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Preview: Cincinnati vs. Creighton

Preview: Cincinnati vs. Creighton

All eyes will be on All-American Doug McDermott as seventh-seed Creighton battles No. 10 Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA Midwest Regional at Philadelphia on Friday. McDermott, second in the nation in scoring with an average of 23.1 points, has carried the Blue Jays from the obscurity of the mid-major ranks to No. 24 in the final regular-season poll.

The Bearcats, hailing from the powerful Big East, had a strong start to the season but needed a win in the postseason tournament to feel safe about its NCAA bid. Cincinnati won its first dozen games of the season to climb into the Top 10 in the national rankings. But Cincinnati struggled at times in conference play finishing 9-9 in the regular season before dispatching Providence in what appeared to be an important game in the first round of the Big East tournament.

TV: 2:45 p.m. ET, CBS

ABOUT CREIGHTON (27-7): The Blue Jays, who lead the nation in shooting from both the field and 3-point range, are making their 18th appearance and second consecutive in the NCAA Tournament and McDermott is the biggest reason why. The 6-8 junior, who is the coach's son, shoots 56.1 percent from the field and 49.7 percent from 3-point range. McDermott is a complete player who also grabs 7.5 rebounds and is hitting 86 percent of his free throws. He was named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year and MVC Tournament Most Outstanding Player for each of the past two seasons. Seniors Gregory Echenique (9.6 ppg., 6.6 rpg.) and Grant Gibbs (8.6 ppg, 5.9 apg) are also solid performers. Creighton is one of two schools in the nation to use the same starting five in every game this season.

ABOUT CINCINNATI (22-11): Mick Cronin's Bearcats gained an at-large bid into the field led by 6-4 junior guard Sean Kilpatrick (16.9 ppg.) and smooth 6-0 guard Cashmere Wright (12.6 ppg.). After its fast start Cincinnati never won more than three straight games and finished 2-7 on the season against ranked teams. The Bearcats hit rock bottom in February by going just 2-5. But, they are one of the nation's top rebounding teams, averaging 40 boards - good for eighth in the country. Their final RPI ranking of 49 made things a little nerve-wracking for the Bearcats' final games, and Kilpatrick scored a season-low four points in their 62-43 loss to Georgetown in their last game.

TIP-INS

  1. This will be Creighton's ninth trip to the Big Dance in the past 15 years. No other MVC team owns more than nine postseason bids in that span.

  2. The winner of the Creighton-Cincinnati game will play on Sunday against the winner of Duke and Albany.

  3. Cincinnati has reached the Final Four six times and won two national titles.

PREDICTION: Creighton 74, Cincinnati 66