NIT Tournament: Cincinnati v Bradley Preview

After a thrilling 73-72 overtime win over San Francisco in the first round of the NIT, the Bearcats (21-14) season continues on Saturday afternoon with a 2 pm tip off against the Bradley Braves (23-11).

How we got here:

Simas Lukosius scored 28 points on 8-of-10 shooting from deep, including a three with four second remaining in overtime to help the Bearcats survive and advance.

San Francisco finished the game 0-for-6 on their last six field goal attempts and were held scoreless over the final 2:38 of the overtime period.

Bradley defeated Loyola Chicago by a final score of 74-62 in the first round of the NIT. Duke Deen had 18 points and Malevy Leons recorded 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks to set up a second round match up with the Bearcats.

Key Stats/Notes:

- In the Missouri Valley Conference this season, Bradley ranked fourth in offense and first in defense. They were also third in steals and second in blocked shots.

- The Braves rank 15th in effective field goal percentage (55.6 %), 18th in three-point percentage (37.5 %), 22nd in two-point percentage (55.1 %), 27th in shooting percentage (47.8 %), and 29th in shooting efficiency (1.156). Bradley is 256th in adjusted tempo, but 74th in kenpom's adjusted offense. Their offense averages just under nine 3-pointers per game on 24 attempts.

- Defensively, Bradley ranks 58th in Kenpom's adjusted defense and 61st overall in the team rankings. Teams are making 41.1 % of their field goal attempts against Bradley but just 32.9% of 3-point attempts. Opponents effective field goal percentage against Bradley is 47.1, which ranks 38th nationally. The Braves average 74.6 points per game and are giving up an average of 67.5 points per game, which is 44th nationally. 

- Teams are averaging just under nine offensive rebounds per game against Bradley, or 26.8% of their misses. Bradley pulls down 27.1 % of their misses, which equates to right around eight per game. 

- Bradley was 0-4 in Quad 1 games this season and 3-4 in Quad 2 games, finishing 57th in the NET.

- Day Day Thomas finished with a career high eight assists against San Francisco but exited late due to an injury. Thomas is one of just three players on UC's roster that have not missed a game this season. His status will be one to pay attention to leading up to tip-off. If he is out, that would likely signal extended minutes for Jizzle James with Simas also running point at times. 

Wes Miller on Bradley:

Players to watch:

6-foot-3 Junior Guard Connor Hickman

The Bloomington native is currently leading the team in points per game (14.5) and is second on the team in three-point field goal percentage (40.5%), while also making 46.6 percent of his field goal attempts. Hickman has scored in double figures in 15 of the Braves' last 18 games, with two of those single digit outputs coming in two of the last three games. Hickman was limited to eight points in Bradley's MVC semi final loss to Drake.

5-foot-8 Senior Guard Duke Deen

Deen was named Sunbelt freshman of the year while at Troy two seasons ago. While small in stature, Deen is a tough, physical guard that pulls down 3.1 rebounds per game and dishes out just under four assists per game.. The Louisiana native averages 14.2 points per game on 44.3 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range. Deen finished third in the MVC in three-point percentage and fifth in three-pointers per game.

6-foot-9 Senior Forward Malevy Leons

Leons was named MVC Defensive Player of the Year last season and followed that up by averaging 13.7 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game, and 1.5 blocks per game. Leons leads the team in offensive rebounds and finished MVC play 16th in points, sixth in rebounds, 11th in free throw percentage, third in blocks, fifth in steals and sixth in minutes played. 

6-foot-9 Senior Forward Darius Hannah

Hannah leads the team in field goal percentage (62.6 %) , which ranks 12th nationally, and averages 11.8 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game. Hannah was extremely efficient in the win over Loyola, scoring 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting, while pulling down 8 rebounds.

6-foot-7 Redshirt-Junior Guard Christian Davis

Davis has struggled with his outside shot, making 31.9 percent of his attempts, but comes in averaging 7.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg. Davis began his career at Le Moyne College, where he earned Northeast-10 Conference All-Rookie Team accolades in his one season.

6-foot-8 freshman Almar Atlason leads the rest of the role players for Bradley, scoring 4.8 ppg in 19.8 minutes per game. Atlason has connected on 41 percent of his three-point attempts this season.

Final Thoughts

As Miller mentioned following the San Francisco game, Bradley has been one of the best mid-major programs in the country for the last 6-7 years. This year's edition has good positional size and length and have been consistent at both ends of the court. Cincinnati will have to play well to win the game and can't have the long scoring droughts we have seen throughout the season, as Bradley will make you pay with their ability to get hot from outside. Cincinnati has more individual talent and athleticism but that rarely matters when it comes to March basketball. 

Cincinnati assistant Drew Adams played an important role in reestablishing Bradley to the peak of the Missouri Valley, including helping the Braves to their first consecutive conference titles in school history. He coached 10 all-conference players and seven MVC All-Freshman recipients at Bradley, including current leading scorer Connor Hickman. Adams was on the Bradley staff under head coach Brian Wardle from 2015-22. The Bearcats should be well prepared for this match up. 



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