Cincinnati Bearcats enter Thursday night’s home game against Memphis 15-8 and 8-3 in AAC play. During Cincinnati’s active 9 year NCAA Tournament streak, they have lost 9 regular season games twice, and made the tournament as an 8 and 9 seed in 2015 and 2016. That means, at most, the Bearcats have a one game margin of error.
In addition to playing Memphis on Thursday, Cincinnati still has Wichita State at home and Houston on the road. At worst, they must go 2-1 in these games and win every remaining game which includes home bouts against UCF and Temple and road games to ECU and USF.
Top 25 Polls
Cincinnati received 6 votes in the AP poll, their first time receiving votes since November 25th. They also received votes in the Coaches Poll.
Memphis - 64
Cincinnati - 38
Memphis - 58
Cincinnati - 46 (have jumped 71 spots since Dec. 16)
That’s why beating Memphis is so significant. Cincinnati has lost just one game at home this year - a flukey loss to Colgate back in December. In fact, the Bearcats are dominant at home, having won 59 of 63 games since the start of the 2016-17 season and losing just twice to AAC teams over that span (Wichita State in 2018 and Houston in 2019).
Memphis beat Cincinnati 60-49 back in January. Cincinnati made a big comeback in the second half, but ultimately fell short.
Plenty went wrong including everything that happened for the Bearcats in the first half, struggles for Trevon Scott and Christ Vogt, bench play, and, of course, the referees.
Since we last met
Last time Cincinnati saw the Tigers, Memphis was 14-3 and 3-1 in conference and looked like a lock for the NCAA Tournament. Fast forward, less than a month later, Memphis has gone 3-3 and is now 17-6 and 6-4 in AAC play, with the NCAA Tournament very much a question mark.
Memphis saw their 3 game winning streak snapped on Saturday night when they lost 75-73 at home to South Florida. USF is 115 in NET, giving them their worst loss of the season.
Cincinnati is 5-1 in it’s last 6 games, since losing to Memphis on 1/16 and Jarron Cumberland and Trevon Scott have both really stepped up and are playing like seniors.
Over the last 7 games, including the Memphis loss, Cumberland is averaging 18.7 ppg and 5.7 apg, including a season-high 10 assists on Sunday against UConn.
Scott is coming off a 25 point, 13 point performance Sunday, which earned him a spot in the weekly AAC Honor Roll.
This team will go as far as these two take them, though Keith Williams and Chris Vogt will also have a say.
Memphis Players to Watch
Freshman forward Precious Achiuwa is questionable to play Thursday with an injury. He leads Memphis in scoring (14.7 ppg) and rebounding (9.8 rpg). Achiuwa had 12 points and 11 rebounds the first game against Cincinnati.
DJ Jeffries led Memphis with 18 points in the previous game between these two teams. However, he is out injured and won’t play Thursday.
Lester Quinones was “that guy” against Cincinnati. I think you know what I mean. Quinones is a 35% three point shooter, who went 3-3 from three, with all of those shots coming in big spots to keep Cincinnati from inching closer.
Memphis’ win in January snapped their 6 game losing streak to the Bearcats. However, Cincinnati is still 10-3 against Memphis since January 2014, when they met for the first time as AAC rivals. Cincinnati maintains a 6 game home winning streak against Memphis.
NCAA Tournament Hopes
The latest ESPN Bracketology from Joe Lunardi has both teams on the outside, looking in. Cincinnati is the “first team out” and Memphis leads the group of “next four out”.
Both teams are going in opposite directions as the Tigers have gone from pre-season Final Four hype and tourney lock to barely hanging on the bubble.
The Bearcats have gone from NIT hopeful, to join the conversation. Cincinnati still has plenty of work to do, and taking care of business by losing 0-1 games should be enough to push them in for a 10th straight tournament appearance.
Cincinnati Bearcats football coach Luke Fickell is a HERO! He spurned Michigan State and decided to stay home!