8. Cincinnati (22-10, 13-5/AAC)–The Bearcats battled through a challenging season, which included the loss of coach Mick Cronin, whom doctors told to stay away from the sidelines after he was diagnosed with a heart condition. Cincinnati is also a very young team, with only one senior who averages over 20 minutes per game.
The Bearcats have some bad losses (at Nebraska, at East Carolina, and a home head-scratcher against Tulane), but somehow landed safely in the NCAA field, likely thanks to wins over San Diego State, NC State, and SMU. This isn’t a vintage Cincinnati team, and there’s absolutely zero chance of them giving Kentucky a game in the Round of 32.
Can they win their
first round Round of 64 game, though? Yes. The Bearcats were one of the nation’s stingiest defensive teams this season, ranking sixth in points allowed and 13th in blocks per game. Purdue isn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut, either.
6th Points Allowed (55.3)
13th Blocks per game (5.4)
294th Points per game (62.4)
9. Purdue (21-12, 12-6/Big Ten)–The Boilers certainly didn’t look like an NCAA Tournament team early in the season, when they lost to Kansas State, North Florida, Vanderbilt and Gardner-Webb. But head coach Matt Painter did a terrific job in righting the ship, going 11-5 in the second half of the season and posting 12 wins in one of the toughest conferences in the nation.
Purdue’s biggest strength is its size, namely, 7-0 center A.J. Hammons. The big man averaged 11.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this season and was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. His length could cause real problems for Cincinnati in the Round of 64.
14th Blocks per game (5.3)
37th Assists per game (14.9)
84th Field Goal Percentage (.453)
PREDICTION: The first one to 50 might win this game, and we think it’s going to be Purdue. Center A.J. Hammons is the best player on either side, and if he’s a big factor, the Boilers will be in good shape. Like Cincinnati, though, they’ve got no shot against Kentucky. None.