Kansas Jayhawks vs. Cincinnati Bearcats Pick & Prediction MARCH 13th 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cincinnati overcame a 16-point, second-half deficit in its first-ever appearance in the Big 12 Conference tournament to claim a thrilling 90-85 victory over West Virginia on Tuesday.

The reward? The Bearcats will face 16th-ranked Kansas, the 12-time conference tournament champion, in a second-round matchup Wednesday night.

The good news for 11th-seeded Cincinnati (19-13) is that sixth-seeded Kansas (22-9) will be without its top two scorers due to injury. But Bearcats coach Wes Miller won’t have a false sense of security.

“Kansas has been at the top of college basketball for as long as I’ve been alive,” Miller, 41, said immediately after the Bearcats defeated the Mountaineers. “What they’ve done in this league is incredible.

“Coach (Bill) Self has another great team that’s going to compete to win a national championship. We understand who we’re playing against, and we’re playing them here in Kansas City.

“It’s an opportunity for our group. We have a lot of respect for Kansas, regardless of who can or can’t play. We believe we can play with anybody. I think we’ve proven that to ourselves this year.”

Kansas has gotten used to playing without leading scorer Kevin McCullar Jr., who has missed five full games and parts of several others with a bone bruise on his left knee. But in the 76-46 setback at Houston in the regular-season finale on Saturday, second-leading scorer Hunter Dickinson dislocated his right shoulder while going for a rebound.

Self is confident that both players will be ready for the start of the NCAA Tournament, but he said that neither will play in the Big 12 tournament.

“We’ll lose 37 points a game,” the Kansas coach said Monday. “We got great news yesterday with Hunt. No surgery (is needed). He did not tear his labrum. Actually, he is far better off than what the doctors and trainers even imagined. He has good range of motion, already started rehab.

“The bad thing is he is not going to play this week. He should practice (at) full speed by the start of next week and be available to us for the NCAA Tournament. Not only available, but he should be fine.

“Kevin tried to play against Houston and couldn’t. He didn’t really do anything between the K-State game (vs. Kansas State on March 5) and Houston game (at practice) but was feeling very good in warmups (at Houston).

The Jayhawks, who have lost three of their past four games, will feature a starting lineup with four players with at least 16 starts, but there’s little depth behind those five players.

“We’ve got guys who have to produce in ways more than what we have as a group,” Self said. “I’m excited about competing with guys taking on different roles. I think it could be kind of fun, to be honest.”

Cincinnati received a career-high 31 points from Simas Lukosius and a career-best 29 from Day Day Thomas on Tuesday against West Virginia. Lukosius had 26 points in the second half. No other players had more than 13.

Cincinnati trailed 64-48 midway through the second half. Three technical fouls on West Virginia keyed a 20-4 run by the Bearcats to forge a tie. Cincinnati matched a season high with 16 3-pointers.

–David Smale, Field Level Media

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