The Cincinnati Bearcats are one of the toughest, grittiest teams in all of college basketball, so it’s no surprise they’re 18-5 and ranked 17th in the country. If you’ve ever watched them play, you know exactly what I mean.
Cincinnati never takes a possession off. Especially on defense. Head coach Mick Cronin‘s squad is one of the stingiest in Division I, allowing only 58.6 points per game. Their offense might not always click, as was the case in a recent 54-50 loss at Providence, but there’s no surer guarantee than their D showing up every game. It starts with Cronin, who is one of the most intense coaches in the game.
It starts at practice. The athleticism and work ethic every player on their roster brings every day to practice makes them a tough team to prepare for. Often times, college basketball practices are plodding and methodical, but in Cincinnati, they’re intense and as game-like as possible.
Another thing is their mindset, as was expressed by their coach during their improbable run to the Big East Tournament’s Championship Game. “Where we come from, we play to win,’’ Cronin said. “We’re not in it for the old college try.” And it shows. They’re an in-your-face, punch-you-in-the-mouth type team, an old school team playing with a chip on their shoulder and some phenomenal athletes.
Don’t let their brawl with Xavier skew your view on the type of toughness they want to be known for. It’s not just a physical toughness, but a mental toughness as well. They might be down, but they’re never out. Need proof? On December 31st played at Pittsburgh, widely known as one of the toughest places to play in the Big East and the country thanks to the student section that wraps three-quarters around the floor. They finally hit double-digit points at the 10:44 mark of the first half and going into the half, were down eight points. A hostile environment on the road, a lot of teams would “give it the old college try” but Cincy isn’t your typical team. They went out for the second half looking for a kill shot–and they got it, outscoring the Panthers 44-27 to earn a nine-point win, 70-61.
They play Pitt tomorrow, this time at the Fifth Third Arena, where they’re 10-3. Cronin’s Bearcats will look to rebound from their loss to the Friars following what can be assumed was a tough day or two of practice. If the past is any indication of what’s to come, they’ll bounce back just fine. They’re tough.