Tom Thacker during the 1961–62 season [photo via UC Libraries]
Watching games on TV is actually kind of great. It’s cheaper, you don’t have to drive anywhere, you can interact with other fans on Twitter throughout the game, and you can watch in your underpants. Plus, if you’re like me, you’re able to have a total nervous breakdown in the solitude of your own home. This year’s road schedule may be among the best in Bearcats basketball history. There are major early-season clashes, major late-season showdowns, a holiday tournament, and a road edition of the Crosstown Shootout.
You’re going to be watching some huge Bearcat games on TV this season, so I ranked and rated them all and told you how good (and nerve-wracking) they’re going to be.
15] at USF | Saturday, January 13th @ 7 p.m.
Cincinnati was picked to win the American. South Florida was picked to finish last. That’s all you need to know. Bearcat fans will get a certain amount of satisfaction in watching USF get pummeled after what has happened in the past few years on the football side of things, but this game is otherwise about as exciting as a re-run of Frasier. What I’m trying to say is: I’m going to watch it, and I might even laugh, but I’m mostly going to be cracking jokes on Twitter. This one will be played in front of an empty arena on ESPNews — which is barely a TV channel. I will say that Saturday night games are better than nothing. Rating: 1/10
14] at Tulane | Thursday, March 1st @ 9 p.m.
This game is hot garbage, my friends. The preseason favorite to win the conference travels the bayou to take on the coaches’ pick to finish 10th. To make matters less appealing, it’s a weeknight, the game is at 9 p.m., Tulane has seven basketball fans, and the RallyCats won’t even be taking over the arena this year. If there’s a silver lining to this clunker, at least the game is on ESPN2, which means it’s easily accessible and the commentary should be sufficient. Plus, it’s the last week of the season. There will be storylines like “The Bearcats need to take care of business to maintain their lead in the American” and “Hopefully they aren’t looking ahead to Wichita in a few days” and “Having a conference opponent at #342 in KenPom isn’t great for the RPI.” From a basketball standpoint, there are no redeeming qualities to this one. Rating: 1/10
13] at Memphis | Saturday, January 27th @ 6 p.m.
I hate playing in Memphis. The Tigers play in a huge NBA arena they haven’t filled since the Derrick Rose era and the Bearcats always seem to play poorly there. Making this game even less appealing than previous years is the fact that Memphis is reeling from a hemorrhage of talent. They were picked ninth in the preseason coaches’ poll. The icing on the cake is that CBS Sports Network carries this game. I may end up listening to this one on the radio instead. Maybe I’ll skip the whole charade and pour molten glass into my eyeballs. Rating: 2/10
12] at Houston | Thursday, February 15th @ 7 p.m.
It’s a weeknight, Houston is a middle-of-the-road AAC team, and the game is on CBS Sports. Houston’s dumpster arena is getting renovated so this will be played in a random arena (maybe even a local high school) which I’d imagine won’t help Houston beat their average attendance of 431. On the plus side, our very own Alex Apyan should be at this game and I’ll also be able to make 100 terrible “Houston, we have a problem” jokes on Twitter. Rating: 3/10
11] vs Buffalo | Monday, November 20th @ 7 p.m.
To me, this is the cutoff. Congratulations, UC fans. You only have to watch three below-average away games on television this year. The Bulls were a decidedly “okay” team last season, finishing 122 in KenPom, right in the same zone as Temple. It won’t be a huge matchup, but definitely one the Bearcats should win. This game opens the Cayman Islands Classic, so I’d also imagine there will be a bit of novelty in seeing the team play in the Caymans the week of Thanksgiving while we’re toiling away in rainy Ohio. Rating: 5/10
10] vs Richmond (or UAB) | Tuesday, November 21st — Time TBD
This one will probably be against the Richmond Spiders, assuming they’re able to beat a middling UAB team and the Bearcats are able to beat Buffalo. Richmond was a KenPom Top 100 team last year, so this should be a solid matchup. In addition to having the Cayman Islands novelty, it will also be the second game in as many nights, which always sets me in the Thanksgiving mood. Rating: 5/10
09] vs Iowa (or Louisiana/SD State/Wyoming) | Wednesday, November 22nd — Time TBD
If all goes according to plan, the Bearcats will be facing the Hawkeyes in the championship game of the Cayman Islands Classic. Iowa finished last season at #71 in KenPom, right in the same zone as UCF. This will be a nice little game, it’ll be the third in as many days, and it’s on a holiday. (Sorry, haters. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is a holiday.) Win this game and Bearcat fans can enjoy the holiday weekend, cruise through the Alabama State game on Monday, and get mentally prepared for the most grueling stretch of the season. Rating: 6/10
08] at Temple | Thursday, January 4th @ 7 or 9 p.m.
