The Cincinnati Bearcats have released their non-conference men’s basketball schedule for the 2019-20 season, which will be first with John Brannen as Head Coach.
As you can see, this is quite an exciting schedule.
The #Bearcats non-league schedule is out!— Cincinnati Men’s Hoops (@GoBearcatsMBB) August 15, 2019
What all possible opponents did in 18-19:
won 20+ games
9️⃣ advanced to postseason play
7️⃣ finished 1st or 2nd in their league
6️⃣ played in the NCAA Tournament
6️⃣ listed in the NET Rankings Top 100
MORE: https://t.co/JWmMFWP4PN pic.twitter.com/QRyEdX0RHt
This is a much different philosophy than what fans are used to with Mick Cronin, who often loaded the schedule with 7-8 “cupcake” opponents, a random tournament and a couple big names from time-to-time. In recent years, there seemed to be more bigger names (UCLA, Florida) but the same quadrant 4, 300+ NET ranking opponents existed.
This year’s schedule contains five, potentially six, “big” names - Xavier, Ohio State, Tennessee, Iowa, UNLV, and potentially Nevada.
The rest of the schedule includes high-tier mid-majors like Drake, Vermont, and Colgate. Teams that, realistically shouldn’t be quite on Cincinnati’s level, but could definitely push them and provide more of a challenge than recent opponents.
While it’s definitely an exciting change from the recent past, it will definitely be a challenging opening couple of months for Cincinnati as they handle the transition to a new coach and playing style, plus incorporate many new faces into the locker room. It won’t be any easy challenge, but by the time American Athletic Conference play roles around, this team will definitely be battled tested and as long as the new guys and returning guys mesh together, a 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament is not at all an unrealistic goal.
This schedule offers plenty of fun storylines to monitor as well.
Getting off the schneid - winning in Norwood
Bearcats are 47-32 all-time vs in-city rival Xavier, but recent history has not been kind. Cincy won just 4 out of 13 games with Mick Cronin as head coach and never won at Xavier. In fact, 2001 is the last time the Bearcats won at Xavier, a span of 7 straight road losses in this series.
Brannen mentioned the significance of the Xavier game in his opening press conference. Returning seniors Jarron Cumberland and Trevon Scott certainly recognize the meaning of this game to a team that has won 2 of the last 3 meetings.
Potential match-up with Nevada
Cincinnati will playing in the Paradise Jam tournament the week before Thanksgiving in the Virgin Islands. There are some interesting mid-major match-ups for them in rounds 1-2, but no match-up is more significant than the potential to play Nevada in the Finals.
No need to rehash all the specific details, but basically in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, the #2 seeded Bearcats had a large lead late in the second half and Nevada overcame the deficit for a historic comeback and victory. That Bearcats team won 31 games and had legitimate Final Four aspirations, led by beloved senior Gary Clark and junior Jacob Evans, who would later leave for the NBA. The loss was heartbreaking, to say the least.
To get there, they must beat Illinois State, a team Bearcats lost to in 2007, during Mick Cronin’s second season. If they win they may face Bowling Green, who the Bearcats have beaten 9 out of 10 games all-time. Ironically, that one loss came weeks prior to the aforementioned Illinois State game in 2007.
The other potential second round opponent is Western Kentucky, who has beaten the Bearcats 12 times in 17 all-time meetings.
Avenging 2019 Iowa Loss
Cincinnati’s 2019 season ended with a first round NCAA Tournament loss to Iowa. This was another game where the Bearcats led late and couldn’t put it away. Hawkeyes outscored Cincinnati by 12 points in the second half.
Bearcats return 3 players who scored in this game with Jarron Cumberland (18), Keith Williams (4), and Trevor Moore (2) contributing 24 of the Bearcats 72 points.
This game takes place in Chicago as part of a neutral site event called Chicago Legends.
Battle for Ohio Rematch
Cincinnati began the 2018-19 season by hosting Ohio State in basketball for the first time since 1920, as they re-opened newly renovated Fifth Third Arena.
Ohio State won 69-56, snapping a streak of 26 consecutive victories at Fifth Third. Bearcats had previously won 39 in a row at home overall before Wichita State snapped that streak to end the 2018 regular season.
Rocky Top Comes to Town
If Cincinnati had beaten Iowa in the first round of last year’s Tournament, they would have faced Tennessee for the first time since 1993. Bearcats are 5-1 all-time against the Vols.
The coaching storyline is an interesting one. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes turned down the UCLA coaching job, in favor of staying at Rocky Top. The job would later go to Mick Cronin. Barnes previously coached at Texas, where his Longhorns lost to Cincinnati in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. That year, Cincinnati would make their only Sweet 16 under Cronin. Longhorns lost to Nevada in the first round of the 2018 Tournament. If Texas had won, would Cincinnati have advanced to Sweet 16? Would Cronin still be Bearcats coach?
Another fun thought on coaches, Tennessee football once stole Butch Jones, though given the current state of affairs at Cincinnati and Tennessee, respectively, I’m not sure anyone in Cincinnati is too bitter about that right now.
Staying Perfect vs UNLV
One last note on Cronin, he previously turned down the UNLV Head Coaching job, after publicly flirting with the Rebels a few years ago. Cincinnati is 6-0 all-time against UNLV and will host them at home, after winning in Vegas a year ago.