When the final buzzer sounded on Saturday, the Cincinnati Bearcats had themselves an 80-60 victory over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. A 20-point blowout near the end of February against a middle of the road conference foe may seem largely inconsequential, but that was not the case for this one. With the victory, Mick Cronin joined the 300-win club. Through a head coaching career that has spanned 14 seasons, Cronin has a 65.8 percent winning percentage and is behind only Bob Huggins among UC coaches in total victories.
Across his time with time with UC (and Murray State before that), Cronin has proven to be a winner. But some of those wins he’s collected have been a bit more important than others. Here are the best of the best.
Yes. We are going to have an honorable mention section. Is it essentially adding a few more spots because I am indecisive? I plead the fifth.
Jan. 12, 2008 - Cincinnati 69 No. 19 Villanova 66
In Cronin’s second season at UC, the Bearcats earned a win over a ranked opponent for the first time during their new head coach’s tenure. The difference was a three-pointer from Rashad Bishop with 22 seconds to play. UC also beat No. 15 Pittsburgh and a Louisville team that won 27 games during this season.
Dec. 13, 2006 - Cincinnati 67 Xavier 57
Cronin may have gone 11-19 in his first season at UC, but he made a nice impression by leading the Bearcats to a 10-point win in his first taste of the Crosstown Shootout. It hasn’t been a trend, however, with UC 4-7 against the Musketeers during Cronin’s tenure.
March 4, 2006 - Murray State 74 Samford 57
Cronin won two Ohio Valley Conference championships while coaching Murray State. This was the Racers’ second and was one of the big resume points that earned him the job for the Bearcats.
And now to the top 10.
10. Dec. 30, 2009 - Cincinnati 71 UConn 69
One of the first salvos of a rivalry that has lasted for all of Cronin’s time, despite a switch in conferences, this contest was a major upset for the Bearcats, who took down a No. 10 Huskies team with Kemba Walker on it. Lance Stephenson scored 21 points in the contest, including the game-winning free throws in the final seconds.
9. Dec. 17, 2014 - Cincinnati 71 San Diego State 62 OT
In a matchup of two teams that suffocate opposing offenses, UC came out on top against the No. 19 Aztecs. The Bearcats held SDSU to 39.3 percent shooting in the contest and were carried by 12 points apiece from Troy Caupain and Farad Cobb. The win was a nice item on the NCAA Tournament resume for the Bearcats, who were never ranked during the campaign.
8. Jan. 30, 2014 - Cincinnati 69 No. 12 Louisville 66
Regional rival Louisville, which UC has played more than any other team in its history, hosted the No. 13 Bearcats in a matchup of ranked American Athletic Conference squads. Sean Kilpatrick out-dueled Russ Smith in this one, scoring UC’s last 12 points while netting a game-high 28.
7. Jan. 20, 2007 - Cincinnati 96 West Virginia 83 OT
Despite trailing by as many as 17 points against the Mountaineers, the Bearcats stormed back to win their first Big East game of the season and first of the Cronin era. It was quite the way to get that initial triumph. Marvin Gentry poured in 32 points to carry the day for UC, which finished 11-19 overall that season.
6. Jan. 19, 2013 - Cincinnati 71 No. 25 Marquette 69 OT
Kilpatrick is the best player of the Cronin era and he made more than a few big plays for his head coach. His game-winning shot in this one lifted UC to a two-point win despite the fact that the Bearcats let a 16-point halftime lead slip away. The win was the 16th of the season for the Bearcats, who were ranked No. 24 at game time.
5. March 19, 2015 - Cincinnati 66 Purdue 65 OT
Last year’s NCAA Tournament run ended in heartbreaking fashion for Cronin and his Bearcats, but the year before they were the team sending an opponent home in tears. Layups from Coreontae DeBerry and Cobb in the extra session allowed UC to advance to the next round of the NCAA tourney, where it fell despite a valiant effort against No. 1 seed Kentucky.
4. March 16, 2012 - Cincinnati 65 Texas 59
This NCAA tourney win ranks a bit higher than the one over Purdue because it came during the Bearcats’ one and only Sweet 16 run under Cronin. Although they are positioned to make another this season, the 2011-12 team went further than any other under Cronin and it started with a six-point victory over No. 11 seed Texas. Yancy gates scored 15 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots to lead the way.
3. March 17, 2011 - Cincinnati 78 Missouri 63
In Cronin’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament as the head coach of the Bearcats, he got his first win in the Big Dance, as UC ran over Missouri. Gates was the hero once again, tallying 19 points and 11 rebounds as the Bearcats drilled 53.7 percent of their shots from the floor. Unfortunately the ‘Cats ran into Walker and UConn in the next round, falling like so many others on the Huskies’ sprint to the national title.
2. March 18, 2012 - Cincinnati 62 Florida State 56
Cronin naysayers point to UC’s lack of deep success in the NCAA Tournament as a fallacy, but its not as if he has never pushed the Bearcats past the first weekend. In 2012, UC earned its way to the Sweet 16 and this six-point triumph against the Seminoles punched the ticket. The Bearcats ended the game on a 12-6 run, powered by Kilpatrick, earning their first Sweet 16 appearance in more than a decade.
1. March 9, 2012 - Cincinnati 71 No. 2 Syracuse 68
Before making it to the Sweet 16, the Bearcats had a thrilling run in the Big East Tournament. They started things off with a 72-70 win in double overtime against Georgetown and followed that up with the biggest statement win of the Cronin era. Syracuse rolled into the matchup with a 31-1 record and the No. 2 ranking in the country. UC led by as many as 17 points and had a 10-point cushion with 1:47 remaining, but nearly let that all slip away. However, Justin Jackson’s dunk in the final seconds closed the book on UC’s first win against a top two team since 1998 and the best win of the Cronin era ... so far.