Three Questions Heading into Houston vs. CincinnatiPosted by Ross Schulz on January 7th, 2014
After tonight’s game, Houston and Cincinnati will already be a sixth of the way through their AAC conference schedules. The winner will join Louisville as the only undefeated team left in the conference race, a surprising fact for only January 7, and for the time being, that team will take sole possession of first place. After losses to New Mexico and Xavier, it appeared Cincinnati was destined for a mediocre season, but since then, the Bearcats won against Pittsburgh in an ugly affair and notched an impressive 16-point road win Saturday at Memphis. Houston came into the season with moderate-to-high expectations given the return of its core nucleus, but after five non-conference losses the Cougars appeared to be just another disappointing team. It now looks like Houston has put its non-conference woes behind them and is starting fresh with the AAC season. The Cougars began conference play with a win against Connecticut and then went on the road to defeat South Florida by nine. It all sets up for a better-than-expected conference season showdown at 9:00 PM in Hofheinz Pavilion, where a few of the following questions will hopefully be answered.
- Has Houston really turned a corner? A lot was said about the Cougars’ toughness from both the media and head coach James Dickey following Houston’s big win over Connecticut, but we’ll see how tough they really are after playing against the best defensive team in the AAC. Cincinnati ranks sixth in the country in scoring defense and third in defensive efficiency. If Houston is serious about competing for a top three spot in the conference standings, they’ll need to protect the home court tonight and pull off the win.
- Can TaShawn Thomas reach his season average of 17.5 points? Thomas, along with Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, is one of two of the AAC’s best offensive players. He’ll be going up against a very tough defense that prides itself on shutting good players down, but he needs to put the team on his shoulders if he want to continue to stay atop the conference standings. Thomas needs to let the game come to him and not force anything; he has help available with Danuel House and Chicken Knowles.
- Is Cincinnati ready to compete for the AAC crown? It sure looked like it Saturday at Memphis, but to win the conference the Bearcats will have to show consistent, continued success on the road including tonight at Houston. As long as the Bearcats can continue to pack their defense for road trips, Mick Cronin’s group could be one of the real surprises of the conference season.