When the calendar hit February, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Cincinnati Bearcats were NCAA Tournament-bound. My what a difference a month makes.
Mick Cronin‘s team has seen their once firm grip on an at-large bid dwindle to nothing more than a hope and a dream. Cinci finished February with a 3-5 mark and while none of their losses were particularly bad, this is the time of year where wins go a bit farther and losses are magnified. Especially with only 13 days until Selection Sunday.
Their wins have been over non-tournament teams–Villanova, Connecticut and Seton Hall. The losses have been to much higher quality programs–UConn, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Providence. To be fair, losing to UConn isn’t a kiss of death as they’d likely be a tournament team if eligible.
There is still an chance for the Bearcats (20-9, 8-8 Big East) to make a push and that time is now–as in tonight. A win at No. 10 Louisville might be exactly what Cinci needs to cement themselves a berth in the tournament. After tonight’s game, they’ll finish the regular season at home against the lowly South Florida Bulls, who have but two wins in conference.
To say their play over the course of the season has been inconsistent would be an understatement as the Bearcats have been downright puzzling at times. The reason has been primarily their offensive inability to score the ball–they haven’t cracked the 70-point barrier since an overtime win on January 19th. Sean Kilpatrick is shooting just 35.7 percent (25-70) over the last five games–and he’s their leading scorer.
Like I mentioned, a signature win–on the road–at Louisville tonight can go a long way for the Bearcats. It’ll likely be the type of game they’re accustomed to–an ugly, slug-fest–with a Louisville team coming off a big road win at Syracuse.
A win tonight will certainly help but for Cincinnati, the time is now.
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