Big 12 Tournament: Cincinnati v Baylor Preview

The Bearcats are still alive in Kansas City following a 72-52 blowout win over the No. 6 seed Kansas Jayhawks.

Dan Skillings scored 25 points in the win and Cincinnati will need him to play well once again with the three seed Baylor Bears up next.

(AP Photo)

Baylor enters Thursday night's match up as the #14 team in the country in all of the ranking and rating systems.

The Bears are #5 in adjusted offense and #71 in adjusted defense. 

Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Ja'Kobe Walter, is averaging 14.7 ppg and leads an offense that averages 81.1 ppg and knocks down 40.4% of their three-point attempts. That three-point mark is good for fourth nationally. 

Joining Walter in the backcourt are RayJ Dennis (13.5 ppg) and Jayden Nunn (10.8 ppg).

All three compliment one another well.

Walter is a guy that can score from anywhere on the floor and is a potential lottery pick, while Dennis runs the offense and sets teammates up. Nunn is an efficient scorer, converting on 47.1 percent of his field goal attempts and 45 percent of his three point attempts.

Langston Love came off the bench and scored 14 points on 3-of-6 shooting from three to lead Baylor in their 62-59 win over Cincinnati on January 13th in Waco.

The Baylor front court consists of 6-foot-9 forward Jalen Bridges (11.6 ppg) and 7-foot freshman center Yves Missi.

Missi had scored in double figures in 7-of-8 games prior to back to back seven point performances to end the season against Texas and Texas Tech.

Bridges is a guy that can score from anywhere on the floor and has the size and length to give Cincinnati problems. He exploded for 32 points on 6-of-7 shooting from three against Texas on March 4th. 

Both Bridges and Missi struggled in the first match up against Cincinnati, scoring four points each. Bridges led the Bears with eight rebounds.

Keys to victory:

- Cincinnati will have to be consistent offensively. The Bearcats trailed by one with the ball with 1:44 remaining in the first match up, but missed their final five field goal attempts, including two looks at the rim with under 20 seconds left. Cincinnati has to avoid long scoring droughts like we saw last night against Kansas when they opened the second half missing 12 of their first 13 field goal attempts.

- Baylor was 8-for-8 on layups and dunks in the first meeting but 5-of-20 from deep. Cincinnati did a good job defending the perimeter in that game and did the same in the win over Kansas last night. The Bearcats will have to continue to contest everything on the perimeter and try to make the Bears beat them with jump shots, even though the statistics probably trend the other way. 

- Win the one-on-one match ups. John Newman was outstanding against Ja'Kobe Walter in the first match up and that will have to be the case once again for a Bearcat win. Walter has scored in double figures in nine consecutive games. 

- Day Day Thomas and Simas Lukosius finished a combined 0-for-12 from three as Cincinnati made just 4-of-21 three-point attempts in the regular season loss to the Bears. Those two will have to knock down some shots from the perimeter to open things up inside. 

- Aziz didn't play in the first match up between these two, as he was dealing with a back injury from the Dayton game. He has shown an ability to impact the game at both ends with his length and athleticism and that will have to once again be the case as Cincinnati continues to implement the one big lineup with three wings. 

Final Thoughts

This is a winnable game for Cincinnati, despite Baylor being a 6.5 point favorite.

The first game in Waco was one that UC let get away from them, after building a seven point lead with 16:40 remaining in the game. Baylor went on a 13-0 run over the next six minutes and UC was never able to regain momentum.

The Bearcats are still holding on to a slim hope of making the NCAA Tournament and a win tonight would go a long way in giving UC the type of boost they need to pad their resume for a NCAA Tournament berth. Get out to a fast start and keep riding the wave of confidence that this team has used to win four of their last five games. 

The journey continues tonight at 9:30 inside T-Mobile Center. 

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