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Cincinnati Bearcats Suddenly Favorites to Win South, Reach Final Four

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Virginia’s historic loss clears lane for the Bearcats.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Nashville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Maybe, just maybe this is Cincinnati’s year after all.

UMBC’s historic 74-54 thrashing of top-seeded Virginia makes Cincinnati the odds-on favorite to win the south region and advance to the Final Four in San Antonio.

FiveThirtyEight.com Projections

This is unfamiliar territory for everybody. Something good happened? For Cincinnati sports?

When the brackets were first announced on Sunday, Bearcats fans couldn’t have been more excited for Cincinnati’s draw in the South region. The Bearcats’ side of the bracket looked winnable – not easy, but winnable. Georgia State, Nevada, Texas, Miami, Tennessee, Loyola, Wright State are all beatable teams. None of them have the sort of storied, intimidating histories of a Duke, Villanova, North Carolina or Kansas.

The other side of the bracket looked very tough, but the Bearcats would only have to worry about those teams in the Elite Eight. Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona, and Creighton are all top-flight programs capable of beating any team in the nation. They were looming large should Cincinnati take care of business on its half of the bracket. Then, Thursday and Friday happened, and the only one of those teams left standing is Kentucky.

Cincinnati’s odds of winning the championship game jumped to 10%, and their Final Four odds now sit at a stunning 40%.

Villanova is the only team in the tournament more likely to reach the Final Four at this point.

It all started with Loyola’s upset over Miami. Then Buffalo provided the biggest shock of day one when it beat an extremely talented Arizona team by 21 points. Kansas State followed that up with a win over Creighton, and then all hell broke loose when UMBC beat the Cavaliers to set up the first 16-9 matchup in tournament history. In the end, the south region saw four first-round upsets, including three double-digit seeds in UMBC, Buffalo and Loyola. Only three other double-digit seeds remain in the entire tournament – 10th-seed Butler, 11th-seed Syracuse, and 13th-seed Marshall.

It’s March Madness and, of course, anything could happen, but the first two days of the tournament unfolded almost perfectly for Cincinnati.

It’s too early to dream these types of dreams, but could an epic Elite Eight matchup against Kentucky be looming? That game isn’t merely possible right now, but statistically likely. Kentucky has a 54% chance of reaching the Elite Eight, while Cincinnati has a 58% chance.

First up is Nevada on Sunday.

Excuse me while I go throw up.