The Bearcats will head to Sacramento looking to meet UCLA in the second round like Steve Logan did in 2002. (AP photo)
I felt like it was time for a throwback edition of Two Cents & Sense. So much has happened since Sunday morning, and I don’t feel like analyzing game tape, so I’m just gonna throw out a handful of thoughts. Here we go:
- The Bearcats lost to SMU. It became obvious pretty quickly that they didn’t stand a chance. Let me be clear that this loss is because (1) SMU is a very good team and (2) they could not miss yesterday. Let me be clear that this loss is not because (1) the Bearcats are not good or (2) they displayed a lack of effort, heart, or pride. This team is 29–5 right now and reached their first conference championship game since the Sweet 16 year in 2012. Was losing to SMU fun? No. Should they have played better? Yes. Was yesterday’s game a sign that we’ve been watching a bad team masquerading as a good team for the first 33 games of the year? Absolutely not. The Mustangs had their second-best shooting performance of the season while the Bearcats had their second-worst. It was a perfect storm. Losing sucks, and I hate it. There’s a reason I’m not going to break down this game like I usually do. I don’t want to think about it anymore. That being said, keep things in perspective.
- Some fans are insufferable. If you’re ready to jump off the boat because your team just lost their fifth game in 34 tries (four losses were to ranked teams) then I don’t know what to tell you. I understand I rub people the wrong way by being a ruthless optimist 90% of the time (for the record, my pessimism called the tourney seeding from a mile away). However, few people understand what it’s like to have their mentions flood with terrible takes when their Top 15 team loses to a fellow Top 15 team in a championship game. Some of the same fans who were tweeting me about Final Four potential following the UConn victory were telling me to prepare to lose in the first round on Sunday afternoon. It’s lunacy.
- “Lack of effort.” This is the first thing to send me over a cliff, and it was running rampant yesterday. The Bearcats lost because they faced a Top 10 team who could not miss. The Ponies are better than just about any team in the country when they’re playing their usual game. On Sunday, they had one of those games where they couldn’t miss anything. The Bearcats had one of those games where they couldn’t hit anything. They’ve had very few of those this year. It happens, and playing a third game in three days doesn’t help matters. When you accuse the kids playing for your school of displaying a lack of effort, you come off like an idiot. Guys like Troy and Kevin have literally given blood, sweat, and tears to this city, university, and program for four years. Acting like they half-assed a championship game is insulting.
- The tournament location is outrageous. No other way to shake it. For the third time in four seasons, the Bearcats will have to board a plane to the west coast and play tournament games thousands of miles from home. They will move three time zones. There will be very few fans or parents there. This always happens to the Bearcats.
- The tournament seeding is outrageous. The Bearcats are a 6-seed that ranks more like a 4- or 5-seed. They’ll be facing one of two 11-seeds that rank more like 7- or 8-seeds. There’s something seriously wrong when I’d trade games with 11-seed Xavier in a heartbeat so the Bearcats could face fellow 6-seed Maryland. Maryland is ranked #45 in KenPom — 23 spots below UC, five spots below Xavier, and below three teams that didn’t make the tournament at all. The Bearcats are 29–5 and were ranked #15 in the AP Poll, yet they sit on the same seed line as a team KenPom sees as worse than Clemson, TCU, and Indiana. Of course this is who Xavier will play. Cincinnati will face either Kansas State (#29 KenPom) or Wake Forest (#30 KenPom). The ‘Cats should beat either of those teams, but the game will be more difficult than UC deserves. Why bother winning 29 games if you’re going to get stuck with your hardest first-round opponent (per KenPom) since Creighton in 2013?
- The tip time is favorable. I can’t complain about everything. Because the committee pushed the Bearcats to a 6-seed in Sacramento, they had no choice but to play on Friday. UC will earn back the day of rest they spent on Sunday playing SMU. While they will get stuck on truTV, the game tips off at 7:27. This is probably the best time slot of the opening round. The Bearcats have that going for them, which is nice.
- I want to face Kansas State. This is a snap judgement, and I’ll probably have a stronger opinion after watching them play Wake Forest on Tuesday night. A glance at K State’s KenPom numbers and it looks like they’re balanced much like the Bearcats are (defense over offense) but they don’t do either one as well as UC. Wake Forest, on the other hand, is a Top 10 offensive team with a center named John Collins. Collins is a 19-point, 10-rebound player who probably could’ve won AAC Player of the Year. I’d rather not explore that route.
- I really want to face UCLA. The story lines there are great. The Bruins are hyped. The game will be played in California. It will be a rematch of the 2002 second round classic in which the ‘Cats fell in 2OT. It would set up a dueling camera war between Troy Caupain’s mom and Lonzo Ball’s dad. It’s a wonderful clash of playing styles. Throw in the fact that I think UCLA is a bit overrated and I think it’s a game Cincinnati can win. Let’s make it happen.
- Lastly, the Bracket Party is still accepting entries. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do so. If you signed up before the bracket was revealed, please log in and make your picks. We aren’t anywhere near my goal yet, but we’ve got over 110 competitors. The group can be found here and the password is “quadsquad”.
The madness for the Bearcats starts Friday. Just keep winning.