The Indiana Hoosers went 32-0 in the 975-76 season. They were ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 from start to finish and won the national championship. That’s about as perfect a season as you can imagine. There were no letdowns. No slip-ups on the road in conference play. No upsets in the NCAA Tournament. No early season loss that kicks the team into gear. It was all wins at all times.
The 2018-19 Cincinnati Bearcats were not fortunate enough to have such an easy run. There were highs and lows during the season. As we look back at all the things the Bearcats accomplished and all the things they missed out on, here are (in no particular order) the highest peaks and lowest valleys of the campaign.
High - Winning the Emerald Coast Classic
Before the first month of the season was even in the books, the Bearcats had already earned some hardware, as they traveled to Niceville, Florida and won back-to-back games against George Mason and Ole Miss to take home an early season tournament title. The win against the Rebels was one of the first boosts to their resume, as Ole Miss went on to play in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed. The tournament run marked UC’s second-straight season with such a triumph, as they won the Cayman Islands Classic in 2017.
Low - Losing on opening night at the new Fifth Third Arena against Ohio State
Before they won the Emerald Coast Classic, the Bearcats started the year with a less than encouraging performance. With everyone wondering how they would respond after saying goodbye to Gary Clark, Jacob Evans and Kyle Washington, the Bearcats scored all of 18 points in the first half against the Buckeyes and lost 64-56 at the newly renovated Fifth Third Arena. They shot just 27.4 percent in the losing effort.
High - Dominating Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout
Any season in which the Bearcats defeat their crosstown rivals should be considered a success, at least to some degree. This was a nice reversal of fortunes, as the Bearcats rolled to a 62-47 victory behind 19 points from Jarron Cumberland, 16 from Keith Williams and a double-double from Trevon Scott. The Bearcats outscored the Musketeers 15-2 off of turnovers and held their foes to 35.3 percent shooting. UC has now won two of the last three meetings following a three-game winning streak for Xavier.
Low - Losing to East Carolina in the second game of league play
East Carolina won all of three American Athletic Conference games this past season, but one came against the Bearcats, who visited the Pirates on Jan. 5 and were outscored 27-9 from three-point range in a game decided by two points.
High - A nearly 30-point win against UCLA
Even if it was against a program that is experiencing some turbulence, the Bearcats’ 93-64 victory against the Bruins was one of their more impressive showings of the year.
Low - Letting a chance to win the AAC regular season championship slip awayx
Thanks to an upset of Houston by UCF in the penultimate week of the regular season, the Bearcats entered the final week with their destiny in their own hands. Unfortunately, they squandered that opportunity by losing to UCF and Houston in back-to-back games, including a less than competitive contest at Fifth Third Arena in the last game of the regular season. It was undoubtedly the toughest two-game stretch of the season, but losing both games was still disappointing.
High - Jarron Cumberland being named AAC Player of the Year
Following in the footsteps of Clark, Cumberland became the second-straight Bearcat to win this honor. There were arguments to be made for other players, but Cumberland’s incredible scoring, improved playmaking and important responsibility on both ends of the floor made the difference.
High - Winning the AAC Tournament title for the second-straight year
Maybe they didn’t win the league crown during the regular season, but they took care of business in the conference tourney. Close wins against SMU and Wichita State set up the No. 2 seed Bearcats for a third showdown against the Cougars and they finally got the upper hand as well as a trophy.
Low - Losing to Iowa in the first round of the NCAA Tournament
The Bearcats opened the game on an 18-5 run and looked poised to make a statement win in a game played very close to home. Then they collapsed down the stretch and were ousted from the first weekend of the tournament for the seventh-straight season.
High - Earning a ninth-straight NCAA Tournament berth
Despite that disappointment, there is no denying that the Bearcats still had a very successful season overall. They made it back to the NCAA Tournament for the ninth-straight year and when you add in some of their impressive wins and that league title, its tough to feel pessimistic about where the program stands.