Once Considered Close to A Lock, the Cincinnati Bearcats Must Fight For Tournament Bid

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bearcats were once thought to be a lock to make the NCAA tournament, however, losing five of their past six games has suddenly put their national bid in doubt.

The Bearcats suffered an 62-41 embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, giving Cincinnati a 7-8 losing record in conference action.

Entering February, the Bearcats were riding high and appeared all but guaranteed to punch their ticket to the big dance. Now with the losses piling up, they’ve gone from a top 25 team in the nation to being on the wrong side of the bubble conversation.

Cincinnati has time left with three games remaining on the season to earn their right to participate in March Madness, but it isn’t going to be easy given their remaining schedule.

On Mar. 2 they’ll try to avenge a loss from their game prior to Notre Dame when they host the Connecticut Huskies. The Huskies rallied late at home, stealing a 73-66 overtime victory from the Bearcats on Feb. 21. The Bearcats appeared in control in the closing minutes but couldn’t slow down Shabazz Napier and his 27 point performance.

The loss was devastating for Cincinnati, making the rematch the definition of a must-win game given the circumstances the team has put themselves in to close the season.

Life doesn’t get any easier for the Bearcats in their following contest as they’ll head on the road to battle the Louisville Cardinals. The last team or place a desperate Cincinnati team wants to play is Louisville on their home court, where the Cardinals have only lost once all season long. An upset victory would guarantee a tournament bid, which is the mindset the Bearcats will need to be playing under if they hope to emerge victorious. As unlikely as defeating Louisville is, if Cincinnati can enter the contest with the understanding it is playing for its postseason life, it will have a puncher’s chance of emerging victorious.

To close out the year, the Bearcats will host the South Florida Bulls in another must win contest. Cincinnati defeating the Bulls won’t help their tournament chances but a loss at home would certainly hurt it significantly.

Even if the Bearcats manage to go 2-1 to close the year, assuming they lose to Louisville, it still wouldn’t guarantee a tournament invite given their recent struggles. If that becomes the case, they’d likely still need a strong showing in the conference tournament to completely remove doubts from the selection committee.

It’s a tough pill to swallow for Cincinnati fans considering where the team was just three weeks ago.

Michael covers ACC and Big East basketball along with the NBA and NHL for Rant Sports, you can follow him on Twitter @MichaelxRoberts

 

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