Regardless of how you feel about college basketball rankings, there’s no denying that getting into the rarified air of the top 25, whether it be the AP or USA Today Coaches Poll, puts a little extra polish on a season. The Cincinnati Bearcats are having another fine year and with their current six-game winning streak, they have catapulted themselves right to the edge of the AP poll this week. They received 76 total votes, which puts them right behind Auburn at No. 27.
The Bearcats were pretty close earlier in the season, but a loss to Mississppi State and an inexplicable setback against East Carolina sent them further down the totem pole. On Sunday, they were in danger of slipping once more.
After receiving six votes in last week’s poll and crushing Tulsa on Thursday, the Bearcats visited Temple and trailed by 14 points in the second half. They bounced back in a big way and earned a pretty impressive road victory. The Owls are ranked 29th in the country in RPI and are the only team in the land to take down the Houston Cougars (more on them later). Wins like that should still look good in March, but UC’s resume still needs some work. The ECU loss will continue to be a drain and what were seen as quality wins early in the season (Xavier, Ole Miss, UNLV, UCLA) don’t look as great right now. Even beating Temple on the road could be dwonplayed since the Owls are only 74th in the country in adjusted offense, according to KenPom.
That makes UC’s Feb. 10 matchup with Houston all the more important. The Bearcats play SMU and Memphis before that and they have to take care of business in those contests as well. However, if they keep playing and winning like they have been the last couple of weeks, that visit to Houston will be a game of epic proportions. Houston is 20-1 overall, tied with the Bearcats for first place in the American Athletic Conference and, in the same poll UC is still trying to crack, the Cougars are ranked No. 13. Obviously focus needs to be kept on the two games before Houston, but the hype is already palpable. It will only increase over the next two weeks, when the Bearcats could very easily get promoted into the top 25. Tune in next week to find out if they do.