One of the new features of the 2011 NCAA Tournament Bracket is the possibility of conference rematches of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Connecticut vs. Cincinnati in the West Region is the first such game, with two Big East teams meeting in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. The game is the last of Saturday's tilts, according to the updated NCAA Tournament schedule: the Huskies and Bearcats will square off at 9:40 p.m., with Tim Brando and Mike Gminski on the call.
Connecticut vivisected Bucknell in the first round, as Kemba Walker scored 18 points, dished out 12 assists, and had eight rebounds. The Huskies appear to be peaking at the right time: their five-game, five-day run through the Big East Tournament is already legendary, and Walker has been white-hot since March began, failing to score more than 20 points in a game this month only against Bucknell on Thursday. And in their only game against the Bearcats, at Cincy on Feb. 27, UConn led for all but 29 seconds and won by eight despite a cold first half from Walker. Expect the Huskies to run and run and run some more, trying to force tempo against the plodding Bearcats.
Cincinnati's easy win against Missouri in the Second Round was a bit of a surprise: the Bearcats were able to limit the Tigers' speed by minimizing turnovers, and forced bad shots — Mizzou shot 38.1% — with stifling half-court defense. The Bearcats also got a superb game from Yancy Gates, who had 18 points and eight rebounds; Cincinnati will likely need Gates or a similarly unsung player to make noise against Connecticut to pull the upset.
Star Watch: Walker's heroics have been detailed ad nauseam, but the rise of freshman Jeremy Lamb has helped make the Huskies formidable. Lamb's averaging just over ten points per game this season, but has bumped that up to 11 points per contest since February and 13.1 points per over UConn's last nine outings. And he gives the Huskies a second creator on the wing, forcing defenses to respect more than just Walker.
Prediction: Cincy's surprises end against the peaking Huskies, who ride another classic Kemba Walker performance (think 25 points and at least seven assists) to the Sweet Sixteen in a 72-64 victory.
Need help picking your bracket? Check out SB Nation's full 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket predictions, picking every game of March Madness, or our region by region breakdowns for the East Region, West Region, Southeast Region, and Southwest Region.
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