It is a shame that the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Ohio State Buckeyes don’t play each other every season. The first matchup between the two schools since 2012 in the NCAA Tournament is the season opener for both squads on Wednesday November 7, 2018. Mick Cronin and Chris Holtmann have a lot of things to figure out after significant losses to graduation last season.
In this How to Bet piece for this AAC vs. Big Ten clash, we’ll look at what you need to know about this game to be successful and suggest some bets at the end.
After a huge college basketball card on opening night with over 100 games, there aren’t many lined contests tonight. Added games will hit the board later today, but only a handful of games had overnight lines. This was one of them, as the Bearcats are -5.5 on their home floor against the Buckeyes. Cincinnati did open -6, so it appears that Ohio State is the preferred side early, but that could always change.
The total seems to have been set at a good number by the oddsmakers at 137.5. It has ticked down a tad at some books to 137, but we could see more movement this morning and throughout the afternoon. Several college totals moved four or more possessions yesterday.
This game is a big deal for both teams, but especially Cincinnati. OSU and UC have not played in the state of Ohio since 1921, despite being less than two hours apart down I-71. For the players born in Ohio on the Bearcats roster, this game takes on a different kind of feel. It won’t mean the same to the Buckeyes, but there could be some big recruiting implications, especially with some transition at Xavier, Cincinnati’s crosstown rival.
As far as the game itself, it isn’t an ideal situation for Ohio State to start with such a physical, defensive-minded team. You’d like to get some sort of offensive rhythm going early in the season, but that’s hard to do against Cincinnati. For Cincinnati, the Buckeyes, while rough around the edges, are still a very athletic team.
What’s At Stake?
I touched on some of it above, but there are some recruiting implications here. This could also wind up being a big game from an NCAA Tournament standpoint. Cincinnati is in the AAC, which is improved, but still a mid-major. A notable win over the team that finished second in the Big Ten last season could be a big help in seeding.
For Ohio State, the Big Ten speaks for itself, but this would still be a solid non-conference win to add to the resume, especially if the Buckeyes wind up on the bubble.
The visiting Buckeyes were a year ahead of schedule. Thad Matta was a good coach in Columbus, but it was clear that both sides needed a change of scenery when he was let go and Butler’s Chris Holtmann came on board. Ohio State was expected to plod through conference play and build towards the 2018-19 season. Instead, Ohio State made the NCAA Tournament.
The Buckeyes are strong in the backcourt with CJ Jackson and Wake Forest transfer Keyshawn Woods. The Buckeyes are going to have to be nearly flawless on the perimeter because their interior game is a struggle. Kam Williams and Jae’Sean Tate are two big losses, especially in a physical game like this. The Buckeyes are going to be more of a transition-oriented team this season by being so guard-heavy. That could help here against Cincinnati, who is traditionally one of the slowest-paced teams in college basketball.
The questions for Cronin’s hard-nosed Bobcats are all on the offensive side. Defense is never a problem for UC, but scoring points very well could be. Jacob Evans, Kyle Washington, and AAC Player of the Year Gary Clark are all gone. Cincinnati averaged 75 points per game with one of the best half-court offenses Cronin has had in his tenure, but Evans, Washington, and Clark combined for nearly half of that output.
Cronin had a weak class of incoming freshman and a lot of pressure now falls on Jarron Cumberland. Cumberland is the top returning scorer with 11.5 points per game. JUCO transfer Rashawn Fredericks will get a ton of playing time and may be the best jump shooting threat for the Bearcats. There aren’t a lot of guys that can create off the dribble for Cincinnati. Any drop-off in defensive prowess could make this a down year in the Queen City.
Ohio State does make some sense here. The Buckeyes are going to attempt to quicken the pace and the Bearcats are going to have a hard time not falling into that trap for the first game of the season and all the excitement that comes with it. Cincinnati only has two seniors and only one junior that played a lot last year, so experience and leadership could be lacking early in the season.
The first half over also seems like a solid play. Both teams are going to be amped up to get this rivalry going and we could see a speedy, but physical first half. Referees will probably be whistle-happy because there will be some passion and some intensity to this game and they’ll want to keep it from getting out of hand.