Weighing 2-Seed Cincinnati’s Chances in March

Selection Sunday confirms your Cincinnati Bearcats are indeed a 2-seed in the South region of the bracket.  We projected this before, and boy are we happy.  The difference between a 2- and 3-seed, statistically speaking at least, is huge.

UC is pitted against 15-seed Georgia State on Friday at 2 p.m. on TBS, just a short, 4-hour and 3-minute drive from my couch at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.  I spent my 30th birthday in Nashville and have since attended a legal conference.  Man, Nashville is an awesome city.  No excuses, Bearcat Nation.  Let’s make it down to root on the Cats, eat some hot chicken at Hattie B’s, and listen to some great live music on Broadway.

Below is the relevant portion of the bracket. While the committee always has tricks up their sleeve, this lineup is for all intents and purposes, very manageable.  The Bearcats absolutely have a chance to advance to the Sweet Sixteen or even beyond.  In a storied, memorable year for Coach Cronin, why not add a few more memories?

Evaluating the Foes

The Georgia State Panthers are apart of the Sun Belt Conference.  Led by head coach, Ron Hunter, the Panthers play at the Georgia State University Sports Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.

Coach Hunter, age 53, was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, and played at Miami University. Two players are also from Ohio on their roster.

The Panthers finished 2nd in their league at 24-10 on the season.  They also won the Sun Belt Tournament.  They lost to both Ole Miss and Dayton.  However, they did beat Tulane early in the year.

#15 sophomore guard D’Marcus Simmons averages 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.  He was also the Sun Belt Player of the Year and the Tournament MVP.  Gary Clark is to Cincinnati as Simmons is to Georgia State.

The Panthers as a team average 75 points, 34 rebounds, and 13 assists per game.  They also shoot 46% on the season, but just 38% from 3.

GSU is #96 on Kenpon with AdjO of 109 and AdjD of 101.

What Cincinnati Must Avoid

Gary Clark is on a roll, averaging a double-double and winning AAC Tournament MVP.  Cumberland is playing well.  So too is Tre Scott and Justin Jenifer.  Kyle Washington is adding energy and defense.  However, for UC to really make a run, Cane Broome and Jacob Evans need to significantly improve.

Cane Broome is the X-factor.  When he comes off the bench, he needs to create instant speed and instant offense.  He cannot turn it over.  He cannot play poor defense or fail to rotate.  He cannot settle for three’s.  Run, drive, dish.  Be a blur.

Jacob Evans is clearly hurting.  Just a junior, he is beat up and the season bumps and bruises are readily apparent.   During the AAC Tournament, he was a ghost.  2 points against SMU. 7 against Memphis.  And 12 against Houston.  Overall, 9 of 34 or 26%, including 1 of 14 from deep.  This is a huge problem.  His shots were mostly open looks.  Can he get healthy in a week?  Can we rest him or play him limited minutes?  Maybe even have him come off the bench against Georgia State and start Broome or Moore?  I don’t have an answer, but unless he gets back to being #1, we are in for trouble. Other than that, UC simply needs to play patented Cronin basketball.  Lockdown defense, protect the ball, cause turnovers, and rebound, rebound, rebound.  Any points / valuable minutes from the bench will be a bonus.

Predictions

UC is on a roll.  Beat Wichita State in Kansas – check.  Win the AAC regular season – check. Win the AAC Tournament in a truly gritty, team-oriented fashion – check.  The Bearcats have not lost a game since February 18th during the Wichita State game at BB&T Arena.

I have always been a fan of the teams that get hot and win their conference tournaments, dating back to the old school Big East teams like the Kemba Walker-led Uconn Huskies.   The Bearcats have to be on cloud-9 right now.  The ball is finally rolling their way.  They actually won close games down the stretch.  At Wichita State by 1.  Against Houston by 1.  They came back from an 18-point deficit against Houston earlier in the year.  They again came back from 13 against Memphis this weekend.

Believe you can win.  Proof you can win. Repeat.

Cronin earned a 2-seed.  Finally, the Cats get seeded at a nearby venue.  We do not have to cross 5 different time zones and play on another planet.  This year they will be the higher seed and the favored team for quite some time.

UC will beat Georgia State while resting Jacob Evans.

UC will then play the winner of Texas vs. Nevada on Sunday in Nashville.  Shaka Smart in March scares me to death.  I am hoping Nevada wins out of pure self-interest. However, I am anticipating a Texas vs. UC matchup.  UC previously played and beat Texas in March in 2012.  This could be a deathmatch, similar to the UC Houston game this week, but UC’s senior leaders will come through some how some way.

The headlines will read “Bearcats Advance to Sweet 16!”

UC will then play 6-seed Miami or 3-seed Tennessee for a shot at the Elite 8 the following weekend in Atlanta, Georgia.  Pick your poison. I am taking Cincinnati over Old Rocky Top Tennessee and Butch Jones’ tears to advance to the Elite 8.  Jay Bilas agrees and he has a law degree from Duke.

The headlines will read “Bearcats Advance to Elite Eight for the First Time Under Cronin!”

The Bearcats will then play either Virginia or Arizona for a shot at the Final 4.  Imagine a game against literally the top two statistically rated defenses in the country, the Bearcats vs. the Cavaliers.  This would be an awesome game to watch.  Whoever gets to 50 wins.  By this point, UC is meshing on all cylinders.

The headlines will read “Bearcats Advance to Final Four For First Time Since 1992!”

It’s 2018.  It’s Destiny.  It’s Gary Clark.  It’s Time.

By Andy Smith