Cincinnati (4PM ET ESPN) – On Sunday we head over to the American Athletic Conference for one of the marquee matchups in AAC play this season when the #11 Cincinnati Bearcats take on the #25 SMU Mustangs at Moody Coliseum in University Park (Dallas), Texas. This is as down of a year there has been for the AAC since it’s inception, UCONN and Temple are having awful seasons to their usual standards, Tulsa, Memphis and Houston can all be considered to be having a somewhat down year and Tulane and South Florida are two of the worst power conference teams in the country. That has allowed Cincinnati and SMU to quietly knock each of these teams off one by one and make it a two team race, one that would be all but decided today if Cincinnati is able to pull the mild upset in Dallas this afternoon. This would only be an “upset” in the respect SMU is expected to win at home but we see Cincinnati as the better team here and there is a ton of value in backing the Bearcats with the points in a spot where they would all but clinch the AAC regular season crown with a win. Cincinnati is the best team no one has really heard about this year. The Bearcats have yet to lose a game in AAC play, including a 66-64 win over SMU in Cincinnati earlier this year, and have impressive non-conference wins over Penn State, Marshall, Iowa State and their signature win of the season over rival Xavier. Both the Bearcats losses came against teams that were ranked in the Top 25 at the time, on a neutral floor to a very good Rhode Island team and to Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse where very few visitors have success, and since the Butler loss Cincinnati has rattled off 15 straight wins playing complete basketball at both ends of the floor. SMU also comes into this game with momentum as, since their loss at Cincinnati, the Mustangs have ripped off seven straight wins but the Mustangs still haven’t hit the toughest part of their AAC schedule yet and we simply see the Mustangs as overvalued laying this number against a team like Cincinnati this afternoon. SMU scored non-conference wins over Pittsburgh, Stanford and TCU, all of which looked more impressive at the time than they do now, but were blown out by Michigan and Boise State and lost to USC and since the Mustangs lost the first meeting with Cincinnati this is an SMU team that really lacks a signature win. The big win is right there for the taking for SMU today but it’s a lot to ask for SMU to not only snap one of the longest winning streaks in the country but to do so by more than four points, especially when both of these teams generally play low scoring, defense first type games. The total in this game is set at 129 which means the odds makers expect a tight, possession by possession type game and while SMU has a great defense, Cincinnati is one of the best defensive teams in the country in any league and the Bearcats are going to have the edge in a grind out possession by possession game. Cincinnati proved they can play up tempo in their 86-78 win over Xavier and just put up 82 on UCONN a week ago, the bottom line here is the Bearcats are good enough to adapt to whatever kind of game SMU tries to make this and will likely be better at playing that game than SMU will. SMU is at their best when passing the ball around the perimeter and taking the open three, the Mustangs rank 28th in the country in three point shooting percentage but Cincinnati possesses one of the best perimeter defenses in the country and easily the best perimeter defense SMU has seen so far this season. SMU hit right around their average going 9 for 23 from three point range in the first meeting but that’s probably the best they will do as it’s highly unlikely any team just goes off from three against the Bearcats, who have held their opponents to an average of less than 30% from behind the arc this season. Aside from good shot selection from the perimeter this SMU offense is average at best, the Mustangs fall just inside the Top 200 with an average of 73.2 points per game while Cincinnati falls inside the top 100 averaging 77 points per game. Cincinnati plays as clean of a basketball game as you will see at both ends of the floor as they rank 7th nationally in turnovers with just 10.4 per game, 15th in assists, 3rd in assist/turnover ratio and 14th in blocked shots all to go along with rarely making mistakes on the defensive end. Cincinnati has proved they can win on the road by winning in an extremely tough venue at Hilton Coliseum in Ames over Iowa State and they also have conference road wins over Temple, Houston and Tulsa. This is just a really solid, complete Cincinnati team that is going to leave everything on the floor today to keep this win streak going and try to break into the Top 10, they would be decent value getting one basket and represent tremendous value getting two. Take the points with the better team here, Cincinnati should win this one but at the very least we should be in for another fantastic finish like the first meeting and cover the number either way -topflightsportsinfo
$$$$ Cincinnati +4
I'll leave this one here for you guys in an effort to jump start this thread because I know personally this was a fun read every day and offered some great insight.
This is less of a $$$$ in the respect that I think it's the perfect spot and something one would label a "lock" (I hate that term because there's no such thing" and more of a play against the number, backing what I consider the better team to be getting too many points
Public is on Cinci about 65/35 last I checked but the line came down from +5 to +4 so not seeing any "fishy" line movement if you will. Just hard to see a scenario where SMU blows them out if they do win and because of that I'll roll with Cinci and the generous points here. Best of luck if you decide to hop on this one!