Sunday".  Cincinnati began the season 12-0 and rolled to a 6-3 start in conference play, but a lackluster offensive effort caused the team to drop six of its final nine games. Sean Kilpatrick (17.3 points) ended the regular season as the conference’s fourth-leading scorer, but his drop in production has coincided with the team's recent offensive woes. Over his last nine games, Kilpatrick averaged 14.3 points and shot 34.4 percent, in contrast to his 18.5-point average and 42.6-percent shooting in the first 22 games. Cashmere Wright (12.8 points) saw his production drop after returning from a knee sprain on Jan. 21. He  shot 26.7 percent in the 12 games following his one-game absence. However, he closed the season on a high note with back-to-back 15-point efforts in which he shot 45.4 percent overall 50 percent from beyond the arc.

The first of the Bearcats’ six setbacks during their second-half fade came Feb. 6 at Providence, which reversed a 2-7 start in Big East play to finish at .500 in the conference. The Friars, who played 15 games decided by fewer than six points, went 4-1 in such games during their strong close to the season. The Friars’ 7-2 finish matched three other teams – including the 1992-93 Providence squad – for the second-best turnaround in conference history. Bryce Cotton (19.6 points) was named to the All-Big East first team, becoming the 11th Friar to receive that honor. The junior guard also finished as the leading scorer in the conference, becoming the fifth player in program history to do so. Junior Kadeem Batts (15.2 points, 7.4 rebounds) shared the conference’s “Most Improved” award with Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams; Batts averaged 6.2 points and 4.2 rebounds as a sophomore. Over his final eight games this season, Batts averaged 19 points and 8.4 rebounds. Providence has dropped its first game in the Big East tournament in seven of the last eight seasons.

Pick: I will go with the Bearcats in this one. Providence played well down the stretch, but they had wins vs weak teams like South Florida, Rutgers and St John's in their last 4 games, but I feel Cincinnati is above those teams. Providence also had a shocking win over Notre Dame at home, but that was at home and they are away from their friendly confines in this one. Providence is 5-9 in all games away from home this year and that includes a 15 point loss to Cincinnati on the road earlier in the year. The Bearcats are just 4-5 in their true road games this year, but they have gone 4-0 in their neutral site games and have outscored those opponents by 12.6 ppg. I feel motivation will also be more on the side of the Bearcats as a couple Big East tournament wins just may sneak them into the big dance, if they are not already in. The Bearcats are the better team here, especially at the defensive end, where they allow 7 ppg less than the Friars do, and it should be that defense hat allows Cincinnati to pull away late and head to the next round of the Big East Tournament.  



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