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     Depending on how the season goes, Mick Cronin's UC Bearcats have anywhere from seven to 17 games to play yet.   If that number is seven, that would mean the Bearcats crashed and burned at the end of the season.
     However, if they end up playing more, that would represent a respectable finish and possibly runs in the Big East, NIT or NCAA tournament.
     Right now, they're 14-9 and would have to win most of the regular season games to get to that magical "20-win" mark.  Realistically, they're going to fall short (if not,  I'll be very happy to be wrong).
     The question many do they have to win to get into a postseason tournament?  The NCAA tourney could be within reach if UC can rack up a few high profile wins between now and the first week of March.  If not, perhaps the NIT might come calling.
      Keep in mind though, playing in the "tough as nails" Big East doesn't guarantee you a NIT bid either.  If you recall, an 18-14 Bearcat team sat home virtually ignored last season.
(They didn't help matters by going 1-6 from Valentine's Day on in '09.)
     So, the question many wins will it take and how many can the Bearcats pull off?
     This team is hard to figure.  Outside of a few glimpses, they haven't matched their intensity in the November Maui tournament in any of the other games.  Sure, they looked OK in wins over Connecticut, Notre Dame and Providence at Fifth Third Arena, but they've been lackluster for the most part on the road (UAB,Seton Hall, St. John's, Notre Dame).
      Also, if you haven't been paying attention, ALL of the Big East teams are capable of rising up and striking down any of the other teams.  If you pencil in certain games as "gimmes", you're going to be greatly disappointed.
       While my UC background wants to say the Bearcats will win out, objectively, I don't see it.
       Starting with Connecticut on 2/13.  It may look like a "winnable" game now since the Huskies have slumped without their coach Jim Calhoun.  But, it is a UConn home game and the Bearcats have only beaten the Huskies once (in the game in December).
      On the 16th, UC's in Tampa against South Florida.  They should've blown out the Bulls here at home, but they allowed them to play along and only won by eight.   USF has knocked off Pitt and Connecticut this season.  Also, the Bearcats haven't won in the Sun Dome since '05 with the Bulls taking three straight in games away from Fifth Third Arena.
      February 21st, Marquette comes to town.   Mick Cronin is 0-2 against the Golden Eagles.
      February 24th, it's DePaul, a game that should go in the win column with UC's talent.  But hang on, DePaul's actually won four of the last six.
      February 27th, the Bearcats close out the month in Morgantown against West Virginia.  Cronin's actually 2-0 against Huggs and the Mountaineers.  In the last game there, the Bearcats ran them out of their own gym, 62-39 (the infamous Bob Huggins yellow suit game).
On the other hand, West Virginia's been around the Top 10 all season long.  Far from a "gimme" game.
     On the 2nd of March, Villanova comes in and they likewise have been a Top 10 team.  While Mick and the 'Cats got them in '08, that's the only time UC's ever beat them.  Not many teams do.
      Finally on the 7th of March, the Bearcats are at Georgetown.  UC swept that series last season.  Before that, Georgetown had won the previous four meetings.
      What you see in these games is that the league has a lot of teams that can beat another on any given night.  On the optimistic end, I see UC winning four of these games--perhaps the next four in a row--at Connecticut, at USF, then home with Marquette and DePaul.
      The next three would be very difficult:  at West Virginia, Villanova here and then at Georgetown.
       The pessimistic side of me that's worried about the team's ability to finish games says just two more wins--the Marquette and DePaul home games.  Should that take place, you're looking at the NIT at best and that's probably pending a couple Big East tournament wins.
       To make the NCAA, I'd say they have to finish with 18 wins and that would be 9-9 in the conference.  In any other conference, you sit home at 9-9,  In the Big East, that shows a team's ability to battle.
        In about a month, we'll know if I was "off my rocker" or somewhat accurate.  As always though, it doesn't matter what I think, it's the player's duty to execute and play as hard as the other teams striving for meaningful games in March.
        For Deonta Vaughn's sake (fourth and final year and no NCAA tournament games) you hope the Bearcats put together a string of wins to get him (and them) to "The Dance".

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