South Regional action continues on Friday in Nashville as No. 2 seeded Cincinnati makes the 240-mile trek to battle 15th seed Georgia State. This should mean a number of Bearcats fans in the Music City.
Cincinnati’s outstanding defense will face a skilled offense opponent who also does a very good job in holding opposing teams below their scoring average. Nevertheless, the college basketball odds certainly favorite Cincinnati, who are a two-touchdown favorite (-14), with the total up to 130 for this 2:00 EDT start on TBS.
Can Georgia State make enough shots and limit the Bearcats shooters, or does this physical Cincy squad just overwhelm the Panthers and pound them into oblivion?
The Cincinnati Way
While other top college programs have changed how they play and recruited a number of one-and-done players to stay near the top, coach Mick Cronin has a certain way he likes to do things. Cronin prefers players who are more physically larger (see: not skinny) who appear to be teachable and like to get down in a defensive stance and lift weights. This is how the Bearcats play, and this season they are second in defensive efficiency have the same ranking in field goal percentage allowed at 37 percent.
So why is this Cincinnati (30-4, 17-14 ATS) club better than others in recent years? Is it just the defense or something else? No question the Bearcats stifling defense is part of their success, but for most of the year, Cronin’s crew shot the ball better than past Cincy team’s both inside and outside the arc. They are off on both accounts over the last month, which could be a concern, but that was against better AAC teams that knew them well.
The Panthers are back in the field of 68 after a three-year absence. Ron Hunter is proving he can coach and find scorers that fit his style. Georgia State (24-10, 19-11 ATS) has Sun Belt Player-of-the-Year D’Marcus Simonds, who scores 20.9 PPG and dishes out 4.5 dimes a game. Though the Panthers offense runs through Simonds, this team is not a one-man band.
Junior guard Devin Mitchell (12.2 PPG) and junior forward Jeff Thomas (10.9) have both had games this season where they took over the scoring duties. Their contributions allowed Georgia State to average 75.3 PPG and make 46.5 percent from the field and a noteworthy 39.1 percent from behind the arc.
The largest concern for Hunter’s squad is on the glass where they have a -3 differential and Cincinnati is +7 against much stronger competition.
For college basketball picks, if the Cincinnati defense has one of those games, they should cover the spread. But Georgia State upset defensive-minded and No.3 Baylor in this same scenario three years ago. The Panthers defense holds foes to 39.5% shooting on the season and in their last four outings facing Sun Belt teams, they held them to 37.4%. Not going to call for the outright upset, but like Georgia State to cover with an 11-3 ATS mark after two or victories.
Doug Upstone wrote this for Sportsbookreview.com