The Cincinnati Bearcats win games with physicality and discipline on the defensive end. Offensively, Sean Kilpatrick, second all-time in scoring in Bearcats history, paces the attack. Kilpatrick is as complete of a scorer as anyone in the country.
The American Conference regular season winners have serious potential to make a run.
This season, the 'Cats have beaten Memphis twice, Louisville on the road and Connecticut at home. Actually, Cincinnati has only lost by a combined nine points in its last three defeats.
This team is built for tournament success. It has experience (three of the team's featured players are seniors), a great defense and one prolific scorer. Head coach Mick Cronin has also established himself as one of the better coaches in the country.
So what's that mean for Michigan State?
First, it has to execute offensively. Although that should be a focal point for basically every game, it is imperative the Spartans remain patient and pick their spots against an elite defensive bunch.
Also, State must dictate the pace. Sparty likes to push the ball in transition, which, conversely, Cincinnati does not. The Bearcats slow the tempo offensively and work to get Kilpatrick his shots.
Lastly, Adreian Payne must attack Justin Jackson. Jackson is an exceptional athlete and rim-protector and will likely be matched with Payne. If Payne can sideline Jackson due to foul trouble, that leaves Cincinnati devoid of its best defensive player.
This game's outcome will likely be dictated by whose pace it is played at. If the game is a grind-it-out slugfest, the advantage tilts in Cincinnati's favor. But if State can speed up the 'Cats, the Spartans will run away with this one.