If you go by the "experts", the UC Bearcats appear to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament. Well, "lock" might be a bit strong, but there isn't one "bracketologist" alive who has UC missing the tournament. At least for now. Should they lose to Providence (highly likely at this rate) combined with a lot of bid-stealing then you may just have some hand-wringing next Sunday if you're a UC fan.
Is this a team that instills a lot of confidence in its fan base? Probably not. Are they extremely ugly and frustrating to watch? Oh hell yeah. But, again it could be a lot worse. And being a team that is likely headed to its third consecutive NCAA Tournament when you consider how far the program has come in seven years, there are worse things that could have happened...like if they would have lost to South Florida Saturday. But, they didn't. I have no idea how they pulled that one out, but they did. I don't really care at this point. I've gained an awful lot of gray hair this basketball season so I'm not going to go back and re-live that.
Let's have a little look-see at some other comparable programs that UC fans might keep their eyes on through out the season.
- West Virginia - coached by? yeah, you know. 13-18. Yes, I said 13 wins, 18 losses. NCAA resume? uh, no.
- Ole Miss - coached by? "HIRE ANDY!!!" 23-8. Not a bad record at all. However, they started out 17-2 and were ranked in both major polls for a stretch. They finished in a tie for second in the SEC, but that's really nothing to brag about since the SEC is somewhat terrible in basketball. Either way, Ole Miss currently sits squarely on the "bubble".
- Xavier - as much as I despise Chris Mack I will give it up to him and his staff. Despite not having much true talent, they've managed to knock off some good teams. However, sitting at 17-13 with no quality road wins, they have to win the A-10 Tournament (St. Joe's, and likely VCU, Temple, and St. Louis in order) and that seems like a very tall task for this team. I'm betting by game three Semaj Christon will be cramping a little.
Is it petty to go over those teams and compare with UC? Perhaps. But, I sit in my seat at Fifth Third Arena and constantly hear people complaining and whining about Mick Cronin and how awful of a coach he is. Well, maybe you'd like to switch positions with those other coaches. Anyway, I'm not going to get into this debate because it's become a large waste of time and hot air.
Moving on. The All-Conference teams were announced yesterday and Sean Kilpatrick was named to the second team. I'm sure it's a bit of a disappointment for him considering the (deserved) praise heaped on him in the preseason. Either way, it's a nice feather in his cap and nice for the program to receive some recognition.
So we come to the postseason talk. The Bearcats face the Providence Friars Wednesday at noon in Madison Square Garden. It's a place the Bearcats have had some success recently. They've won at least one game in three straight Big East Conference Tournaments. There are two large factors in this game and one is for each team, so something has to give.
The first being the revenge factor for UC. The Bearcats nearly pulled out a win at Providence, but fell short by a 54-50 score. UC had several chances to tie and even take the lead in the final minutes, but typically couldn't finish around the rim and the Friars held on. This would be a nice way to exact some revenge and in the process...(on to factor #2 below)
The Friars are on the bubble. They've managed to earn the bubble spot by playing pretty good basketball down the stretch. However, losing at UConn in overtime Saturday probably knocked them out of an at-large bid. They will need to win at least two game in New York to get them back into the conversation. But, they are capable of doing just that. They are healthy at the right time (something UC is no doubt jealous of) and are clicking. UC can exact revenge and play spoiler at the same time Wednesday afternoon. You can bet that will play a big part in motivating the Bearcats to play well.
And if they needed more incentive to win, the more they win the more they get to keep wearing their new "postseason only" uniforms that are unfortunately similar to those worn by UC, Louisville, and Baylor last year. Now, I'm on the record as saying they're ugly (and they are), but if the players like them, and they win, then I'm 100% in favor of them wearing those God-awful things for a few more weeks.