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Bearcats NCAA Tournament Blog Spectacular

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Only one way to start the NCAA Tournament post. The ball is tipped ...

Welcome to your one-stop shop spectacular Bearcats postseason blog extravaganza bonanza. It's a working title. I have here all you need to know and so many pieces of information you probably don't about UC's NCAA Tournament draw, particularly the Bearcats against Creighton on Friday.

THE PARTICULARS: UC (22-11, 9-9 Big East) vs Creighton (27-7, 13-5 Missouri Valley), Friday approx. 2:45 p.m. in Philadelphia. 

In the same pod will be No. 2 seed Duke (27-5, 14-4 ACC) and No. 15 seed Albany (24-10, 9-7 America East)

THE TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller and Lewis Johnson on the call. 

THE TICKETS: If you want to go, tickets can be found on our page. You can buy them here through GoBearcats.com

THE BRACKET: In case you don't work in an office or, you know, have friends, here is the NCAA Tournament bracket. 

NEED TO KNOW: Dougie McBuckets, aka, Doug McDermott. He's one of the premier scorers in the country -- he's second nationally at 23.1 points per game. About as efficient and savvy as it gets offensively. He's a 6-10 power forward who spends a majority of his time in the post and hitting pick-and-pop shots from the perimeter. And he can fill it up. 

He hits 49.7 percent from deep and shoots plenty of them (74 of 149). He is the best 3-point shooter in the tournament. Period. End of discussion.

This scouting report video does a great job breaking down his strengths and weaknesses. Has had trouble with longer, athletic defenders, so I'd imagine a combination of Titus Rubles and Justin Jackson will draw the assignment of slowing McDermott with plenty of help from their friends.  


ELITE OFFENSE VS ELITE DEFENSE: This will be the ultimate battle of elite offense against elite defense. Creighton enters with the No. 6 most efficient offense in the country. UC is ranked as the No. 12 most efficient defense in the country. 

Creighton leads the country in 3-points percentage (42.1%) and effective FG percentage (59.1%). The Jays are a full three points better than any other team in the country in eFG. That is the best percentage in college basketball since 2007 (Florida 59.6). Think about that -- since 2007! 

I was able to find two like games from the 2012 tournament pitting elite offenses against elite defenses in the first round. Incredibly, Creighton is a near identical first-round matchup with Alabama last year. 

Top 15 offense vs. Top 15 defense 2012 Tournament
7 seed Florida (3O) vs. 10 seed Virginia (6D): Result -- Florida 71-45 
8 seed Creighton (5O) vs 9 seed Alabama (8D): Result -- Creighton 58-57

Here's the highlights of that game. Scroll to the 5:30 mark to watch the conclusion or enjoy all of the Creighton buckets in their entirety

 

THE NOTRE DAME COMPARISON: The best team on UC's schedule in terms of eFG% is Notre Dame, who ranks 44th nationally. Now, I fielded a few Notre Dame comparison questions on The Twitters and would say that comparison doesn't hold as much water because what made them one of the toughest opponents on UC's schedule was how well they passed and consequently didn't turn the ball over. That's not the case with Creighton, they will turn the ball over (rank 112th nationally in turnover %) and they won't turn you over, either. They rank 327th nationally in turnover percentage on defense. 

On Friday, I broke down the two key stats for any matchup with UC because the Bearcats play their best and win games when offense is created from second-chance points and points off turnovers. You can read that here. 

Since Jan. 27th Creighton has not forced more than 12 turnovers in a game. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have averaged more than 12 turnovers a game by themselves. 

For a UC team that relies so, so heavily on the points off turnovers statistic, that is an area where the Blue Jays are susceptible and exactly how the Bearcats will have to win this game. 

BEARCATS VS ONE GREAT PLAYER: Sure, Dougie McBuckets averages 23.1 points per game, but he doesn't receive much help from his supporting cast. No other player on Creighton averages double figures. 

