Connecticut Huskies vs. Cincinnati Bearcats Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Connecticut Huskies (9-2 SU, 2-7 ATS) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (8-3 SU, 3-4 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Wednesday, December 30, 2009, Fifth Third Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio.
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Connecticut +1/Cincinnati -1
Over/Under: 131.5

The Connecticut Huskies have pretty much done what they were supposed to do so far. They defeated all nine of their unranked non-conference opponents and lost to Duke and Kentucky. The Huskies went 8-1 at home in their non-conference slate. But they have yet to play a true road game this season. Playing their first true road game as the Big East conference opener at a very good Cincinnati team is a tough task, but a task that the No. 10 Huskies will have to face on Wednesday.

Both of these teams are very big and physical. The Huskies start three players – Stanley Robinson, Ater Majok and Alex Oriakhi – that are at least 6-foot-9. The Bearcats are out-rebounding their opponents by 10 boards per game. Yancy Gates, Lance Stephenson, Deonta Vaughn and Rashad Bishop are all strong players that can drive to the basket almost at will.

Connecticut’s two losses are to Duke and Kentucky, both at Madison Square Garden. The loss to Kentucky was by just three points. The Huskies’ best wins are over LSU, William & Mary, Hofstra, Boston University, Harvard and Central Florida. Four of UConn’s eight wins are by less than 10 points.

Jerome Dyson, a 6-foot-4 guard, is leading the Huskies in scoring with 19.8 points per game. He is also averaging 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Robinson, a 6-foot-9 athletic forward, is having a solid season with 17.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per game while shooting 55.1 percent from the field. Kemba Walker is doing a nice job running the point for the Huskies with 13.3 points, 6.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game.

Cincinnati has quality wins this season over Vanderbilt and Maryland on a neutral court and an overtime loss in the Maui Invitational championship to Gonzaga. The Bearcats have also lost road games at Xavier and UAB. They are coming off a pair of easy victories over Lipscomb and Winthrop since their 64-47 loss at UAB.

Stephenson, Gates and Vaughn are the key players for the Bearcats. Stephenson, a 6-foot-5 physically gifted freshman guard, is leading the team in scoring with 12.5 points per game. Gates, who is averaging 11.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, is a monster down low. Vaughn, who is averaging 9.8 points and 4.0 assists per game, is a scoring point guard who has taken more of a passive role this season but he needs to score more points for the Bearcats to reach their potential.

UConn’s biggest strength this season is at the free throw line. The Huskies are attempting nearly 28 free throw attempts per game while allowing their opponents to attempt less than half of that. Cincinnati is playing just about even at the free throw line, so the key will be for the Bearcats to play solid defense and keep the Huskies off the free throw line and to attack the basket and get to the free throw line themselves.

Don’t expect many 3-pointers to be made in this game. The Huskies don’t have many reliable outside shooting threats and they’re only making about four 3-pointers per game. Cincinnati shoots more than 20 3-point attempts per game but the Bearcats are shooting 28 percent from beyond the arc. Both teams are allowing opponents to shoot around 31 percent from outside the arc.

UConn is coming off a hard-fought ATS win over Iona at home on Sunday, winning the game 93-74. That was just the second game the Huskies have covered in all season, with an 81-55 win over LSU at Madison Square Garden being the other. UConn has won three straight since the loss to Kentucky, defeating Central Florida by nine, Maine by 17 and Iona by 19.

Cincinnati is 0-4 ATS in its last four lined games, as there were no lines for the wins over Lipscomb and Winthrop. Five of Cincy’s last six games have gone under.

UConn is 6-14 ATS in its last 20 games as an underdog and 6-13
ATS in its last 19 games as a road underdog. The Huskies are 1-4 ATS in
their last five road games following three or more consecutive home games
and 4-11 ATS in their last 15 games as an underdog of 6.5 or less. Cincinnati
is 7-16 ATS in its last 23 games as a home favorite. The under is 7-1 in
UConn’s last eight road games, 7-1 in Cincy’s last eight games overall,
5-0 in Cincy’s last five home games, and 5-0 in Cincy’s last five games
as a favorite.

Ryno’s Pick: This game will be a tough hard-fought battle to open up the Big East season. Cincy has been the tougher of the two teams so far this season and the Bearcats will especially be tougher at home in this one. UConn may be ranked No. 10 and Cincy may be unranked, but there’s a good chance the Bearcats are the better team this season. Take Cincinnati -1.