The Missouri Tigers have played the Texas A&M Aggies twice this year, and with the start of the 2011 NCAA Tournament you wouldn't expect them to be playing a conference foe in the first round, yet there are. Except they have "Cincinnati Bearcats" written across their chest.
If you have watched Big 12 basketball you know what to expect from Mizzou, full court pressing, up-tempo offense, quick guards and good shooting.
If you watched Big 12 basketball, you also then know what to expect from the ‘Cats. Methodical play, slow tempo, systematic ball control.
You can tell the make up of a team quickly when their leading scorer is a 6'9 265 lb. power forward, as Cincy's Yancy Gates is, and when that leading scorer averages 11.8 points per game. Other than guard Dion Dixon's 11.6 ppg, no other Bearcat averages over 10 ppg, and that's why, as a team, the Cats score 69 ppg, good for 164th nationally (A&M averages 68.9 ppg).
Mizzou has trouble against these types of teams. They are 0-2 against A&M and also lost at Nebraska and at Oklahoma State. Mizzou can easily out "athlete" any team with athletes who play athletically, but when teams slow it down and basically play fundamental hoops, Mizzou struggles.
Keep in mind the Bearcat comparison is more sided towards A&M than the NIT bound Huskers or Cowboys. Simply, the Cats use their style to win.
While Cincy has eight losses on the season, all came in the impossibly tough Big East (tough enough for 11 byes? Eh, probably not, but that's another story). Their only loss to a team who didn't make the tournament? Non existent.
So in order for Mizzou to win they really need to buckle down on the interior. If they can keep the ball out of Gates' hands they have a shot at winning. The only way they'll be able to muster that is by getting Ricardo Ratliffe and Steve Moore to body up and not commit fould, neither of which they've done well at in recent games.
It would pain my heart to make a prediction on this one, so I won't. I will only say that the Tigers can make a grand statement with a win over Cincy and give themselves a shot at a rematch of the 2009 Elite Eight.