  • F Doug McDermott: 23.1
  • C Greg Echenique: 9.6
  • G Grant Gibbs: 8.6
  • G Ethan Wragge: 7.7

The UC defense has been solid, but how have they done against opposing teams leading scorers in recent games? Here's the list (minus UConn without Napier in UC home win): 

  • Georgetown (loss): Otto Porter (16.3): 18 points
  • Providence (win): Bryce Cotton (19.4): 12 points
  • USF (win): Victor Rudd (12.3): 22 points
  • Louisville (loss): Russ Smith (18.1): 18 points
  • Notre Dame (loss): Jerian Grant (13.4): 13 points
  • UConn (loss): Shabazz Napier (17.1): 27 points
  • Georgetown (loss): Otto Porter (16.3): 16 points
Despite the great defense the Bearcats have for the most part played, they have allowed the other team's top player to at least hit his average regularly. That will be a trend they will need to stop in order to beat Creighton. 

How bad can McBuckets beat a team single-handedly? Look at some of the Blue Jays biggest wins this year: 

  • Wisconsin (84-74): 30 points, 8 rebounds
  • Arizona State (87-73): 29 points, 9 rebounds
  • @California (74-64): 34 points, 9 rebounds
  • Wichita State (91-79): 41 points, 6 rebounds
  • Wichita State (58-56: 14 points, 4 rebounds

DON'T BET ON IT: Of course, for recreational and perspective purposes only, the good folks in Vegas opened with Creighton as a 2-point favorite over the Bearcats. KenPom has them winning 66-62.

While we are talking prognosticators, plenty of the experts were liking the Bearcats. In one ESPN roundtable, Jay Bilas, Jay Williams and Dick Vitale all picked the Bearcats to pull the 10-7 upset. 

"The guys are talking about it on Bracketology, but yeah, the Cincinnati matchup is utterly brutal for Creighton."

BATTLE TESTED: Creighton doesn't exactly come from a land of heavyweights, though, the Missouri Valley has earned respect in recent years. The conference only put two teams in this year's Dance (Creighton, Wichita State) compared to eight from the Big East. 

To break it down, Creighton has played 12 games against the KenPom Top 75. In those games, they are 7-5. 

Compare that with UC, who has played one team ranked outside KenPom's Top 75 since Feb. 2. The Bearcats are 8-10 on the year against those teams.

"One thing about us, we play multiple games in a row against NCAA Tournament teams ... we played seven straight in February against tournament teams," Mick Cronin said. "We understand every game is tough. Every game brings different challenges. That is the one thing about our team and playing in the Big East. So, you see different types and different styles."

QUOTENT QUOTABLES: Cronin on liking the way his team relaxed and played in New York compared to the tense weeks leading up to Selection Sunday: 

"They are very cognizant of how they are doing and how their team is doing. I have a very conscientious group of kids. Probably the most conscientious, worrisome group I've ever had. To the point where I've had to change some of my tactics with them to try to get them to relax and just worry about playing hard. Sometimes thy put way too much pressure on themselves, are too hard on themselves. So, we are all equal now. Everybody is in. If you are a 2-seed or 7-seed or 10-seed it doesn't matter. Hopefully we can play relaxed, I thought we were really relaxed, I liked the way we played in New York."

If you want to read more on this concept, check out this piece from Kevin Goheen at Fox Sports Ohio. 


THREE FOR THREE: UC makes the NCAA Touranment for the third time in three years, they are one of 23 teams to pull that off (h/t @xlax1306). With a victory on Sunday, they would be one of nine teams to have won a game for three consecutive seasons. 

As a defending national champion failed to make the tournament for the second time in four years, everyone should be reminded of how difficult it is to make this happen, particularly in the rough and tumble Big East. 

UC is one of six Big East schools to make the NCAA Tournament three years straight (Syracuse, Louisville, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Marquette, Cincinnati). 

"These types of leagues can eat you alive, so I'm proud of what we have accomplished," Cronin said. 

THE DOOKIES?: Should UC win, they would likely be facing a Sunday matchup against the universally loved Duke Blue Devils. How much do people dislike the Blue Devils, in this Grantland piece searching for the most hated players in NCAA Tournament history, they made an entire region of just Duke players

Regardless, it would be an intriguing matchup. And a similar gameplan for UC. Only five teams have an offensive efficiency better than Creighton -- one of them? Duke. They are ranked No. 4 in the category. (Also 8th in defensive efficiency)

 We can get more into those logistics later, but for UC fans, it's mainly an excuse to break out this video of one of the most memorable moments in UC basketball history.

 

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