Perfect Kentucky (35-0; 18-0) will play Cincinnati (23-10; 13-5) in a third-round, Midwest region game at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville on Saturday. The Wildcats will look to continue their dream season and advance to the Sweet 16, while the Bearcats could pull of a historic upset.
Cincinnati advanced to the third round after a nail-biter 66-65 overtime win over Purdue. Kentucky cruised, 79-56, past No. 16-seed Hampton. If the Bearcats want to pull off an upset, it will likely take a better performance than their last game.
The Wildcats look to be playing their best basketball—a scary proposition for an undefeated team. Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein are a dominant force in the post. Towns dropped 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, along with three blocks, against Hampton. Cauley-Stein added seven points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. The two seven-footers make scoring difficult for any opposition.
Cincinnati’s junior forward Octavius Ellis will likely have the tough task of countering the Wildcat frontcourt. Ellis was ejected against Purdue for throwing a forearm shiver, but will return against Kentucky. He averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds throughout the season, both team-best stats. Sophomore guard Troy Caupain will have to do a lot the work on the perimeter. He averaged 9.5 points this season and will have to try to make plays against Kentucky’s solid guards. The Harrison twins (Aaron and Andrew), along with Devin Booker, can wear teams down on the outside, much like the forwards down low. Kentucky’s nine-man rotation is a tough storm to weather.
Wildcat coach John Calipari pointed out that the Bearcats’ style and weapons could pose some trouble for the undefeated team, however.
"The stuff that has affected us, real physical play and stretching our big guys out, playing a zone, that's all what Cincinnati does," Calipari said in a press conference. "We know we're in for a tough game. They deserve to be in their position to be in, had a great win. It's going to be a really hard game for us."
Cincinnati came into the tournament playing solid basketball, and have won six of their last seven games. As Calipari pointed out, they play a tough style and are a tough out. There are also no expectations for the Bearcats. Kentucky is chasing history and Cincinnati could be remembered for pulling off a stunning upset.
"Your back's against the wall, nobody expects you to win," Bearcat sophomore guard Kevin Johnson told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "There's no pressure. It'll be fun. We're definitely here to try to make some history."
Start Time: 2:40 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Live Stream: Watch Online at March Madness Live
Odds: Kentucky is a comfortable 17-point favorite, according to bovada.lv.
Prediction: Cincinnati has nothing to lose and will battle the Wildcats with physical play. But picking against Kentucky is feeling more-and-more foolish. Cauley-Stein and Towns should be able to dominate down low and lead the Wildcats to a win.
Kentucky over Cincinnati, 80-63