Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh: Four Key Storylines at Tonight’s Jimmy V ClassicPosted by CD Bradley on December 17th, 2013
Here’s a look ahead to the Jimmy V Classic game between former Big East rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
- For nearly a decade, the Bearcats and Panthers squared off in the old Big East, but they now find themselves representing the AAC and ACC, respectively. And of course, it was Cincinnati that tried to follow Pittsburgh to its new conference, only to be left behind by fellow conference-mate Louisville. So the two teams are certainly no strangers to each other; Pitt seniors Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson have played against Cincinnati seniors Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson each of the past three years, with the results split evenly at 2-2. It wouldn’t be surprising if Cincinnati had a bit of extra motivation to show the ACC what it passed on, and Pitt likewise will probably want to reinforce that its new league made the right choice.
- Both of these programs have a bit of reputation for soft scheduling in the non-conference portion of the season, and this year is no different. Cincinnati will be just Pittsburgh’s second top 60 foe, according to the rankings from KenPom (Stanford, #46, lost to Pitt by 21 in Brooklyn last month). The Panthers will be the Bearcats’ third such foe, both this season and in a row. The first two parts of the Cincinnati scheduling-up trifecta hasn’t gone particularly well; they lost a hard-fought game at New Mexico only to follow up with a drilling by crosstown rival Xavier. For both teams, a win tonight might well be the strongest victory on their resume when conference play starts, which could well prove very important come Selection Sunday.
- Both teams also have seniors who have taken a big step forward for their final seasons. Kilpatrick has been the one constant for a struggling Bearcat offense this season, averaging 19.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, while shooting 43.9 percent from distance. For Pittsburgh, Patterson has been filling up the box score, averaging 16.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, while shooting 43.2 percent beyond the arc. Whichever of the veterans wins their backcourt match-up could very well help tip the balance in this game.
- Two key statistics to watch as the game unfolds when Pittsburgh has the ball will be offensive rebounding and turnovers. The Panthers have a huge advantage on the boards; they are one of the nation’s best offensive rebounding teams by posting a 41.7 percente offensive rebounding rate that’s good for ninth nationally. At the same time, Cincinnati has allowed opponents to grab 35.3 percent of their own offensive rebounds, which ranks 281st nationally. A more advantageous comparison for the Bearcats is turnover percentage, where Mick Cronin’s team ranks first nationally, forcing foes into turnovers on 27.9 percent of their possessions. Pitt is no slouch in this department either, turning it over on only 15 percent of its possessions (#29). For Pitt to get the win over its former conference foe, pushing its rebounding edge to generate second chance points will likely lead to victory. If Cincinnati is to claim the upset, it will have to either step up its board work on the defensive end, or force enough turnovers to make up for the second chances it allows.