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2015 NCAA Tournament: Purdue vs. Cincinnati Preview

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Purdue and Cincinnati are both defense first teams that are not afraid to slug it out.

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue has won 14 straight NCAA Tournament First Round games (and this is the first round, so screw anyone else who says otherwise). We haven't exactly beaten up on 16 seeds, either. Purdue has been in the 8/9, 7/10, or 6/11 game (generally regarded as "toss-up" games) seven times in those 14 first round games, so we're used to tense, evenly matched opening games. That's what we're going to see here.

Opponent:

Cincinnati Bearcats

From:

Cincinnati, OH

Date:

3/19/2015

Venue:

KFC Yum Center (22,090), Louisville, KY

TV/Streaming:

CBS

Radio Stream:

TuneIn

Satellite Radio:

SIRI 136, XM

Odds:

Purdue By 2

Tickets:

As low as $126 on Stubhub

Tipoff:

7:10pm

Blog Representation:

Down The Drive

2014-15 Record:

22-10, 13-5 American

All-time series

Cincinnati leads 3-0

Last Purdue win:

None

Last Cincinnati Win:

79-59 on 11/27/2004 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

2013-14 Record:

27-7, 15-3 American (lost to Harvard in NCAA First Round)

Last NCAA appearance:

2014 (Two-time NCAA Champion)

Coach:

Mick Cronin (253-141 overall, 184-117 in 9th year at Cinicnnati)

There will be defense played Thursday night. Cincinnati is not a strong scoring team, ranking 294th nationally at only 62.7 points per game (compared to Purdue's 70 ppg, which is 99th nationally, but they make up for it by often holding their opponents under 60. In 32 games they held teams to 60 points or less 24 times. That's damned impressive. These factors combined can lead to some ugly results:

Vs. St. Francis (PA) W 52-37

Vs. Eastern Illinois W 54-49

Vs. Nebraska L 56-55 2 OT

Vs. SMU W 56-50

Vs. East Carolina L 50-46

Vs. Tulane L 50-49

Vs. UConn L 57-54

This is a team capable of beating some really good teams (wins over SMU and San Diego State) and capable of losing to some really bad teams (East Carolina and Tulane). If Purdue can find a way to crack said defense it should have some success, assuming its own defense is playing well.

The Bearcats have just one player averaging in double figures, and that is 6'10" junior Octavius Ellis who averages exactly 10 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Watching him go against A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas should be fun. The disadvantage is that if Haas/Hammons win the battle and get him in foul trouble, Cincinnati does not have a strong backup for him. Coreontae DeBerry is also 6'10", but averages 9.9 minutes and 3.8 points in relief action.

DeBerry and Ellis are two of a regular eight man rotation, with two more players (Deshaun Morman and Quadri Moore) playing in spots. Guard Troy Caupain is their most dangerous three-pointer shooter at 43.1%, but he averages only 9.5 points per game. As expected for a team that doesn't score a lot, this is not a strong three-point shooting team at 33.3%.

Caupain shares the back court with Farad Cobb, a 6-foot junior that averages 8.5 points per game. Both players are excellent defenders with more than one steal per game. In fact, Cincinnati averages seven steals per game as a team.  Cobb also leads the team in three-point attempts with 149.

This game should be evenly matched because both teams are so similar. Both average 13 turnovers per game and shoot 45.3% from the field. It comes down to who has the better defense? What is the difference that the size of Haas and Hammons inside? This is going to be a tough, hard-fought game where neither team is going to be able to pull away. Cincinnati has more experience having been a tournament regular of late while Purdue has only Jon Octeus with tournament experience. There should be good crowds for both, too with both campuses relatively close to Louisville. Honestly, I think it is too close to call.