Welp, there you have it. Cincinnati, following an early exit in the American Athletic Conference Tournament at the hands of UConn, have officially made the "Big Dance" as they will face-off with Saint Joseph's in the West Region. This is Cincinnati's sixth straight year in the NCAA Tournament and they are one of only eight schools to do so with Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina, VCU and Wisconsin.
The Bearcats clock in as a No. 9 seed and will get their chance at the No. 8 seed Hawks on Friday, March 18 in Spokane, WA. The Hawks are fresh off an Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship, after defeating VCU earlier today by a final score of 87-74. Saint Joseph's finished the regular season with a 27-7 (13-5) record, which had them one game back in the A10 regular season title run.
On paper, this looks like a very interesting matchup between two teams that have different strengths. According to Kenpom.com, the Hawks are 31st nationally in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and will matchup with Cincinnati's 8th ranked Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. Saint Joseph's has their fair share of offensive star power, led by Isaiah Miles, averaging 18.2 points per game. Cincinnati is 3-1 all-time against the Hawks.
Looking ahead to the rest of the West Region, No. 1 seed Oregon is likely to be awaiting the winner of this game. Oklahoma and Buddy Hield is the No. 2 seed in the West Region, joined by Texas A&M (No. 3), Duke (No. 4) and No. 5 seed Baylor.
Cincinnati, at 22-10 (12-6), enters the tournament breathing a sigh of relief, as the Bearcats were widely considered a bubble team for much of the season's second half. While some Cincinnati fans were undoubtedly concerned that the perception surrounding the American Conference could impact the Bearcats chances, Cincinnati ended up with a very favorable seeding, especially since many bracketology predictions had the Bearcats as a double-digit seed or even out of the field heading into today.
While there is more to be said about the Hawks and the Bearcats, it's great to see Cincinnati make the NCAA Tournament for the sixth straight year with the chance to make some noise in the West Region.