From the normal sports fan's perspective, the game on Saturday between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh looks pretty standard. Pittsburgh is riding high off their impressive win over Georgetown Monday night at home, and Cincinnati is coming in having taken a shot to the face from Notre Dame. Up at half time, the Bearcats got their butt handed to them in the second half by Notre Dame's Luke Harangody who had 24 of his 25 points in the second half.
So is there a chance for this young yet talented Bearcat team?
Three weeks ago this question probably would have never been posed. Pittsburgh, win or lose against Georgetown, would have come out swinging had they lost and would have been flying high with confidence had they won.
But now the game actually has some relevance. This same Bearcat squad that lost to the likes of Belmont at home and got creamed by an average UAB team on the road has gone on to post wins against rival Louisville, Syracuse, and #19 Villanova in the last three weeks.
Now I don’t care who you are and what else you did during that stretch, but beating those three teams in a three week span is impressive. Supposing to follow the pattern of last year’s conference games in the Big East, UC was expected to fall fast once conference play began. Already at 5-7 it looked like UC's season was down the drain.
But anyone truly following the team would have noticed a slight upswing in performance. After a very rocky beginning of the season leading up to conference play UC had three very important losses. Yes losses to the likes of N.C. State, at the time #17 Xavier, and #2 Memphis.
Now what can we learn from these games? Simple, they lost all three games by 10 points are less.
Now, after getting blown out by UAB and losing to Belmont and Illinois St., playing with a middle of the pack ACC team, a top 25 rival, and the number two team in the nation is improvement. A lot of improvement. They are three and three sense, losing a couple they shouldn’t have and winning three no one thought they would.
That’s what you get with a young talented team, lots of explosion, and lots of inconsistency...Which is why this weekend UC has a chance.
Deonta Vaughn, who was just named the Big East Player of the Week, scored 20 or more points in the past three games leading up to the ND game. He has been the leader of this team and with a little defense Pittsburgh will have a scrap on their hands come Saturday.
Now, stopping Pittsburgh is easier said than done. Freshman star Dejuan Blair is coming off a big game against Georgetown. He is a threat on the offensive and defensive ends of the court, which is rare for a freshman. Throw him in with junior forward Sam Young and you have a very dangerous duo.
Pitt’s front court has been hurt this year losing two starters to injury, but Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin have both stepped up to fill in. So with a small yet powerful frontcourt and a veteran backcourt this Pitt team means business.
But the circumstances are right. This game is in Cincinnati. They are coming off a tough loss from earlier in the week and will come out swinging for the fences. Pittsburgh comes in riding high and any loss of focus would not go well. If Vaughn has a big game and the Bearcats continue to hit the boards like they have been, which is likely because of a slight size advantage, Pitt will be in for a long night.
But will it be enough? Who knows? Guess you will have to watch and find out!