This year’s home slate is not the most exciting we’ve ever had, but there a few things to remember: First, the away schedule is fantastic. Second, the Shootout is in Norwood this year. Third, we should’ve had Michigan in Cincinnati this year before they chickened out. Fourth, we don’t really have a home court anyway, so what’s the big difference? Lastly, next year’s schedule will be stellar back in Clifton with visits from the likes of Xavier, Ohio State, UCLA, and all the usual AAC foes.
So no, this list isn’t as top-loaded as the ranking of away games, but it sets us up for a blockbuster home schedule next year. It’s not all bad. Here are the games that should have you driving to BB&T:
16.] Arkansas-Pine Bluff | Tuesday, December 19th @ 7 p.m.
Is there anything you’d rather be doing the week of Christmas than watching the Bearcats play a team that, according to KenPom, was the fourth-worst in the country last year? Want to come see KenPom’s worst 2016–17 offense?? Ignore those questions. This game is a dud, although I can’t decide if these stinkers are going to be better or worse at BB&T than they were at The Shoe. On one hand, BB&T is a bit nicer and there will be far fewer empty seats. On the other hand, I don’t think anyone who views NKY as an inferior playing site is going out of their way for a game like this. The icing on the cake is that this one is on a weekday over Christmas break. Alumni will be working and the students will be home for the holidays. Yikes. Rating: 1/10
15] Coppin State | Thursday, November 16th @ 7 p.m.
Pop quiz: Without looking it up, where is Coppin State located? My guess was North Carolina. It’s actually in Baltimore. Their mascot is the Eagles and their 2008 tournament appearance is their only trip of the last two decades. Fans with strong memories may remember two things about Coppin State: In 1997, they knocked off 2-seed South Carolina in the opening round. In 1993 they got smacked by 2-seed Cincinnati in the opening round. All of this is beside the point. They’re coming off a year in which they finished in the bottom ten of KenPom. If there’s a shred of excitement surrounding this game, it’ll be because it’s only the third game of the season and we’ll still be starving for basketball. Rating: 1/10
14] Alabama State | Monday, November 27th @ 7 p.m.
Alabama State finished last season just one slot ahead of Coppin State in the KenPom rankings, and apparently that’s ESPN’s cutoff for coverage, because this one got picked up by ESPNU. Here’s a fun fact: Alabama State finished 8–23 last season and there were three SWAC teams with worse records. The Hornets needed three overtimes to beat an Alabama A&M team that entered at 1–21. After that emotional high, they lost their next seven games to close the season. They are really bad. Rating: 1/10
13] Western Carolina | Monday, November 13th @ 7 p.m.
Western Carolina is a team that makes East Carolina look good. Rating: 1/10
12] Cleveland State | Thurdsay, December 21st @ 7 p.m.
Cincinnati’s last game before Christmas and final game of the non-conference schedule pits them against the Vikings. Cleveland State last year reminded me of Cincinnati Jr. Considering they won just nine games, their #129 AdjD ranking is actually pretty solid. Unfortunately they were hampered by a bottom 50 offense and one of the worst Luck ratings in college basketball. An interesting wrinkle in this one is that Cleveland State is accustomed to BB&T Arena. The Vikings beat the Norse (in na outstanding Nordic-themed matchup) in NKY in 2016. Rating: 3/10
11] Temple | Wednesday, January 24th @ 9 p.m.
Things take a fairly considerable leap up with this one. Temple finished .500 last season and returns a significant amount of the guys from that group. They’re picked to finish seventh this season, but that also means they’re the worst of the serviceable teams in the American. There’s a steep drop-off with the bottom five teams. Throw in the fact that the Owls don’t have a player on the AAC First or Second Team and this Wednesday 9 p.m. game in January is not something I have marked on my calendar. Rating: 5/10
10] Houston | Wednesday, January 31st @ 7 p.m.
