The University of Cincinnati Bearcats currently sit at #10 in both the AP and Coaches Polls. Having climbed as high as #5, the Cats have had a fantastic regular season, accumulating 25 wins to just 4 losses.
Some would say they are the beneficiary of a weak conference, winning every easy game and losing to every formidable opponent (Xavier, Florida, Houston, and Wichita State). Mick Cronin commented on this following Senior Day. Take a listen if you haven’t. Suffice it to say, Coach Cronin is not exactly enamored with the critics. Pointing out the FBI investigation across the country and the current lesser record of bluebloods Kentucky and Indiana – Cronin is not here to play around. I truly wondered if at that point he would drop the mike, walk off stage, grab a piece of cold Domino’s pizza, and leave.
Sure – the AAC is no longer the Big East, but can we really help that? UC played Buffalo, #3 Xavier, Florida, Mississippi State, and UCLA out-of-conference this year. Add to that home-and-homes against #25 Houston and #11 Wichita State. It’s not Cincinnati’s fault a team in Storrs, Connecticut has fallen off a cliff. Who would have guessed Kevin Ollie would go from cutting down national championship nets in 2014 to brushing off cheating accusations, while trying to keep UConn from drowning in 2018? Add to that a disappointing and injury-ridden season from SMU and another down year from Memphis.
Pre-season expectations from the American as a whole were higher, but the metrics for UC speak for themselves:
Kenpom – 6
BPI – 6
Sagarin – 8
RPI – 11
UC has the best team on paper since Mick Cronin took over in 2006. Gary Clark is Gary Clark. Jacob Evans, although off lately, is very talented, and could even be a late lottery pick this year. Jarron Cumberland is the best pure-shooter we have seen since Sean dare-I-say-it Kilpatrick. Cane Broome is the X-factor. He can provide instant offense and can explode down the floor with the ball. The bench is deep with Trevor Moore and Co. Tre Scott, for instance, is playing the best of his career the last two games. Cronin made the Sweet 16 once before. Expectations are the same or even higher for this season.
Before the loss to Wichita State, a 2-seed for March Madness was well within sight. Now the experts predict UC as a 3 to 4-seed. This largely depends on how the Cats handle the road game at Wichita on Sunday, how they perform in the AAC tournament, and as always, is dependent on how the teams ahead of them finish up. I loved being able to drive down to Louisville to watch them play a few seasons ago. Hopefully, they are seeded in another favorable locale this year.
So……. Where do the experts currently predict UC will open in the hunger games?
USA TODAY projects UC as a 3-seed against 14-seed Charleston in Wichita. UC would then play the winner of Kansas State and Texas A&M. The Cats would then likely face 2-seed Duke.
ESPN predicts UC as a 3-seed against the same 14-seed Charleston in Dallas. UC would then face the winner of Florida and Middle Tennessee. Having another crack at the Gators would certainly be nice. The Bearcats would then likely face 2-seed Michigan State.
CBS Sports Net projects UC as a 3-seed against 14-seed Bucknell in Wichita. UC would then play the winner of St. Mary’s and Kansas State. After that, the Cats would likely play 2-seed Auburn.
Where do you think they should be placed?
By Andy Smith