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Previewing Cincinnati vs. NC State: Prepare yourself now, this game is gonna be ugly

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati Offense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2013-14 47.7 (250) 17.4 (109) 39.1 (8) 38.7 (223)
2014-15 46.7 (242) 21.5 (267) 38.6 (22) 41.0 (102)

The Mick Cronin experience is typically not one that involves good offense. His head coaching career began at Murray State in 2003, and since then he's never had a team finish among the top 50 in adjusted offensive efficiency.

For whatever reason--a blind spot in recruiting, a weakness for a certain type of prospect, plain old rotten luck--his Cincinnati teams have always struggled to shoot the ball. He is in his ninth season at Cincinnati, and in that time the Bearcats' best finish in the eFG% category is 157th.

To help compensate for this, Cronin has his teams hit the boards aggressively. The Bearcats have finished in the top 50 in offensive rebounding percentage in each of the last six seasons, and four of those were top-10 finishes. Cincy grabbed 46% of its misses against NC State last season, which helped the Bearcats average over 1.1 points per possession despite shooting 42.5%.

Cincinnati has less experience in its backcourt this year, and more specifically, has lost do-everything guard Sean Kilpatrick to graduation. That partly explains why they are turning the ball over more often and why their three-point accuracy is down from 33.5% in 2014 to 28.7% in 2015. Eek.

Kilpatrick wasn't a great shooter, but he managed to make 50.6% of his twos and 34.8% of his threes, which was pretty damn good considering his heavy workload. He was the only player on the team to attempt more than 100 threes, and one of two reliable options from outside. Cincinnati is still looking for ways to replace that decent outside shooting production.

Kilpatrick averaged over 20 points per game last season, but the Bearcats' leading scorer so far this year is forward Octavius Ellis at 9.5 PPG. The Bearcats are going the committee route, with nobody taking more than a quarter of the shots while on the floor, and seven dudes averaging between 5.0 and 9.5 points per game.

Ellis actually is a light-usage player, he's just a rare beacon of efficiency for this team--he's hitting 61% of his twos and he also ends up at the free throw line often. Ellis is one of several big-time offensive rebounding threats that NC State is gonna have to worry about.

The guys who end up taking the bulk of the shots for Cincinnati--guard Farad Cobb, forwards Shaq Thomas and Gary Clark--tend to be terrible at shooting, so that's sub-optimal.

Cobb in particular is a possession-sucking black hole that reminds Mick Cronin every day why offensive rebounds are important. Cobb has horrifying career shooting numbers inside and out, but this hasn't stopped him from taking a quarter of Cincinnati's shots while on the court. At least he doesn't turn the ball over, but good heavens he is bad.

The Bearcats need more from point guard Troy Caupain, who does a fine job of drawing fouls and hitting his free throws but not much else. He's spending almost 30 minutes per game on the floor because Cronin trusts him to run the offense, but he's only shooting about 43%; until that changes, it's hard to imagine Cincinnati's offense improving much.

And if Cincinnati's offense doesn't get better, it probably won't be Gary Clark's fault. (If the name sounds familiar, it's because Clark is from North Carolina and a former NC State target.) He has been a fantastic first-year player for the Bearcats, grabbing a shit-ton of offensive boards, hitting a good percentage of his twos, and avoiding turnovers.

There is a route to efficiency for Cincinnati's offense that involves some combination of Ellis, Caupain, and Clark, and probably more than a few offensive rebounds. They've just gotta figure out how that's going to work.

Cincinnati Defense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2013-14 44.8 (19) 22.4 (12)
32.2 (224) 36.0 (81)
2014-15 42.8 (26) 20.7 (123) 30.1 (131) 24.8 (11)

Cincinnati is going for its fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, and if you've guessed by now that defense must be the primary reason why this team is pretty good, you are correct. The Bearcats haven't finished lower than 22nd in defensive efficiency since 2010--they force a lot of missed shots while creating turnovers and grabbing defensive boards at an above-average rate.

State took good care of the ball and rebounded well offensively in this matchup last season, it's just that the Pack shot like poop squared. Don't shoot like poop squared in a basketball game and you got a chance, that's what I always say.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by four.