NEW YORK -- Here are five observations from Cincinnati’s 44-43 win over Pittsburgh in the Jimmy V Classic.
1. In a game that could be most politely described as extremely, almost cruelly hard to watch, Cincinnati won because it deserved to. The Bearcats won a few essential statistical battles -- 35 boards to 27 (with a critical 16 offensive boards, including on Titus Rubles’ game winner), three made 3-point field goals to two (yes, that’s a win -- pathetic, but a win), and 37 percent shooting to 31. More important, Cincinnati at least scored from the field occasionally, unlike Pitt. The Panthers hit exactly one field goal in the final 14:54 of the game.
2. Call this the counterpunch to the rule-change boost in scoring. Cincinnati was whistled for 20 fouls, yet not even what turned into a 19-1 made-free throw edge was enough for the Panthers to near the 50-point plateau.
3. The Panthers’ loss will rouse the critics who wondered if the 10-0 start was faux, and rightly so. Pitt has beaten one team with an RPI better than 75, and that’s Penn State, sneaking in at 71. Overall, its opponents' RPI average is 180.5.
4. Silver-lining time. Justin Jackson had a terrific game for Cincinnati -- 12 points and nine rebounds, and that’s exactly what the Bearcats need. Sean Kilpatrick can’t win games alone, and if Jackson can remain a steady presence inside, that will pay big dividends down the stretch.
5. If the Selection Committee were filling out its field right now, neither of these teams would pass the eyeball test. They’d get an A for effort and grit, but both are severely limited offensively and just not very good right now. Could they get better? Sure, and each will have chances to prove it is better as both head into conference play next month, but right now, they remain works in progress.