So, Lance Stephenson, we meet again.
You may not want to hear a lot about Born Ready after swallowing nothing but what color shorts he was wearing (red! that's a sign!) and what his dad said about the town of Lawrence for literally months, but you're going to. Maryland cut off the recruitment after Gary Williams got fed up (presumably), and, after originally disagreeing with the decision, I can see logic in it (I still wish he was a Terp, though). With a lack of destinations, Lance ended up at Cincinnati, quickly turned the Bearcats into a team to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately for Cincinnati, they aren't a very polished team yet. They have, well, a lot of Lance Stephensons. They have Lance himself, Yancy Gates - last year's incoming 5 star recruit - Cash Wright, a shoot-happy 4 star PG, and lone sensible player Deonta Vaughn, the senior All-Big East combo guard.
Vaughn's the leader of the team and one of the best players in the Big East. He knows how to put up points, and while most wouldn't call him sensible, he's a downright awesome decision-maker for this bunch. Vaughn had foul trouble most of the game against Vanderbilt, so it was difficult to get a sense for how the Bearcats would run with him in; it's safe to say they would be more in control than they were today.
That's a good thing, but it isn't saying much.
Wright, Vaughn's replacement for some of the game, failed to meet a shot he didn't agree with - he was 2-13 on the day. Stephenson wasn't too much better at 4-10, some of the made shots difficult layups. Gates led the way in scoring and rebounding - he's clearly very athletic, but didn't look quite like a complete post player yet, still living off athleticism and drifting to the perimeter some. That said, Gates was on the Freshman All-Big East team and was a five star - he's very good, just not completely dominant.
One guy that was surprising was Dion Dixon, Vaughn's replacement. Dixon, who was averaging 3 points a game before today, put up 12 and 10 against a weak Vandy backcourt. That was impressive, but Maryland is too strong at guard to let him have a game like that.
Cincinnati looked unorganized and selfish today, but that might be due to Vaughn's absence. When he's on the court, it could be completely different. If it's not, expect a physical, long, athletic, strong rebounding team that plays a messy game.
Mick Cronin's squad will definitely be able to exploit Maryland's youth in the post with Gates; Jordan Williams will need to grow up fast. He's Cincy's only true post, though, so Maryland won't be in too bad of a situation. The key is to play clean, turnover-free ball and capitalize on Cincy's mistakes; getting Vaughn into foul trouble would help, and getting Gates on the bench early would be gravy. Vaughn's too veteran to be beaten by the press, but the second he sits down, I'd put it on the snap-reaction Wright.
Also, here's hoping Lance Stephenson decides to revert to his chucking ways for this one.
It's Maryland's first real competition; it's not Cincy's. I don't know if that'll play a role, but it might. The first real game is always tough to predict - maybe Maryland comes out hyped and blows up Cincy, or maybe they come out and play no better than they did against Chaminade. We'll find out. Right now, I like Maryland by 12-ish.