I think this will be a game we get excited for. The first game of the new year always kinda feels like basketball season is really starting. This one is in Philly, where they have a good fan base and can give the Bearcats their first in-conference hostile environment. Temple likely won’t be great this year, but a road game against a mid-level team with a strong fan base is perfect for the first week of 2018. There’s also a chance this winds up being a primetime ESPN Thursday Night game. Rating: 6/10
07] at UCF | Tuesday, January 16th @ 7 p.m.
The Bearcats and Shockers should control the American so soundly that the only drama for the rest of the conference will be who can be the best of the rest. The coaches think it’ll be UCF. The Bearcats will travel to Orlando to face Human Skycraper Tacko Fall and First Team All-AAC guard BJ Taylor. The Knights should be a handful this season. Additional storylines include UCF knocking off the Bearcats in this building last season and UCF blasting the Bearcats in football in this year. From a basketball standpoint, this should be among the best of the conference slate. I can’t seem to get too pumped about a game played at UCF, however. The tepid environment will probably make this feel less exciting than it should. Rating: 7/10
06] at UConn | Saturday, February 3rd @ 12 p.m.
Maybe not as intriguing as the UCF game from a basketball standpoint, but a Saturday afternoon in Storrs in February usually means mayhem for the Bearcats. It’ll be the first meeting between these two teams since the ‘Cats steamrolled the Huskies three times last season without trailing once. They’ll look to keep that streak going on the road in a game that will hopefully be televised on ESPN. How lucky are we that there are FIVE road games more exciting than UC at UConn?! Rating: 8/10
05] at SMU | Sunday, February 11th @ 4 p.m.
I hate playing in Dallas. The Bearcats always seem to get snakebit there. This year the Ponies aren’t quite as good as they were last year, but head coach Tim Jankovich will make them extremely tough, especially at home. The Mustangs finished just two points behind UCF for third place in the coaches’ poll. It’s a Saturday afternoon game on ESPN in mid-February and SMU will likely be trying to avenge their loss in Cincy. This will be a boxing match. Rating: 9/10
04] vs Florida | Saturday, December 9th — Time TBD
This one is part of the Never Forget Tribute Classic in Newark, and it pits the Bearcats against the Florida Gators (the other game is VCU vs Seton Hall). Florida finished #5 in KenPom last year, and was picked to finish second in the SEC behind Kentucky this season. Because this is a non-conference game played at a neutral site, I debated dropping it below the SMU game, which is a big AAC tilt in a hostile environment. In the end, I think there’s a chance this will be a Top 10 matchup, so I ultimately can’t justify putting this any lower than fourth. Something tells me this game will make me want to vomit from nerves. Feels like this could be a dog fight. Rating: 9/10
03] at UCLA | Saturday, December 16th @ 3:30 p.m.
This one caps off the Bearcats murderous run through the first two weeks of December, and it’s a doozy. These two teams will start the season ranked right in the same neighborhood, and it’s likely UC is ahead. By the time this matchup rolls around, the Bearcats will be coming off three really tough games in two weeks. It’s across the country. It’s a hostile environment. It’s an NCAA Tournament rematch. The storylines are there. Will the Bearcats have enough in the tank to knock off the Bruins and cement their non-conference resume? Rating: 10/10
02] at Xavier | Saturday, December 2nd @ 12 p.m.
Xavier getting this game scheduled at the outset of December, at noon, on FS1 can’t fully put the damper on what should be a cataclysmic tilt. It feels like the Bearcats haven’t won a road game in The Shootout since ‘Nam, but they’re going to get a good shot this year. It’s clear that the rivalry is in its Golden Age. Prior to the 2015–16 season, there had been just one meeting between the schools in which both sides were ranked in the Top 25. This season will make the third consecutive year, and both teams will likely be in the Top 15. Cincinnati is the better squad on paper, but Xavier has home court advantage. This is going to be a big one. Rating: 10/10
01] at Wichita State | Sunday, March 4th @ 12 p.m.
I’m sure some will disagree with this ranking, but this game is massive. It’s the final home game of the regular season, it’s Wichita’s Senior Day, and it should have massive AAC implications. If the Shockers are as good as we think they are, and the Bearcats are as good as we think they are, this could be a Top 10 matchup on the final day of the regular season in Cincinnati’s first trip to Wichita. It’s on a Sunday. It’s at noon. It’s on CBS. It’s in March. Oh baby. Rating: 10/10