Cincinnati At Houston: It’s Do Or Die Time

caupainpgWhen I looked at the schedule before the 2014-15 season for the Cincinnati Bearcats, I immediately circled Feb 21 At Houston. Reason being, it’d be the game right after the Crosstown Shootout. And as you know, the Shootout is the absolute height of emotion and intensity for these college kids. Win, lose or draw in that game, the following game, especially if it’s against a lesser opponent, will be difficult to get up for. Factor in that the game is on the road and you’ve got yourself a tall challenge.

But now, after losing three straight, including at home to 171-in-the-RPI Tulane, the Bearcats are squarely on The Bubble for the NCAA Tournament, meaning one more slip up and somebody else will get that ticket to The Dance. And wouldn’t ya know it? Houston is the last place team in the American Conference.

UC now treads water at No. 53 in the RPI, after sitting in the 20’s just a few weeks ago. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index has the ‘Cats at 57th. Guess what Houston‘s RPI number is: 259.

Yep. It’s Do or Die Time.

Ahh, but Houston only has one conference victory, you say. It’ll be tough because it’s on the road, you continue, but UC should be able to handle ’em.

I agree. UC should be able to get this game. The Bearcats, after all, have handed the first place SMU Mustangs their only two league losses, including one down in Dallas. If UC can beat the first place team twice, they should be able to do the same with the last place team.

Which is why this is Life or Death in NCAA Tournament terms. The Selection Committee expects the Bearcats to win this game. We expect UC to win this game. The players and coaches expect to win this game.

But it’s gotta be tough on the players. After completing that sweep of SMU, the wheels have fallen off the train. Temple exacted revenge in a big way, Tulane avenged a buzzer beater from two decades ago and then, of course, that team in the blue jerseys from a few miles down the road lobbed in a late three-pointer to keep UC on the skid. Nothing’s going these kids’ way. The pressure’s on.

Meanwhile, for the host, pressure isn’t even on the radar. And the Cougars have talent, they have athletes, they have a coach who’s led a team to the Final 4, and they have home court.

Turn on ESPNU at 9:30 tonight. Let’s see what our boys are made of.

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