Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ Cincinnati Bearcats
9:00PM ET, March 9, 2010
Madison Square Garden
New York, NY
Cincinnati and Rutgers are heading into the Big East tournament coming off humiliating losses at the hands of Georgetown and Pittsburgh.
On top of that, both squads aren’t playing up to thier ability and are on bad losing skids.
During their only face-off in the regular season, Cincy kicked off the New Year with one of their only two road victories this season over the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, NJ, 65-58.
Deonta Vaughn led all scorers with 17 points, and Lance Stephenson helped out with 10 points and six rebounds to lead the Bearcats to victory.
Jonathan Mitchell scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Mike Rosario kicked in 12 points for the Scarlet Knights.
Cincinnati has lost three straight and six of their last eight. While Rutgers is on a two-game losing streak, dropping four of their past five games.
Cincinnati has yet to win a Big East tournament game since joining the league, and Rutgers hasn’t been victorious in this tournament since the ’05-’06 season.
Cincinnati is an abysmal 2-9 on the road and lost its only game played at Madison Square Garden this season.
Rutgers isn’t any better, pulling off a record of 1-9 on the road this season.
Rutgers has no shot of making the NCAA tournament unless they win five games in the next five days. This would turn them into the Big East tournament champions and give them an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
Cincinnati can make the field of 65 without winning the Big East tourney. For the Bearcats to secure an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament, they must win at least two games to give them a shot and three games to definitely put them in.
That means they have to take care of the Scarlet Knights tonight, defeat Louisville tomorrow night, and then beat West Virginia on Thursday night.
Cincinnati Bearcats SG Lance Stephenson vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights SG Mike Rosario.
The leading scorers for each team should have a fun time going at one another the entire night.
Lance Stephenson will have his way on the floor with the skinny, lanky guard for Rutgers, while Rosario should be able to counter that with his lights out shooting.
The keys to Stephenson’s game are his power and quickness. His ability to overpower smaller guards and attack the basket gives him easy opportunities around the bucket.
Rosario, on the other hand, likes to create open shots for himself by slithering around screens and getting away from his defenders. He gets his feet set quickly and has a smooth shooting stroke.
Rosario’s shooting form has allowed him to become an excellent three-point shooter.
Stephenson’s whining when he doesn’t get the ball on offense or when a foul is called could hurt his game. This behavior leads to slacking on defense as he worries about the call missed on the other end of the floor.
On the other hand, Rosario sometimes finds himself taking outlandish shots. He likes to take contested shots with people right in front of him. If he can attack the basket more, it will lead to free throws and other opportunities for his teammates.
Advantage: Rutgers Scarlet Knights SG Mike Rosario
A year older and more mature, Rosario has this knack for scoring in bunches, which leads to him taking over games. Stephenson needs to become more of a team leader and not pout when things don’t go his way.
THREE-POINT SHOOTING: If the Bearcats want any shot of walking away with their first Big East tournament victory ever, they must hit those three-point shots.
During their three-game losing streak, they are shooting a horrendous 18-of-61 (29.5 percent) from behind the three-point arc.
LANCE STEPHENSON: Only a freshman, the Bearcats' best player must step it up and play like the team’s star player.
He has played on the Madison Square Garden stage before (leading Lincoln High School to four straight titles, all at MSG). If Stephenson comes out and puts on a show in front a crowd that should favor him, Cincy will have a better chance of moving on.
REBOUNDING: In their past two games, Rutgers has been out-rebounded by 20 at Pittsburgh and 14 vs. Seton Hall. The Scarlet Knights must find a way to come up with the ball underneath the basket.
In the Big East this season, the Scarlet Knights are 1-11 in games when they are out-rebounded and are 4-1 when they out-rebound their opponents.
Rebounding is a critical factor if Rutgers wants any chance of winning.
POINT GUARD PLAY: James Beatty (starting PG) and Mike Coburn (backup) many times will find themselves being overwhelmed by pressure defense or trying to do too much. This leads to forcing bad passes and dreadful decision-making.
Playing smart and erasing turnover opportunities will keep Rutgers in the game.
With both teams not playing up to ability, this game is a toss-up. Something that could play in Rutgers’ favor is that it is more of a home game for them.
Cincy must make their three-point shots. It’s just that simple for them if they want to keep their NCAA hopes alive.
In the Scarlet Knights' big wins this season, they have usually had one player put up huge numbers. They can’t rely on that in the Big East tournament.
They need Rosario’s game-changing ability, Mitchell’s three-point shooting, Dane Miller’s athleticism, and Hamady Ndiaye’s presence underneath.
If all of these factors click, Rutgers will move on to play Louisville tomorrow night—and that’s the way I see it.
Rutgers in a low-scoring affair, 58-52.