The Cincinnati Bearcats (17-4 5-3) face an early wake up call Saturday morning as they square off against the Seton Hall Pirates (13-8 2-6) at 11 am in New Jersey. The game will air on ESPNU.
Seton Hall returns home after back to back road loses to St John's (71-67) and Georgetown (74-52) and have dropped 6 of their last 7 games in Big East play.
While it has been a struggle for head coach Kevin Willard and his team of late, there are a few key areas on the offensive end that can cause problems. It starts with perimeter shooting where they lead the Big East in three pointers made at 8 a game and come in second in accuracy at 37.1%.
They also do a solid job setting up teammates for the barrage of jumpers and rank 4th in assists at 14.9 per contest. On the flip side the Pirates are last in the Big East in turnovers, giving it away 16.1 times per and even with the high assist totals they are 12th in assist to turnover ratio.
Junior guard Fuquan Edwin leads the way at 16.7 points per game, and a large portion of the Seton Hall offense is centered around the talented wing. He connects on an impressive 45% from long distance and at 6-foot-6 can be a match up problem with his ability to not only shoot, but to put it on the floor and take it to the rim if he is being overplayed on the jumper. Edwin is also leads the team in blocked shots and is second in rebounding with 6.0 a night.
Southern Illinois transfer Eugene Teague anchors the post for the Pirates and he can be a big time scoring threat on the blocks if he has it working. His 12 ppg is second to Edwin on the team and he connects on 55.7% of his attempts from the floor which is good for 5th in the Big East. He leads the way on the glass at 7.9 rpg and can be a major problem there with his 6-foot-9 290 pound frame. Look for Cincinnati to attack when he puts the ball on the floor as he is prone to giving it away making his move on the block. It isn't often you see this, but the center leads the team in turnovers with over 3 a game.
Louisville, KY native Aaron Cosby is the primary ball handler for Seton Hall, and he can be an explosive perimeter scorer when his deep ball is working. He connects at a decent clip at 35.8%, but he isn't shy about letting them fly with a team leading 106 attempts. Cosby is 2nd on the team in assists at 3.0 per, but is also very turnover prone at 2.5 a game.
Sophomore Brandon Mobley can pose problems at the 4 spot with his ability to stretch the floor a 6-foot-9 with a soft touch from the perimeter, He doesn't fire at will like Cosby and Edwin, but he is shooting 50% from 3 and 52% from the floor and will provide a good challenge for Justin Jackson and Titus Rubles at the 4 spot. Mobley is a former UC recruit from Savannah, GA and grew up with Cincinnati PG Cashmere Wright.
Junior combo forward Brian Oliver has been in and out of the starting lineup for Seton Hall, but is likely to be on the floor a lot in this one. He is another capable shooter from the perimeter at 37.5%, but he really struggles from inside the arc shooting only 18-50 from 2 on the season.
The Pirates don't get much production from anyone outside that group with no one logging regular minutes scoring over 5 ppg. Freshman guard Tom Maayan is the most effective of the short bench rotation with a team leading 3.7 assist per game, but he is also very turnover prone at 3.1 per which is second only to Teague on the team even though he only logs 23 minutes a night.
Haralds Karlis and Kyle Smith round out the regular rotation for Willard and combine for 7.9 points and 4.5 boards a contest.
On the defensive end the Pirates rank 9th in scoring defense at 64.7 per and 11th in FG% defense 41.3%.
Obviously those numbers are heavily impacted but the sheer volume of turnovers they commit and if Cincinnati is going to get their first ever road win at Seton Hall they will need to turn up the pressure and force the Pirates to give it away as much as possible.
The Bearcats will also need to avoid what has become the standard 1st half slump against a team that shoots as well as Seton Hall. A bad start can easily lead to a big deficit if the Pirates are connecting from the perimeter.
Much like just about every game on the schedule to date, this can be a Cincinnati win with solid perimeter defense that keeps Seton Hall off target and forces them into the turnover issues that have plagued them all season. If they shoot it well they can hang around well into lunch time and make it interesting down the stretch.