Bearcats in business as Pirates await
On Thursday, No. 22 Cincinnati eked out a 66-64 win over SMU. But will Mick Cronin’s crew have an easier time dispatching another American Athletic Conference rival this afternoon?
The Bearcats enter East Carolina’s lair at 4 p.m. ET, with handicappers installing the visitors as massive favorites. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives Cincinnati odds of -1900 to improve to 15-2 overall, whereas the Pirates represent +875 underdogs. The over/under is set at 122.
Their uncharacteristically sloppy performance vs. Tim Jankovich’s troops notwithstanding, the Bearcats continue racing toward a seventh straight Big Dance berth. Standout sophomore guard Jacob Evans & Co. opened league competition by demolishing Temple, Tulane and Houston. Perhaps most impressive of all, no team has shot better than 36 percent against Cincy since Marshall on Dec. 22.
That’s a sobering thought for an East Carolina group bringing up the AAC rear in scoring (62.7 points per game). Jeff Lebo’s players haven’t tasted victory in almost three weeks, and things aren’t likely to get better in the near future. In fact, offensive catalyst B.J. Tyson just suffered a knee injury that could jeopardize his availability for the rest of the regular season.
No matter the circumstances, however, the Pirates (9-9) routinely excel on the defensive end. Considering the Bearcats’ occasional issues in terms of creating second- and third-chance opportunities, we anticipate a bit of a grind-it-out affair at Minges Coliseum.
SUNDAY NCAA FREE PICK: EAST CAROLINA +15