As we get closer and closer to March, it is becoming more and more certain that the Cincinnati Bearcats will be going dancing this season. With an 18-3 overall mark, plenty of opportunity to win the American Athletic Conference and increasing national recognition, the Bearcats would have to fail spectacularly during the next few weeks to fall out of contention for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how a few experts in the field of bracketology are currently projecting the Bearcats.
According to SB Nation’s own resident bracketologist Chris Dobbertean, the Bearcats are in line for a No. 7 seed and a matchup with a 10th-seeded Nebraska Cornhuskers squad. If these projections hold true, the Bearcats would share a region with Tennessee, the current No. 1 team in the country, as well as Gonzaga, Maryland and Louisville. On top of that, the Bearcats would have an outside shot at a revenge game, as Ohio State is listed as a No. 9 seed in the region. Of course, it would take a few miracles for that to happen, since they would have to meet in the Elite Eight.
These rankings are not so kind to the rest of the American Athletic Conference. While Houston is poised for a No. 4 seed, both the Temple Owls and UCF Knights are among the first four teams out. On a positive note, at least in terms of strength of schedule considerations for the Bearcats, Northern Kentucky (No. 13), George Mason (No. 14), Ole Miss (No. 8) and Mississippi State (No. 7) are all opponents from earlier in the schedule that are currently considered tournament teams, even if some of those hold more weight than others.
In his most recent projection, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi also has the Bearcats as a seventh seed. It’s marks a holding pattern for the team, which has been projected somewhere in the 10 to 7 seed range in each update this month. In this iteration, they would be playing a different opponent (Texas) and in a much different bracket than SB Nation’s projection. The top four seeds in this potential bracket are Duke, Kentucky, Purdue and Villanova. Lunardi’s prediction also has the Bearcats playing in the East (Washington D.C.) region compared with the West (Anaheim, Calif.) region in SB Nation’s estimation.
Lunardi has a more favorable outlook for UCF (in as a No. 10 seed) and Houston (No. 3 seed), but has Temple further down as one of the “next four out.” He also has both Ohio State and Ole Miss as No. 9 seeds, Mississippi State in a No. 6 slot, George Mason as a 15th seed and Northern Kentucky as a 13th seed. Of course, the last two are based on the prediction that the Patriots and Norse will win their respective conferences. Based on that, UC would currently have three wins against NCAA Tournament teams (Ole Miss, George Mason, Northern Kentucky) and two losses (Ohio State, Mississippi State) with the potential to earn more when it faces the Knights and Cougars in the coming weeks.
You can make it a clean sweep. Former ESPNer Andy Katz also has the Bearcats as a No. 7 seed. Unlike the other projections, however, he has them pegged for the South (Louisville) region, which includes top four seeds of Duke, Michigan, LSU and Marquette. The region would also feature a former UC opponent in Northern Kentucky (14th seed) and a future one in UCF (ninth).
In the rest of the bracket, Katz has both Ole Miss and Mississippi State as No. 8 seeds and Ohio State as an 11, which is interesting considering the latter two defeated the Bearcats earlier this season. Add in a No. 3 seed for Houston and No. 14 seeds for George Mason and Northern Kentucky and we’re looking at a similar team allotment from UC’s schedule across these three projections.
Changes will occur all the way until Selection Sunday, but for now, this gives us a decent indication of how the Bearcats are being evaluated.