Is the NCAA tourney a remote possibility?

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Local heartthrob and TV/radio sensation Ken Broo asked me that question on his Sunday morning sports talk show on Valentine's Day, and after thinking about it for a second - knowing UC had to play at USF, vs. Marquette, vs. DePaul, at West Virginia, vs. Villanova and at Georgetown - I said no.


I thought they could struggle at USF. I thought they would beat Marquette and DePaul at 5/3. I thought they might have a chance to pull an upset against one of the final three squads on the schedule. I thought UC could still make the NCAA tournament. I just didn't think the Bearcats would.


Now, after losing at South Florida and after falling to Marquette on Sunday - two absolute must-win games that did not end as such - what are UC's chances today? The answer: they're on life support.


And it's not just the fact the Bearcats have lost that has their fans upset. It's the way they've lost. The fact that South Florida pounded them - after which Mick Cronin said the Bulls had needed the win more than his team. The fact their offense, for the most part, continues to be invisible. The fact they can't make free throws at the end of games. The fact that Yancy Gates didn't play the final 12 minutes of the Marquette game and was then seen giggling on the bench. The fact that Lance Stephenson has been less than impressive and played less than a quarter of Sunday's game.


So, where to now?


Right now, UC is 15-11 and 6-8 in the Big East. The Bearcats sit in a five-way tie for eighth place in the league. In those final four games, I see one win and three losses. I don't have to tell you that, at that point, the Bearcats might not get a call from the NIT.


But think about it this way: if UC can beat DePaul, can upset West Virginia in Morgantown (hey, it happened two years ago with a team not nearly as athletically-talented as the current one) and somehow knock off a Georgetown squad that's 3-4 in its past seven games (hey, the Bearcats swept the Hoyas last season), the Bearcats could have a shot at the NCAA tournament.


Assuming a loss to Villanova - I don't see UC winning that one - that would put the Bearcats 18-12, 9-9. A win or two in the Big East tournament, and you've got a pretty decent resume for inclusion.


Is my scenario a stretch? Yes, it is. Is it impossible? No, I don't think so. Like I said, the chances for an NCAA tournament berth are on life support. But that doesn't mean they're dead quite yet.


--Surprisingly - at least to my eyes - Joe Lunardi seems to think UC has a better shot of making the tournament than the vast majority of the US population. In his latest Bracketology, he has the Bearcats as one of "The First Four Out." That means, according to him, UC is still on the bubble.


I know Cronin oftentimes doesn't agree with Lunardi's prognostications. This probably isn't one of those times.


--So, I've been off the grid the past week or so for a number of personal reasons. I've got tons of e-mail and messages I need to answer, so if you sent me something, have a little bit of patience. I'm going to try to get back to you all in the next day or two.

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