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2019 Paradise Jam Preview: Know the Teams

8 schools, including Cincinnati get set to play in the 2019 Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands this weekend.

NCAA Basketball: Drake at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bearcats men’s basketball team will play their annual early season tournament this weekend when they participate in the Paradise Jam.

What is the Paradise Jam?

Believe it or not, this tournament actually dates back to 2001 and has mostly been played the week before Thanksgiving, while the women play the week of. Games are held at St. Thomas at the Sports and Fitness Center on the campus of the University of the Virgin Islands.

History of the Tournament

Kansas State beat Missouri to win the 2018 Tournament.

In the 18 year history of the tournament, only 4 schools have won the Paradise Jam AND won an NCAA Tournament game, with none having accomplished this feat since Marquette last did it in 2011. Marquette (2011) and Purdue (2009) both lost in the Sweet 16, Alabama (2006) lost in the second round, and UConn (2008) lost in the Final Four.

8 of the 18 Champions did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

About the Teams

8 teams will participate in the year’s Paradise Jam.

First Round opponent - Illinois State

Cincinnati will play Illinois State in their first game at 5:30 on Friday.

2018 Recap: Finished 17-16 in 2018 and their season ended with a loss to Drake in round 2 of the Missouri Valley Conference.

2019-to-date: 2-1 with wins over Belmont and Arkansas-Little Rock and a 2 point loss to fellow AAC team UCF.

Players to Watch: Senior guard Zach Copeland is averaging 14 ppg , one year after averaging 9.4 ppg

Three players averaging 4 or more assists per game - Ricky Torres (5), Copeland (4.3), Matt Chastian (4)

History: Three meetings all-time. Cincinnati won 91-57 as the 5th ranked team in 1995 and won again 76-59 in 2005. Cincinnati lost their last meeting in 2007, losing 52-62 at Fifth Third Arena.

Round 2 opponent - Bowling Green or Western Kentucky

Cincinnati will play the winner or loser of Bowling Green vs Western Kentucky, which takes place on Thursday

Bowling Green

2018 recap: 22-12, lost to Buffalo in the MAC Championship game

2019-to-date: 3-1 with a loss at LSU (ranked 22nd at the time)

Players to watch: Justin Turner is off to a strong start, averaging 19.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 4.0 apg in 30.5 minutes per game (only Falcons player averaging over 30 minutes per game).

Dylan Frye (11.5) and Trey Diggs (11) are the next two leading scorers.

History: Bowling Green is 1-9 vs Cincinnati. The Falcons lone win came in 2007, during a three game tournament in Cincinnati, the same one where the Bearcats lost to Illinois State.

They most recently played a home-and-home series in 2015 and 2016. Cincinnati won 83-50 and 83-56.

Their last meeting also generated some outstanding content.

Western Kentucky

2018 recap: Finished 20-14, one year after reaching the NIT Semifinals

2019-to-date: WKU is 3-0 with wins over Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay, and Eastern Kentucky.

Players to Watch: Sophomore center Charles Bassey is the star of the Hilltoppers and the star of coach Rick Stansbury’s 2018 recruiting class. He is averaging 14.7 ppg and 11 rpg. Bassey was ESPN’s 18th ranked recruit. The 5 star recruit was ESPN’s 3rd ranked center overall and #2 player in Texas.

Carson Williams, Camron Justice, Taveion Hollingsworth all average over 30 mpg and 13 or more ppg.

History: Cincinnati is 5-12 against Western Kentucky. Bearcats won the last meeting in 1996.

Bearcats have history against Stansbury. In 2008, they played in the short-lived SEC/Big East Challenge and the Bearcats beat Mississippi State, where Stansbury coached from 1998-2012.

Round 3 - Nevada/Fordham or Valparaiso/Grand Canyon

Nevada plays Fordham in the first game on Friday and Valparaiso plays Grand Canyon in their first game on Friday. Depending on results, Cincinnati will play one of these four teams on Monday in either a Championship game or a consolation game.


2018 recap: Finished 29-5 and made NCAA Tournament as a 7 seed, losing to Florida in round one. It was Nevada’s third straight NCAA Tournament appearance (2-3 record).

2019-to-date: Nevada is 2-3 with losses coming to USC, Utah, and Davidson.

They are in their first year under head coach Steve Alford, who was fired by UCLA last December. Alford last his last two games against Cincinnati with UCLA.

Players to Watch: Most of Nevada’s top players from their successful run the last two years are gone. The most notable players are Jazz Johnson (19.5 ppg) and Lindsey Drew (18.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 6.0 apg).

History: these teams have history against each other. Not good history. Not history that needs to be repeated.


2018 recap: Finished 12-20 and 3-15 in Atlantic 10 conference play. Their last postseason appearance was the NCAA Tournament in 1992.

2019-to-date: Fordham is 3-0 with wins over Farleigh Dickinson, Marist, and St Francis Brooklyn. They are coached by Jeff Neubauer, who is in his 5th year. He previously coached at Eastern Kentucky.

Players to Watch: Chubba Ohams is averaging 14.3 ppg and 8.7 rpg.

History: Cincinnati won the only meeting between these schools in 1956.


2018 recap: Finished 15-18 in their second year in the Missouri Valley Conference.

2019-to-date: Valparaiso is 3-1, with a loss to Saint Louis.

Players to watch: Guard Javon Freeman-Liberty (sophomore) leads the way with 22.2 ppg and despite being 6’3, leads the team in rebounding with 7.8 rpg. He also leads the team with 2 steals per game.

History: Valparaiso has never beaten Cincinnati (0-4) losing every game by a combined average of 26.5 ppg.

Grand Canyon

2018 recap: Finished 20-14 and lost in the WAC Championship Game for the second straight season to New Mexico State.

Cantelopes have only been Division 1 school since 2013-14 season and are coached by former NBA star Dan Majerle. They have yet to have a losing record (15-15 in 2013-14 worst record) and in each of the last three seasons have won 27, 22, 22, 20 games.

Grand Canyon has been in the postseason 5 of it’s 6 years - College Insider Tournament three times and CBI twice, including 2019.

2019-to-date: Grand Canyon is just 1-3 to start the 2019 season. After losing the first 3, they beat Arkansas Pine-Bluff.

Players to watch: The top two returning players from last year are Carlos Johnson (36 mpg, 13.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Alessandro Lever (11.5 ppg).

History: Cincinnati has never faced Grand Canyon.