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March 9, 2013When the schedules get released, players and fans always look to key games and circle them for importance.
"Who are the out-of-conference opponents?"
"Is the Louisville home or away?"
"What day is the Crosstown Shootout?"
Then they get down to the last home game on the schedule. Senior Night.
It brings an added level of emotion no matter who the opponent is. It is the last time the fans and their teammates will get to see them play on the floor of Fifth Third Arena.
Alex Eppensteiner. Cheikh Mbodj. JaQuon Parker. Cashmere Wright.
These four young men will be honored about twenty minutes before tip-off to celebrate their time at Cincinnati and to allow the fans to express their gratitude.
Once the ball is tipped, it's just another game. The intensity will be turned up and the emotion will be noticeable, but in the end it is game 31 of 31.
What to watch for:
• South Florida is coming in hot. After beating DePaul, the Bulls beat UConn by 14 to give them three wins in Big East play. This is the same South Florida team that went 22-14 (12-6 Big East) last season and won two games in the NCAA Tournament - beating Cal and Temple - before falling to a strong Ohio Bobcats team. While the Bulls have underachieved this year, Cincinnati can't expect to coast through this game and get a win.
• Wright had a reemergence of sorts on Monday in the loss to Louisville. He began to hit three-pointers and showed explosiveness off the dribble en route to a 15-point game. Expect more of the same against South Florida. The Bulls have only kept Big East teams under 60 points in four games this year - including 70 points to Rutgers who ranks 233rd in points per game in the nation.
• The whole story to this game revolves around Senior Night. After tonight, Cashmere Wright won't spot from three and have the crowd on the verge of jumping out of their seats. JaQuon Parker will never again drive to the basket, absorb contact and hear the roar of the home crowd after a big and-one bucket. No longer will the cheers of "MBOOOOODJ!" after a block sends the ball flying into the stands be heard at Fifth Third Arena. It's the last time the student section will chant "Epp-en-stein-er" in hope of coaxing Mick Cronin to put him in. It is the final time these four will ever suit up in the Cincinnati uniform and take the court at Fifth Third Arena.