Four Thoughts on Cincinnati’s Jimmy V Win Over Pitt

Posted by CD Bradley on December 18th, 2013

Four Thoughts is our way of providing some rapid reactions to some of the key games involving AAC teams throughout the season.

Brad Penner/USA Today Sports The defense of Sean Kilpatrick (right) and his fellow Bearcats was key in Cincinnati's 44-43 win over Pittsburgh at the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday.

Brad Penner/USA Today Sports
The defense of Sean Kilpatrick (right) and his fellow Bearcats was key in Cincinnati’s 44-43 win over Pittsburgh at the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday.

  1. It is clear that the question that will determine Cincinnati’s fate this year is whether their aggressive defense can overcome their inept offense. It did so, barely, Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden. The Bearcats held the Panthers without a field goal for more than 11 minutes of game action, bridging the half, but only managed to outscore punchless Pitt 6-5 over that span. After a veritable offensive explosion in which Pitt made four field goals in less than three minutes, Cincinnati endured an even longer drought, failing to make a field goal for more than 13 minutes. And yet, Cameron Wright‘s driving layup with 1:09 remaining gave Pitt a 43-42 lead. Admittedly, a key reason the Panthers failed to connect from the field was that Cincinnati continually chose fouls over allowing points in the paint; Pittsburgh shot 29 free throws (making 19) to Cincinnati’s three. But between all the fouls, the Panthers hit only 11-of-33 field goals, a testament to the consistent defensive pressure they faced all night.
  2. There was much moaning and complaining on Twitter about the lack of aesthetic appeal offered by last night’s match-up. And while it was no offensive masterpiece, scoring efficiency wasn’t awful at right around 0.9 points per possession. What really set apart this game, though, was the glacial pace of it. At approximately 48 possessions (the average this season is around 68), it was one of the slowest games of the year. As pointed out by @BPredict (proprieter of the Basketball Predictions blog), it’s only the third game so far this season with fewer than 50 possessions, and the first that didn’t involve Delaware State. Cincinnati’s style of play lends itself to slow games, with its lack of any discernible offensive sets paired with relentless defense designed to deny scoring opportunities.
  3. Each team also managed to negate one of the other’s strengths, which probably contributed to the less than ideal quality of play. Coming in, Pitt was one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, and Cincinnati was among the worst defensive rebounding squads. Mick Cronin mentioned it as a point of emphasis in the pregame, and his team must have listened. Pitt was grabbing more than 40 percent of the rebounds on the offensive end, but Cincinnati held them to below 25 percent on that measure. In fact, the Bearcats enjoyed huge success grabbing their own misses, with 14 offensive rebounds last night (42 percent); Justin Jackson scored a team-high 12 points, with three of his six field goals coming on putbacks. While the Panthers underachieved on the boards, Pitt did an impressive job of holding on to the ball. Cincinnati came in forcing turnovers on 27.9 percent of its opponent’s possessions, the nation’s best such mark, but forced only seven turnovers on Tuesday, about half their normal rate.
  4. The win was huge for Cincinnati, a team which had played a weak schedule before losing closely at New Mexico and getting blown out by crosstown rival Xavier in its last two games. Beating Pittsburgh provides a quality win on a neutral court of the type that may well prove the difference between a happy or sad Selection Sunday for Cronin’s squad. While Pittsburgh has also played a weak schedule, their Panthers’ efficiency rankings (#7 on KenPom before Tuesday’s game, #12 now) indicate they might end up near the very top of the ACC, making this victory very valuable indeed.
CD Bradley (69 Posts)

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