Early season tournaments are a big part of college basketball. More and more have cropped over the years, with locations that stretch from Connecticut to Alaska. The No. 12 Cincinnati Bearcats got to travel to participate in one and its a cool trip, as they are in the Caribbean for the Cayman Islands Classic starting today. Their first matchup of the tourney is against the Buffalo Bulls of the Mid-American Conference. Below is a full look at the bracket.
How to Watch, Stream, Listen
- Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
- Television/Stream: Flohoops. Can only be streamed online and you need a subscription. So good luck.
- Radio: 700 WLW AM
- Announcing crew: Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Terry Nelson (analyst)
- Series history: Let’s go back to 1971, which was the first and only year in which the Bearcats battled the Bulls. Good news for UC fans; the red and black prevailed 86-59.
Who are the Buffalo Bulls?
Cincinnati is not the only undefeated team in this matchup. The Bulls are 2-0 with nearly identical wins against Canisius and Jacksonville State on their resume. They beat Canisius 80-75 and followed that up with an 81-76 triumph against the Gamecocks. While a perfect record is nice, the sample size is obviously very small and the level of competition was not high.
At their core, the Bulls are a pretty pedestrian team. They rank 154th in the country according to KenPom, sitting at No. 150 in adjusted offense and No. 149 in adjusted defense. They went 17-15 a year ago, their second campaign under the leadership of Nate Oats. But that followed their second-straight season in the NCAA Tournament.
The roster is obviously much different than it was during those runs, but not entirely. Junior forward Nick Perkins was a freshman during the 2015-16 season and is now the team’s top scoring option (21 PPG). He had 26 points against Canisius and 16 against JSU. At 6’8”, he is a long shooter who can make baskets from all around the floor. His ability to create space will be a challenge for the Bearcats.
Another player to watch is CJ Massinburg, who just put together a game of 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists against JSU. Massinburg, who is also a junior, leads the team in usage percentage, so he will have the ball pretty often. Fellow guards Davonta Jordan (13.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG) and Jeremy Harris (10 PPG) are also averaging in double figures through two games.
According to KenPom, Cincinnati’s strength of schedule through the first three games has been pretty unimpressive. I’m not going to argue that. With the 346th best schedule based on KenPom’s metrics, the 3-0 Bearcats have not gotten a chance to make a real statement. Or have they?
While blasting away on the likes of Savannah State, Western Carolina and Coppin State doesn’t really move the needle, the fact that UC is ranked fourth in the country in scoring (102 PPG) and that it won its first three games by an average margin of 41.3 points shows that this team dominates lesser opponents. Ranked No. 15 in adjusted offensive and No. 8 in adjusted defense, the Bearcats have gotten stellar performances up and down the roster, particularly from Jarron Cumberland, who we all knew could shoot, but his evolution as a rebounder and passer has been a joy to watch.
Against Buffalo, the Bearcats are facing their first team from inside KenPom’s top 250, so this is the biggest challenge yet, but really just an appetizer for when the heat really gets turned up.
Buffalo is better than any team the Bearcats have faced. That is more of an indictment of the level of competition in UC’s first three games than a compliment to the Bulls. With a roster that is nowhere near as deep or talented as UC, Buffalo will struggle to keep up, meaning the Bearcats will march on to face the victor of Richmond and UAB.
Cincinnati 87 Buffalo 61