It’s official – the Bearcats are making their sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. UC is accompanied by Michigan State, San Diego State and Wisconsin as the only schools to play in both the last five NCAA Tournaments and five consecutive bowl games. 9 seed UC will face 8 seed St. Josephs on Friday night at 9:57 on TruTV. It will be the last game of the first round and will take place way out west in Spokane, Washington.
History has not been kind to UC in Spokane, which is a 2,049 mile drive from Clifton. Just two years ago 5 seed UC was pitted against a dangerous 12 seed Harvard team and lost. UC is 6-7 all-time in West Region play and 1-2 all-time in Washington. Hopefully, this time will be different.
This 8/9 matchup is a good draw for the Bearcats. St. Joes has to travel even farther, 2,540 miles to be exact. The Bearcats and Hawks have met just four times with UC holding a 3-1 series lead. UC could then face Oregon in the next round, which would be an intriguing game of explosive offense vs. tenacious defense, and the best matchup out of the 1 seeds for UC.
After suffering an excruciating loss in quadruple overtime to the eventual AAC Tournament champs, UConn, the Bearcats look to rest and heal. Hopefully, Gary Clark, Farad Cobb, Jacob Evans, Troy Caupain, and Shaq Thomas will be ready to contribute big minutes. Seeing Gary go down with an ankle injury was certainly a worrisome sight. We will have to wait and see how Coach Cronin manages Gary’s minutes and substitutes everyone to keep fresh legs on the floor.
The St. Joes Hawks finished the season 27-7 and clinched the Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship by beating VCU. The Hawks are 18-24 all-time in NCAA Tournament play. They beat Temple in OT back in December, whereas Temple swept the Bearcats. Both teams beat George Washington. UC beat VCU and St. Joes split their two games with the Rams.
Forwards Isaiah Miles and DeAndre Bembry both average over 17 points and 7 boards per game. If UC can shut down one or both of these players we should be in good shape. As a team, the Hawks average 77 points, but shoot the ball beyond the arch just 32%. I fully expect UC to bounce back hungry after the UConn game and a week’s rest. If we play classic Cronin defense, this should be an ugly win with a score of roughly 60-55.
Let the Madness begin!
By Andy Smith