It’s Kelvin Gaines. Remember him? It’s also Cincinnati’s blackout uniforms. Remember them? I hope you opened this post because you were confused by this photo choice. There’s not actually a reason for it. Gotcha! (Joe Robbins | Getty Images North America)
The Bearcats shrugged off their loss at SMU with two wins last week, enough to bully their way back into the Top 15 of the AP Poll in Week 16. It feels good to be back in that group. It feels good to be moving back in the right direction. It feels good to be (thus far) avoiding the late-season slumps of past years.
First, some housekeeping. The Mick Cronin Rankings Tracker tells me that the Bearcats have now been in the Top 25 for 13 of 16 possible weeks. The Cronin Era record is 14 total weeks, so the Bearcats will likely match that record as long as they don’t lose both of this week’s games.
Second, the SMU Ponies, who are on fire, slid up to #17 this week. I don’t think they’re gonna lose again. Let’s all get way ahead of ourselves and imagine an AAC Tournament Championship game between the ‘Cats and Mustangs wherein a Top 10 spot in the year’s final AP Poll is on the line. Jon Rothstein is going to have a great/terrible tweet about it. It’s gonna be awesome.
Third, the poll. The Bearcats tallied 733 points, enough to hop Wisconsin at 713. Behind Wisconsin is a gulf, with SMU sitting at 554, followed by Virginia (who just lost again tonight) at 427. The Red and Black are hanging tight with the front of the pack, which is a distinction that’s hard to earn but easy to lose. Keep winning and no voters will have a reason to separate Cincinnati from this year’s elite.
I have no issues with this week’s ranking, which is nice after last week’s slap in the face. This team has a Top 15 resume, Top 15 talent, and is hanging in there while they work through normal late-season issues. Jarron Cumberland served a one-game suspension against Tulsa, Troy Caupain has been in a funk, and the whole team seems to be dragging a bit. Despite all of that, they’re perfect in the AAC aside from a narrow road loss in a tough environment to #17. Tread water until the second wind hits and Cincinnati is still in fantastic shape.
Biggest UC fan: Seth Davis. It’s about time I gave Seth some credit. I feel like he’s never been the biggest Bearcats advocate, but he’s given them plenty of respect this season. His UC votes since Week 10 (January 9): 20, 20, 18, 13, 13, and 11 this week. He didn’t waver after the loss and gave them their highest vote in the poll this week. Thanks, Seth. I love you forever (or at least until you do something I disagree with).
Biggest UC hater: Hugh Kellenberger (Jackson Clarion-Ledger) for ranking the Bearcats at #18. Listen, #18 is not far off of Cincinnati’s ranking in the composite poll. It’s the lowest vote UC got this week, but it’s not outlandish. However, the slight looks a lot worse when you consider the rest of Hugh’s poll. SMU (1–1 record vs UC with a worse overall record and an inferior resume) is at #16 and two Big 12 teams with nine losses are in his Top 25. How on earth you think a 17–9 Iowa State team is Top 25 material is beyond me. Shoddy job here by Hugh.
Krista Pirtle Update: I think the internet successfully cyberbullied Krista into respecting the Bearcats following her disgusting vote in Week 14. This week she has Cincinnati at #15, the highest she’s ranked them all season and right where the composite poll placed them. I forgive you, Krista. (You’ll still have to check with CBS Sports and the Enquirer however, because they stole my take and have yet to release a statement of apology to Krista like I’ve just done.)