March Madness Picks: Big East Semifinals – Cincinnati vs. Syracuse
There are just four teams left in Madison Square Garden to fight it out for the Big East championship, and on Friday night, the Cincinnati Bearcats will look to get the best of the Syracuse Orange.
It’s a good thing that the Bearcats are going to have a few extra hours to prepare for this one, as they had to play two overtimes to take care of the Georgetown Hoyas on Thursday. There haven’t been all that many great games that UC has won this year, but that was surely one of them and will remove all doubt about the relatively weak SOS that the team has. Amazingly enough, the Bearcats used all five of their starters for at least 40 minutes on Thursday, and Dion Dixon played for 48 of the total 50 minutes. Only Justin Jackson came off of the bench for more than five minutes for the game, and he was the only man off the bench that scored a single point. Yancy Gates had 23 points and eight boards, while Dixon was one of the other three double digit scorers on the game. The Bearcats needed their stout defense to prevail though, and this is the unit that really did a nice job for the majority of the game. Cincy is allowing just 61.3 points per game this year, ranking No. 39 in the nation and it is a team that ranks in the Top 100 in the country in virtually every major defensive category.
The ‘Cuse are still getting a bad rap even though they are 31-1 this year, and we are starting to wonder what else this team has to prove. Sure, Syracuse has won some ugly games this year, and it came from behind to put aside the UConn Huskies on Thursday afternoon in one of those ugly duels. However, no one asks how you win the games, just whether you win them. Fab Melo and the gang really cracked down defensively against the Huskies, especially late in the second half when the Orange went on their run to pull in front. On a night in which CJ Fair, Kris Joseph, and Scoop Jardine combined to shoot just 2-for-18 from the floor, the rest of the Orange really stepped it up. Dion Waiters came off of the bench to add 18 points, while James Southerland hit two of the biggest shots of the season for Syracuse and finished with 10 points to lead the way. Still, only getting 10 points out of Joseph isn’t good enough, especially considering that he went just 1-of-8 from the floor and 8-of-13 from the charity stripe, and he is going to be key to get to the Big East finale.
The Final Word: In the end, the depth of the Orange is going to make the difference in this one. There is a reason that Syracuse is the relatively large favorite, and coming off of that double-overtime game is going to prove to be a killer to the Bearcats.
Cincinnati Bearcats @ Syracuse Orange Pick: Syracuse Orange