When we last checked in with the Cincinnati Bearcats’ NCAA Tournament projections, they were still riding a seven-game winning streak and getting pumped up for a tough road slate against Memphis and Houston. Both games lived up to that billing from an objective standpoint, especially Sunday’s clash with the Cougars, which served as a pretty enticing preview of a potential American Athletic Conference championship matchup.
Unfortunately for the Bearcats, they lost that game to Houston, ending what became an eight-game winning streak when UC topped Memphis last Thursday. The loss already cost them a spot in the national rankings, but what did it do to their NCAA Tournament projections? Let’s find out.
Surprisingly, a split week actually boosted UC’s stock in these rankings. SB Nation’s Chris Dobbertean moved the Bearcats up one spot to a seventh seed, which indicates that the loss to Houston is nothing more than a tough but forgivable result. Along with the seed promotion, Dobbertean has placed the Bearcats in the East region with a matchup against No. 10 seed TCU and top four seeds of Duke, Michigan, Marquette and Iowa State.
Interestingly enough, Houston’s win over UC didn’t move the needle for the Cougars either. Dobbertean still has them projected as a No. 3 seed. Other familiar faces from UC’s schedule in the field include Ohio State (No. 8), Ole Miss (No. 9), Northern Kentucky (No. 15) and Mississippi State (No. 7), while UCF and Temple are both inches from contention, as two teams listed in the first four out.
While ESPN’s Joe Lunardi isn’t willing to give the Bearcats a boost this week, he didn’t penalize them for losing to Houston, keeping them as a seventh seed. Based on these projections, UC would play 10th-seed St. John’s out of the Big East in the first round, while joining a Midwest region that features top four seeds of Virginia, Kentucky, Kansas and Wisconsin. This would be a pretty favorable draw for the Bearcats, as they would play in Columbus, Ohio in the first two rounds, giving them a chance at a pretty healthy supporting crowd.
Lunardi also decided not to reward the Cougars, who are still a No. 3 seed in these projections. It’s not that surprising considering the lack of volatility in seeding the closer you get to the top, but it makes me wonder what Houston would need to do to get a top two seed since most teams at that level at this point in the season are just as locked in as the Cougars.
Unlike SB Nation’s picks, Lunardi gifted both Temple and UCF No. 11 seeds, which would be a great boost to the AAC as a conference, even if the Knights were one of last four teams given a bye past the play-in round while the Owls were the second-to-last team in
Moving to UC’s non-conference foes, Ohio State (No. 9), Mississippi State (No. 7), Ole Miss (No. 8) and Northern Kentucky (No. 14) are all in the running.
I guess losing didn’t hurt the Bearcats at all. CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm listed the Bearcats as a No. 8 seed last week and now they’re projected to be a seventh seed. Palm has the Bearcats playing in an East region against No. 10 seed Alabama, with the chance to play top four seeds like Duke, Michigan, Marquette and LSU.
Once again, Houston didn’t move up in these projections, remaining as a No. 3 seed. Meanwhile, Palm has Temple and UCF as 11 seeds and among the last four teams in. He also has Ohio State and Mississippi State at the same level as the Bearcats (seventh seeds), Ole Miss in as a No. 9 seed and Northern Kentucky holding down a 15th seed.