- Tipoff: 4 p.m. ET
- Television: ESPN
- Announcing crew: Jason Benetti (play-by-play) and Mile Simon (analyst)
- Radio: 700 WLW
- Announcing crew: Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Terry Nelson (analyst)
- Series history: Even if the first meeting between these teams this year wasn’t a clash of nationally ranked foes, it still had all the fixings of an NCAA Tournament preview. Led by Troy Caupain (16 points, seven rebounds and six assists), the Bearcats escaped with a 66-64 victory on their home floor. It was the seventh win in 10 all-time matchups between these two budding American Athletic Conference rivals. UC has never lost at home (6-0), but has had trouble on the road (1-3). It will try to avoid that type of result on Sunday.
Apparently the No. 11 Cincinnati Bearcats are not a top 16 team, even if their 22-2 record and standing in both the AP and Coaches polls would say otherwise. Even if the NCAA Tournament selection committee didn’t deem the Bearcats fit for a top four seed in their early bracket reveal yesterday, that doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving. They will have every chance to prove that this afternoon at Moody Coliseum against the No. 25 SMU Mustangs.
Cincinnati is the current leader of the American Athletic Conference, with an unblemished 11-0 mark in league play. Hot on the Bearcats’ heels are the Mustangs, who are 21-4 overall and 11-1 in conference. Their lone league loss came against UC itself, but it was by no means an easy win for the red and black, who escaped with a two-point victory despite a game-high 20 points from SMU’s Sterling Brown.
SMU will present another stern and unique challenge for the Bearcats, who have been favored in most games they have played this season, especially of late. The Mustangs are the No. 13 team in the country according to KenPom, while UC is No. 20. (That’s fine, national outlets, keep doubting.) SMU enjoys that higher ranking because it is a bit more balanced a team, ranking in the top 25 in adjusted offensive and adjusted defense. The Bearcats are better than the Mustangs in defensive efficiency (No. 11 vs. No. 14), but No. 40 on the offensive end. They were able to use that superior defense to their advantage in the first meeting, holding SMU to an even 40 percent shooting, but they were also out-rebounded in that one (37-27) and struggled to put the game away down the stretch. In a hostile environment, it will take everything the Bearcats have to pull out a win and make the NCAA selection committee think twice.
For more on the matchup, check out our full game preview.