(3) UConn vs. (6) Cincinnati
Point guard Kemba Walker, who is averaging 25.5 points in his last eight games, continued the hot streak which helped Connecticut win five games in five days while capturing the Big East Conference Tournament, lifting UConn past Bucknell and into the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Walker, a candidate for the National Player of the Year award, was just two rebounds shy of a triple-double, scoring 18 points, dishing out 12 assists and pulling down eight boards in the Huskies’ win. Freshmen Roscoe Smith and Jeremy Lamb combined to score 33 points, more than 16 over their season average. Sophomore Alex Oriakhi pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds as Coach Jim Calhoun’s team out-rebounded Bucknell 43-21 en route to its sixth consecutive victory.
One of the top defensive teams in the country, the Cincinnati Bearcats held the high-flying Missouri offense (81.4 points per game; 9th in the country) to its second-lowest scoring output of the season, allowin the Tigers to score just 63 points as Cincy advanced to the round of 32. Forward Yancy Gates registered game-highs in both points (18) and rebounds (eleven) while recording his seventh double-double of the season. Cincinnati converted on 29-54 (.537) field goals and got 20 points from its bench while winning its 26th game of the season. Guards Cashmere Wright and Dion Dixon combined 27 points and dish out eight assists in the win as the Bearcats held Missouri to just .381 shooting.
HOOPSWORLD’s Pick: Connecticut. Kemba Walker is no longer a one-man show as Lamb and Smith have emerged as capable scoring threats and Connecticut, which defeated Cincinnati 67-59 on Feb. 27, has too much firepower for the Bearcats.