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Recapping a Long and Frustrating Championship Weekend for the Bearcats

Bearcats football wins, while volleyball and men’s basketball suffer heartbreaking losses.

NCAA Football: Temple at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The last few days have been extremely exhausting and frustrating for Cincinnati Bearcats fans. There has been a lot going on in multiple sports as the Bearcats teams have been in position to win big games/events.

Volleyball team played in the AAC Tournament Championship, men’s basketball team played in the Paradise Jam, and football team played with the AAC East division at stake.

Volleyball

Bearcats women’s volleyball went 15-1 in the regular season and on Saturday, they avenged their one loss to Tulane by sweeping the Green Wave in the AAC Tournament Semifinals. That set up a match with UCF on Sunday.

Cincinnati swept UCF, including ending their 26 game winning streak back in October. Knights won the AAC in 2018 and as a result this tournament took place in Orlando. As a result, they had a loud and impactful crowd behind them.

Bearcats lost a heartbreaker championship round in 5 sets. They had plenty of opportunities too.

They won the first set 25-21 and lost the second set 25-16. The third set, is where the fireworks happened. Usually this is where the matches turn, considering it’s best of five. Bearcats led 24-18, needing one point to take a 2-1 lead. But UCF rattled off 8 straight points to take the third set 26-24.

The resilient Bearcats fought back in set 4 to win 26-24 (you need to win by two, which is why sets 3 and 4 exceed 25 points). Bearcats had a 24-19 lead, but UCF, again, fought back to tie it up at 24, before the Bearcats pulled away.

Fifth and final set was close and thrilling, but UCF pulled away in the end to win 15-10. A heartbreaking defeat for Cincinnati.

Bearcats return home and will wait to see what’s next. NCAA Selection Show is next Sunday at 8:30 on ESPNU. Despite not winning the automatic berth, the Bearcats are expected to claim an at-large bid. It would be the third time in four years that they make the Tournament (thanks largely to Jordan Thompson) and are 1-2 in tournament games during that time.

Basketball

The men’s basketball team suffered a terrible loss to Bowling Green on Sunday night in the Paradise Jam. There is no sugar coating it or defending it. The loss is bad. And the team might be bad. Bearcats shot 31-55 from the free throw line. That’s 24 missed free throws!!!!!! In a 7 point loss, I’d say that’s a big deal.

The biggest story was Jarron Cumberland sitting most of the second half, including the final stretch. Naturally, fans rushed to judgment given that there were previous issues between the two. Cumberland rolled his ankle early in the game and went to the locker room to get treatment. His lack of playing time was reportedly due to the ankle and an apparent toe issue as well. Cumberland convinced coach Brannen to let him play overtime, but it didn’t make a difference as Cincinnati lost 91-84.

I will say this, if Cumberland is even a little banged up, I’m glad he sat out. This is a meaningless November game. We are going to need Cumberland healthy for some key December games and conference play.

The loss sucks. But it’s definitely not the end of the world and not worth throwing away your fandom for (as some tweets have suggested). The season is far, far from over. Free throws are an easy fix and this team is still a work-in-progress.

The good news is Cincinnati now avoids Nevada on Monday night. Playing them would accomplish nothing, because it wouldn’t be payback for two years ago, given that it’s all new players and a new coach. So let’s just never worry about them again. Unfortunately, this Bowling Green game had a similar feel, where the Bearcats blew a 10 point lead late. This, after overcoming a 10 point deficit late on Friday night in the win against Illinois State.

Bowling Green is a good team and this could ultimately be considered a Quadrant-2 loss. Last year, Cincinnati suffered a Quad-4 loss (ECU) and they were fine. They previously lost to Presbyterian and they made the Sweet 16 that year. Kentucky just lost at home to Evansville! Sadly, these losses do happen. They just haven’t been happening to us lately.

I’d rather see this team struggle now and be better come March as opposed to fly through this soft part of the schedule and be unprepared for March. And yes, despite the doom and gloom, March is still very much on the table despite this one loss. But let’s see what happens at the end of December, given the tough schedule ahead.

Speaking of doom and gloom...

Football

The sky has been falling for weeks with the Bearcats football program, despite being 10-1 and clinching a spot in the AAC Championship Game for the first time.

On this week’s Podcast, Scotty Whitehouse and I vent out our frustrations about the offense and about the attendance conversation.

Take a look back at the Bearcats’ 15-13 win over Temple.

Next up - Cincinnati plays Memphis on Friday. A win (and a Navy win over Houston), means the Bearcats host Navy in the Conference Championship on 12/7. A loss means back-to-back games at Memphis, and also likely spells the end of the Cotton Bowl pursuit.

Latest Bowl projections

  • ESPN - Liberty Bowl vs TCU or Texas
  • CBS - Gasparilla Bowl vs Louisiana Tech
  • Sporting News - Boca Raton Bowl vs FAU
  • 247Sports - Birmingham Bowl vs UAB
  • SBNation - Birmingham Bowl vs UAB

Other championships

While those three were the most notable events this weekend, two others took place as well.

  • Cincinnati swimming team won the House of Champions event. Both the men and women’s teams finished the final round in first place.
  • Former Bearcats QB Zach Collaros led the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to a win in the CFL’s Grey Cup (their Super Bowl, in case you didn’t know). Winnipeg beat Hamilton Tiger-Cats, whose starting QB was Hayden Moore.