Oklahoma returns to the hardwood tonight in their first true road test of the season. The Sooners play at Cincinnati in a game that may find them ranked in the Top 25 next week if they win. Standing in their way is a scrappy Bearcats team looking to protect their home court. Coming aboard the Machine with us today is Matt from SBN's Cincinnati site Down The Drive to give us the inside scoop on Bearcat Basketball.
CCM: We have to start with the suspensions. Who is/isn't playing and and how does that affect the game plan
DTD: The only players still suspended are Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis, all of them posts. The Biggest effect on the game plan is a pretty basic one. How do you play 40 minutes of Basketball with just 10 fouls between 2 post players? It has been an ongoing issue, particularly because the two posts Justin Jackson and Kelvin Gaines can be fouling machines. The suspensions obviously cut down on the amount of flexibility Mick Cronin has in his bench because he can't really get big off the bench. Basically there is no plan B anymore. The Bearcats have plan A and if that doesn't work the game is basically over.
CCM: Oklahoma has made a living this season on the boards by limiting second chance opportunities on the opponent's end and taking advantage of them on their own end. How strong are the Bearcats in rebounding?
DTD: In their current state not very. In four games against pretty abysmal competition UC has won the rebounding margin twice, over the four game stretch UC is +13. The Bearcats have held their own on the defensive glass because all four of the starting guards are good rebounders. In their current state where the Cats are weakest is where you say the Sooners go to work, on the offensive glass, -3 through 4 games.
CCM: The addition of a true point guard this season allows OU to push the pace of the game and try to score in transition. Tell us about Cincinnati's style of play.
The Bearcats will be happy to engage in a transition game. For most of the players that is where they are at their strongest. Dion Dixon and Cashmere Wright in particular are really comfortable in that kind of a game as opposed to a half court approach. Over the last four games the Bearcats have been hovering right at 68 possessions per game which is way up from the 58 or so they averaged prior to the suspensions. Safe to say they are down for a faster pace
CCM: With Romero Osby and Andrew Fitzgerald inside and Steven Pledger shooting from outside the Sooners have a balanced offensive attack. How will Cincinnati play this game defensively - man, zone, both?
DTD: All of the above. With just two posts UC has to press, trap and just generally be a pain in the rear because they can't play a set defense. Not with one post, at the most, on the floor. Mick Cronin prefers to play straight up man to man with teams but he can't do that. Instead he has gone back to the press that was uber successful last season. I expect the Bearcats to press again, not to force mistakes, but to slow down the pace of the game
CCM: Offensively how will Cincinnati attack the Sooners?
DTD: The quickest answer is a lot of secondary breaks for three pointers. the Bearcats have been on a tear shooting the three 47.7 percent since the suspensions. They will space the floor and attack off the dribble to create catch and shoot opportunities for the guards. In general the bearcats attack has been much more fluid since the suspensions, some would argue because of the suspensions. The Sooners are going to have a decided advantage in height. Bringing that advantage to bear is going to be a challenge with the bearcats wide open offenses