During the 2017-18 season, the Cincinnati Bearcats got very comfortable in college basketball Top 25s. They were ranked in the AP Poll every week of the season, reaching a high of No. 5 and never falling below No. 21.
Despite that long run of success, the Bearcats, by virtue of some intense roster turnover, were not given as much respect entering the current campaign. They were stuck in the purgatory of unranked but receiving votes, getting 21 votes in the AP Poll and 30 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Those equated to No. 34 and and No. 32, respectively, if you expand the rankings beyond the 25-team limit.
Then they lost to Ohio State and were erased from that little paragraph at the bottom of every ranking all together. Since that loss, however, the Bearcats have been doing nothing but win. They have reeled off nine-straiught victories and during the last three, made statements with a road win over UNLV and a home domination of Xavier, with a rout of Northern Kentucky in between. All that success is making the national pundits reconsider the Bearcats.
On Monday, in the newest AP Top 25, the Bearcats were still not ranked, but receiving 73 votes. That has them trailing only Nebraska (115), Maryland (105) and Oklahoma (82), while Syracuse currently holds the No. 25 spot. Such a ranking falls right in line with the advanced metrics, as the Bearcats are currently 29th in the country in adjusted efficiency margin, according to KenPom.
Past and Future Opponents
Also rising this week were the Houston Cougars, who entered the AP Poll at No. 24 and are lining up to be the biggest competition the Bearcats will face in the American Athletic Conference title chase. The Cougars may not be loved by metrics (36th in adjusted efficiency), but you can’t argue with the results, as they have gone 8-0 to open the season. A 63-53 win on the road over Oklahoma State certainly boosted the resume, as the Cougars have now beaten three teams in the top 65 in KenPom’s rankings, including BYU and Oregon.
Of more immediate concern are UC’s next two opponents, who are both getting some love in the national rankings. Mississippi State is up to No. 18 from No. 22 this week following wins against McNeese State and Clemson. The Bearcats will play the Bulldogs (8-1) on the road this weekend, which gives them a tremendous opportunity to boost their resume and ascend to the top 25. After Mississippi State. the Bearcats face UCLA, which is only receiving a handful of votes in the AP Poll, but is still a top 50 team in adjusted efficiency.
Lastly, UC’s loss to Ohio State is looking less and less egregious. The Buckeyes moved up four spots in the AP Poll to No. 15, taking down Illinois and Minnesota to begin Big Ten play last week.
Other Notable Changes
Marquette and Syracuse both joined the Top 25 ranks this week. The Golden Eagles upset arch rival Wisconsin on Saturday to improve to 8-2 while the Orange have won five-straight.
The top of the rankings also got a shake-up this week. Previously unbeaten Gonzaga fell to No. 4 and was leapfrogged by Tennessee, who now sits at No. 3 after toppling the Zags. Somehow Nevada (remember them?) slid back one spot to No. 7 despite sporting a perfect 10-0 mark.