The Saint Joseph’s Red Hawks had an impressive run through the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament, securing themselves an automatic bid with a victory in the championship game over the VCU Rams. They have all the momentum against a Cincinnati Bearcats team that lost a four-OT heartbreaker to the Connecticut Huskies.
The Hawks’ two-headed monster of forwards in Isaiah Miles and DeAndre Bembry are as productive as any duo in the tournament. Bembry, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, averaged 17.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.4 steals on 48.1 percent shooting from the field, including a 30-point game against VCU in the A10 championship game.
Miles is an even more accomplished scorer, with 18.4 points and 8.1 rebounds on 51.8 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from behind the 3-point line. St Joe’s relies heavily on the 3-point shot taking over 21 attempts per game from distance, but they will run into issues against a Bearcats squad that specializes in defense.
Cincinnati is seventh in the country in defensive efficiency, led by AAC Defensive Player of the Year, 6-foot-7 forward Gary Clark. It’s the second time in three seasons that Clark has won the award, and he was the only player in the conference to rank in the top six in rebounds (8.9), blocks (1.5), and steals (1.3).
Point guard Troy Caupain was named First Team All-Conference after leading his team to a record of 22-10 and a third place finish in the conference. Capuain had his March Madness moment last season, hitting a buzzer-beating layup that forced overtime and led to a second-round win against the Purdue Boilermakers. The Bearcats will lean on him again in big spots.
As is usual for an 8-9 game, this one will be evenly matched and played down to the wire.
Prediction: St. Joe’s 63, Cincinnati 60