To get an inside perspective on FSU's next opponent I reached out to Scott King, who runs the excellent Bearcats Blog, to get some inside dirt. I'll be answering some of his questions as well, and will be sure to link it.
If you're on twitter, give Scott a follow for the game: @BearcatsBlog
1. Cincinnati finished 12-6 in the always tough Big East. How was this compared to your expectations? Are the Bearcats better or not as good as you thought they'd be?
By my expectations that I had coming into this season, 12-6 is a win or two less than I was thinking. I believe I picked them to go 13-5 or 14-4 in the preseason. Once the season actually started and there was some minor scrap with Xavier that someone you may have heard about, I would have jumped on 12 wins in a second. I was hoping that this team would finish .500 after the suspensions. The fact they finished with 12 wins and a top 4 seed in the Big East tournament was rather remarkable.
The Bearcats are better than I thought they would be. They have 3 guys who can take games over. They have 4 guys who aren't afraid to take a big shot late. They play hard on defense. Offensively, they are a challenge at times. But when they are clicking, they are fun to watch. I didn't really think last year's team could make a run because I didn't think they could beat UConn. I think they can make a run this year, which is why I'm looking forward to the game Sunday night.
2. It seems that up until "the fight" that Cincinnati's offense was struggling. Since then, it's been a lot better. What happened?
Mick Cronin was forced to radically change the offense. The offense the first 8 games of the season was centered around Yancy Gates. They tried, well forced, everything to go through the paint. As a result, things bogged down and they had trouble against a lot of middling teams. JaQuon Parker coming back from injury saw UC play 4 guards. UC started doing everything through their guards, letting Cashmere Wright dictate the offense. With the offense spread out, guys like Sean Kilpatrick and Wright got looks from 3. Dion Dixon and JaQuon Parker were able to slash to the basket and utilize pull up jumpers.
Another thing the Bearcats started doing was attempting a lot more 3s. They took over 20 a game this season. Their offense is completely different when they are just attempting 3s and when they aren't. Whether or not they make them doesn't really matter to a certain extent. When they are shooting 3s, it's mainly because they are moving the ball. When they offense has the 3 taken away, the team goes 1 on 1 and bogs down. Plus, UC rebounds missed 3s pretty well.
3. Sean Kilpatrick is obviously a stud. What other players should FSU fans be watching? Who are the keys to winning this game?
Right now you have to start with Yancy Gates. He basically willed the comeback against Georgetown. He had a big game against Syracuse. When the game was tied against Texas, he scored 4 big points to get UC up 2 and 6. He had 15-10 against the Longhorns.
Cashmere Wright is the point guard. He's not much of a 2 point shooter, but he's at 37% from 3 on the season. The team plays much better with him on the court than when he's on the bench for whatever reason.
JaQuon Parker has really stepped up his role. He's 6'3, but plays the 4. He rebounds pretty well. Parker has really stepped up his offense. He went off for 28 against Marquette. He took the most shots against Texas. Lately he's been taking his guy off the dribble. Most bigs can't handle him when he turns the corner. He's an important player for the UC offense.
4. FSU has struggled with teams which have quick guards that can penetrate, combined with players that can shoot the three. How does Cincinnati fit this mold? And do you see Cincinnati's offense or defense being key to this game?
Cincinnati can fit the mold very well at times. Wright, Dixon, Parker and Kilpatrick can all put the ball on the floor. Kilpatrick is very successful off the bounce because people have to respect his 3 point shooting. Wright is a very good spot up shooter. Dixon runs mainly isos. Like I said up top, Parker has been driving like crazy the last 5 or 6 games. I wouldn't call any of the guards quick though.
I think the biggest issue is the defense. UC's guards not being quick has killed them on defense. They have been the victims of some big time scoring explosions. Michael Snaer has big time scoring ability and he worries me. Same with Ian Miller. Look up the UC losses and you see game after game after game where a guard lit them up. Even in wins, Maalik Wayns killed them. I don't know if FSU has a player like Wayns or even Peyton Siva, who also killed UC, You had Brown and Lewis hit 5-11 from 3 on Friday as well.
5. Finally, give me a prediction. Who wins, and how does this game play out?
I think Cincinnati is going to win. I'm expecting a game in the mid-60s like UC had Friday. I know Florida State has stepped up to the plate when they have played the Duke's and Carolina's, but Cincinnati has been doing the same lately. When they played a ranked team, home or away, most of the time they have walked out with wins. They've taken down 2 of the other 3 seeds the past 2 weeks. I'm probably being a total homer about this, but I have a feeling about this team and don't think the run stops now. I see it something like 64-61.