(What a difference a few weeks makes, huh?)
The American Conference tournament next weekend in Hartford, CT opens up the postseason, but with UC’s resume and a five-game win streak down the stretch, it’s not a do-or-die situation. So let’s turn our attention to the NCAA Tournament.
As I figure it (and most “Bracketologists” agree), the Bearcats have earned at best a 7-seed and at worst a 10. There’s a chance UC could be slotted as an 11-seed, but it’s slight.
I’ve sifted through the rest of the teams expected to be seeded in that 7-10 range and will lay those teams out for you in categories based on the confidence level I’d have in UC advancing past that first game. (I’ll use Ken Pomeroy’s computer rankings – http://www.kenpom.com )
Before I do that, though, lemme say this: I do feel pretty damn confident in UC heading into this postseason, mainly because unlike the past couple of seasons (when the Bearcats failed to win an NCAA Tournament game), this team is tough to scout on offense. It’s no longer a matter of shutting down Sean Kilpatrick. If you’re an opposing coaching staff, what do you take away? UC has four capable three-point shooters (two of which can make plays for others), three capable (and versatile) low post scorers (two of which can pass the basketball) and an athletic, long, experienced wing player gaining confidence of late.
You’ve got to be able to score efficiently to advance in March, and UC has begun to do just that, averaging just under 70 points per game over its last five. And with Cincinnati’s top shelf defense (5th in nation in points allowed), if you give Troy Caupain and his boys 70, smell ya later.
That said, oftentimes, teams make runs or get knocked out early due to favorable (3-seed Florida State in 2012) or unfavorable matchups (7-seed Creighton in 2013).
Teams I Wouldn’t Mind Seeing Matched Up With UC
- Payback and spite. The Buckeyes ended UC’s season in the 2012 Sweet 16, and, as die-hard Bearcat fans know, Ohio State simply refuses to schedule games against teams in Ohio that have a chance to beat ’em. Last year, one of those teams, Dayton, knocked the Bucks out of the NCAA Tournament.
- One-Man Show. Sure, OSU’s one man is a very talented man, a 6’6″ freshman named D’Angelo Russell. A projected NBA lottery pick, Russell averages 19 points, 6 boards and 5 assists. But with the way Cincinnati usually takes away the opponent’s first option, I’d like UC’s chances against Thad Matta’s squad.
Davidson Wildcats (23-6, No. 26 KenPom)
- While Davidson can clearly score (ranking 5th in Adjusted Offense in the nation), the Wildcats have a hard time stopping anybody (142nd in Adjusted Defense). With the way UC has been executing on offense and taking away what opponents do best, the Bearcats would likely be able to get enough stops to move on.
Michigan State Spartans (21-10, No. 20 KenPom)
- A chance for Cincinnati to knock out a blue blood program. (And maybe the AD’s would hit it off and cultivate a home-and-home in the future.)
- Michigan State is just not that good. 55th ranked defense, no real explosive scorers, not much down low on either end. It’d be an ugly game, but a game UC could pull out.
Indiana Hoosiers (19-12, No. 56 KenPom)
- Tom Crean’s team is by far the worst defensive team with a chance for an at-large bid. 225th-ranked in the nation to be exact.
Ole Miss Rebels (20-11, No. 45 KenPom)
- Continue the end of season Payback Tour. The Rebels crunched UC back in November, 66-54.
- Andy Kennedy’s team has no defensive identity whatsoever, ranking 135th overall.
VCU Rams (22-9, No. 39 KenPom)
Same as Ole Miss except VCU’s problems have been on the offensive end.
BYU Cougars (24-8, No. 29 KenPom)
- 136th-ranked Defense
- UC would have a significant toughness and athleticism advantage
Teams I Don’t Want To See UC Matched Up With
- Five double figure scorers = a very tough scout
- Played Kentucky tough both times
St. John’s Red Storm (21-10, No. 33 KenPom)
- Remember when St. John’s used to beat UC at 5th 3rd Arena on a regular basis back in the Big East days? The players from those teams are now juniors and seniors (D’Angelo Harrison = yikes).
- Elite shotblocker down low: Chris Obekpa 3.2 blocks/game
- UC would not have quickness, athleticism, length or size advantage
Dayton Flyers (23-7, No. 42 KenPom)
- One reason: Archie Miller. That dude can flat out coach, as he showed last year when UD advanced to the Elite 8. UC would have a depth and size advantage, but Archie is just one of those coaches you don’t want to face.
Texas Longhorns (19-12, No. 21 KenPom)
- Although the ‘Horns have been quite underwhelming this season, UT was ranked in the Top 10 at one point.
- NBA talent + big-time size down low
- Elite defensively
Boise State Broncos (24-7, No. 35 KenPom)
- Boise’s best player is one of those guys who has the potential to come out of nowhere and make a name for himself in the NCAA Tournament. Derrick Marks, the 6-3 senior from Chicago, averages just under 20 a game and wets 46% of his threes.
- BSU has won 14 out of its last 15, including a sweep of San Diego St.
Teams That Would Get A Neutral Reaction From Me
Oregon Ducks (23-8, No. 49 KenPom) – Dana Altman’s team plays Swiss cheese defense (123rd AdjD) but senior guard Joseph Young (20 ppg) scares the pee outta me.
Colorado State Rams (26-5, No. 63 KenPom) – For some reason, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Larry Eustachy’s team as a firm 10-seed in his Bracketology. CSU has home wins over San Diego State and Boise State, yes, but nary a win anyone gives a rat’s tush about in the non-conference. Either way, I have not seen this team play so I have no idea what kind of matchup this would be for the ‘Cats.
NC State Wolfpack (19-12, No. 36 KenPom) and San Diego State (24-7, No. 28 KenPom) – UC beat both of these teams already this season, but it’s always tough to beat a similarly-matched opponent twice.
Like I said, I’m confident that UC can beat any of these teams. But the NCAA Tournament is about matchups. I’d feel extra confident against the first group of teams I broke down and I’d make the same face Joey Tribbiani is making in the picture above if the Bearcats draw a team from the second group.
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