As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 22-10, 13-5 in American Athletic Conference
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 106.7 (76)/93.3 (18)
Seed: No. 8 in Midwest
Impact player: Octavius Ellis, junior forward: 10.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 57.8 FG%
The Case For: The Bearcats' offensive struggles may not always make them fun to watch, but they have been effective this season. They swept AAC regular season champion SMU, won road games against Tulsa and N.C. State and knocked off San Diego State and Temple at home. They’ll throw both man and zone defenses at their opponents, but no matter what they deploy it has been effective; Cincinnati ranks 18th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, seventh in block percentage and 50th in steal percentage. Octavius Ellis, Troy Caupain and Gary Clark form the backbone of the team’s defense, and both Ellis and Clark can be tough to stop in the paint. While they don’t shoot it well as a team, they do pound the glass, checking in at 17th in the country in offensive-rebounding rate. If you don’t put a body on them, they’ll get easy second-chance points all day.
The Case Against: To say this team can have trouble scoring would be an understatement. In 18 AAC games, Cincinnati scored fewer than 60 points nine times and fewer than 50 twice. Ellis is the team's leading scorer at 10 points per game. Just three players—Ellis, Caupain and Farad Cobb—average more than eight points per game. They’re 230th in three-point percentage and turn the ball over in 21.3 percent of their possessions. Unsurprisingly, they want to slow the pace and limit the overall number of possessions in any game, ranking 340th in adjusted tempo. If a team is able to get out and run against the Bearcats, it generally cannot score enough to keep up. That’s going to make any game against an efficient offensive team a real challenge. While Cincinnati is great at cleaning up its own misses, it also allowed opponents do the same, as the Bearcats are just 214th in offensive rebounding rate against. This is a team that desperately needs to be in its comfort zone to win, and that means slow and plodding.
SI prediction: Lose to Purdue in Round of 64