In 2020, the month of February includes 29 days, not just 28 days.
However, February 2020 had to feel like the longest, most exhausting month of all-time to the players, coaches and fans of the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Coming into February, Cincinnati was 13-7 overall and 6-2 in AAC but mostly an afterthought when it came to the NCAA Tournament. Losses to Bowling Green, Colgate, and Tulane were thought to have doomed this team and a road loss to Memphis in the middle of January didn’t instill a ton of confidence in the capabilities of the team, at that time.
As Cincinnati enters March, they are now 18-9 and 11-4 in AAC play, front and center in the NCAA Tournament bubble conversation, with a more-than-realistic chance to make it for a 10th consecutive season.
Let’s look back at a wild and crazy month of February for Cincinnati and how they re-entered the bubble conversation.
0 quadrant 1 wins through January
Bearcats lost out on some big opportunities in non-conference play, losing to Ohio State and Iowa in games that would have been quad 1 wins. They also lost at Memphis. The lack of big wins is a big reason why Cincinnati was not on the Tournament radar.
That’s why wins against Houston and at Wichita State made February a huge success, as Cincinnati added two significant quad 1 wins to their resume.
Unbeaten in regulation
Here’s the thing about February. Cincinnati went 5-2 overall, which is pretty good. But they actually went 3-0 in regulation, with wins over Houston and Wichita State twice.
There was a stretch of 4 straight overtime games (tying an NCAA record) where Cincinnati went 2-2. Losing in overtime is not a metric that the tournament committee takes into account, but it does show the progress this team has made. It also shows that this team is battle-tested that if they are fortunate enough to play in meaningful games in March, they will be ready.
Trevon Scott’s dominance
Jarron Cumberland gets all the publicity as the Bearcats’ senior leader and go-to scorer, but fellow senior Trevon Scott was absolutely dominant in February. Scott averaged 17 ppg and 14 rpg in 7 February games. He had 5 double-doubles, doing so in each game except both Wichita States games.
Against UCF, he had 22 points and 21 rebounds, recording the first 20-20 game at Cincinnati since Kenyon Martin did it in February 1998.
And in back-to-back games against UConn and Memphis, Scott scored a career-high 25 points each game.
Final regular season game against UConn
The previously mentioned overtime streak began with Cincinnati losing to UConn, in the final regular season meeting between the two. The loss snapped a previous 8 game winning streak against UConn and snapped a 5 game losing streak to that point. Barring a meeting in the conference tournament, this will be the last time for the considerable future that these two teams face each other in men’s hoops.
Sweeping Wichita State
This has been alluded to twice but is worth it’s own section - Cincinnati swept Wichita State in February and have now won 6 games in a row against Greg Marshall’s team. Wichita State joined the AAC in 2017 and won the first meeting against Cincinnati in 2018, in a game that ended the Bearcats’ long home win streak.
Cincinnati got their revenge a few weeks later, winning in Wichita and clinching the outright AAC conference title. They haven’t lost to Wichita State since (including 3 straight road wins).
In 7 games, the total margin of victory was 18 points, with the highest margin being a 6 point overtime win against Memphis. In the 2 games lost, Cincinnati lost by a total of 3 points. There was also 5 overtimes in 4 games. Cincinnati won 3 games in regulation by a total of 6 points.
Every game was nauseating. If you aren’t a fan of Cincinnati basketball and just like entertainment and college basketball as a neutral observer, this Cincy team would be the best thing for you.
Third AAC home loss in four years
In the last four years, home court advantage has been a serious thing for Cincinnati. They went unbeaten at home in conference play in 2016-17 and lost the aforementioned game to Wichita State in 2018. Last season, they lost the regular season finale to Houston.
This year, after beating SMU, Tulsa, Houston, and Memphis at home, Wichita State seemed like the last major hurdle to another perfect conference season at Fifth Third Arena. But UCF ruined that, with an 89-87 dramatic double overtime victory. The loss to UCF was Cincinnati’s 4th quad 3 loss, which is a brutal stain on their tournament resume.
NCAA Tournament possibility
Cincinnati lost to Bowling Green, Colgate, Tulane, UCF. They are an extremely flawed team that struggles with three point shooting and free throws, commits way too many turnovers, and has a fairly weak bench.
That’s why February was amazing. Despite all of the issues, they went 5-2 and making the NCAA Tournament in 2020 is a realistic goal for the Bearcats to achieve.