Houston is still trying to turn the corner from “solid team” to NCAA Tournament team. I don’t think they’ll do it this season, but they were placed in the top half of the AAC and they possess arguably the conference’s best one-man show in PG Rob Gray. Still, this is a Wednesday night affair and, unless the Cougars can light it up in their non-conference, most Bearcats fans will spend the night looking ahead to the trip to UConn. Rating: 5/10
09] ECU | Satuday, January 20th @ 4 p.m.
This is a rare scenario where the potential for an in-conference blowout at home on a Saturday gives the lackluster Pirates the edge over visiting teams like Temple — who will lose by 12 to the Bearcats at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday. those games aren’t very fun, but this one should be. ECU usually has an abysmal offense (bottom 50 last year) so this could be one of those games we spend cheering for the Bearcats to hold ’em under 50. Rating: 6/10
08] Tulsa | Sunday, February 25th @ 12 p.m.
The coaches think Tulsa will be the best of the bad AAC teams this year. Junior Etou is kinda fun to watch and Sunday afternoon games are typically well-attended so I’ll give this late-season matchup a decent grade. Rating: 6/10
07] UCF | Tuesday, February 6th @ 7 p.m
Things get better starting with this game. Preseason #3 UCF hits Cincinnati on the first Tuesday in February for what should be an intriguing matchup. By this point we should start to have a good feel for whether or not the Knights are in shape for a tournament appearance. If they are, this could wind up being one of the best home games of the year when it’s all said and done. If nothing else, come to BB&T and gawk and how remarkable Tacko Fall is. Rating: 7/10
06] Memphis | Sunday, December 31st @ 4 p.m.
The last time the Bearcats played on New Year’s Eve, they beat #24 Pitt on the final day of 2012. The last time they played on New Year’s Eve at home, they beat Seton Hall on the final day of 2010. That win kicked off an 11–7 Big East run that gave the ‘Cats their first tournament appearance of the Cronin era. This game isn’t great from a basketball standpoint, but it will feel special because it opens the conference schedule and it’s always fun to play on a holiday. Rating: 7/10
05] Savannah State | Friday, November 10th @ 12 p.m.
First off, I’ll say that opening the season with a noon game on a Friday is some serious trash. This will be the most well-attended season since the Huggins era and we’ll kicking it off in the middle of a weekday. Savannah State is bad, but it doesn’t matter on Opening Day. Hang 100 on ’em and celebrate because basketball is finally here. Rating: 7/10
04] Mississippi State | Tuesday, December 12th @ 7 p.m.
This is an underrated game, and frankly the type of thing the Bearcats should be trying to get on the schedule more often. Mississippi State was a Top 100 KenPom team last year, which is very solid for a “throwaway” non-conference game. The weeknight crowd should be good for this one, and ESPN2 will be in the building. Rating: 7/10
03] UConn | Thursday, February 22nd @ 7 p.m.
Want to know my favorite Bearcat basketball stat? The UConn Huskies have won a national championship more recently than they’ve held a lead in Cincinnati. This stat will technically continue after this season regardless of the outcome of this game, but I’d love for it to apply to games at BB&T as well if the Bearcats can win again in wire-to-wire fashion. Rating: 8/10
02] SMU | Sunday, January 7th @ 6 p.m.
Here’s a nice little Sunday evening clash to throw the conference slate into high gear. SMU has turned into a pretty good conference rival, and it’s starting to become a series like UC and UConn had in the Big East days where the home team seems to win every game. Hopefully Cincinnati can defend home court again, because the Bearcats would love to start off the new year with a big win here. Rating: 9/10
1] Wichita State | Sunday, February 18th @ 4 p.m.
Yeah, this will be huge. February 18th is right around the time when we start looking ahead to the AAC tournament projections and NCAA seeding. This one is also coming off a nearly two-week stretch without a home game. It’s also a Sunday afternoon game on ESPN. This game will be absolutely bonkers, and will draw tons of national attention if these two teams live up to their potential. Prepare for mayhem. Rating: 10/10