Would UC make the NCAA tournament if the season ended today? Yes, according to Joe Lunardi, the diminutive Italian dude who compiles ESPN’s Bracketology predictions. Lunardi currently has the ’Cats as an 11 seed, which means at least four other at-large teams are below them in the seeding. (Conversely, he has a streaking Xavier team as an eight seed.)
No doubt Lunardi has looked at this much closer than I have, but I’m not so sure UC is or should be in. The Bearcats are 19-6, 6-6 in Big East conference. UC’s only two “quality” wins — at home against XU and on the road at St. John’s — wouldn’t seem enough to get them into the field. Sunday’s frustrating loss (is there any other kind around here?) at home against St. John’s dropped the ’Cats RPI ranking to 55. UC has now lost six of 10 and hasn't looked good even when winning.
UC seems to be regressing as the season has gone on, and it’s not just because they’ve been playing tougher competition. Mental errors, odd substitution patterns and an ugly, painfully disjointed offensive flow are not hallmarks of a team that, 25 games into a season, is heading in the right direction.
Despite a roster of veterans, all of whom were brought in by Mick Cronin, UC seems more chaotic than ever. Case in point is the ongoing frustration that is highly touted hometown big-man Yancy Gates, the team’s presumed best player and biggest enigma. I’ve defended Cronin in the past, but it can’t be a coincidence that his teams/players perpetually seem to regress the deeper they get into a season/career. (Again, conversely and curiously, XU always seems to get better as the season goes on, and it can’t just be that they play in an easier league.)
Yet all is not lost: If UC can somehow finish 3-3 in its last six games — which would mean at least one win against a ranked opponent — that elusive NCAA tournament bid is almost a lock. I can already hear UC's beleaguered and cynical fans' response to that notion: “Don’t get your hopes up.”