After Northwestern's loss to St. John's on Tuesday night, there are only eight undefeated teams left in Division 1.
Six of those teams (Duke, Ohio St, Kansas, Connecticut, Syracuse, San Diego State) are ranked among the AP's Top 7 and Central Florida is #24.
Cincinnati is the only team with a perfect record that is not ranked in the Top 25.
Mick Cronin is not complaining.
"Do me a favor and don't tell my guys they're any good because they're irritated and I like them that way," Mick told me after Tuesday's 64-48 win at Miami. "Keep us out of the polls and don't pat 'em on the back because right now they're hungry. We have a saying in our locker room that, 'The hungry dog gets the bone.' That's the law of the alley."
While the Bearcats strength of schedule to date is ranked #334 out of #345 D-I teams (according to RealTimeRPI.com), it's worth noting that they've won their three toughest games by an average of 20 points, beating Dayton by 34, Oklahoma by 10, and Miami by 16.
"The constant for this team has been our tremendous effort - especially on the defensive end," Cronin said. "We are still getting better and we have to continue to improve on offense. That's the big thing because we play great teams in our conference."
Miami is not a great team, but the RedHawks have an 11-point win over Xavier to their credit and had the Bearcats down 27-20 with 6:22 left in the first half.
"We fell behind on the road and the guys didn't panic at all," Cronin said. "The guys looked at each other and said, 'We just have to get stops.' It was good to play this game as we get prepared to play in the Big East because you're going to have to play good teams in some tough road environments. It was good to get down early and have to respond and show some poise. I didn't have to calm anybody down. They all believed in themselves the whole time. Once we brought the fight to Miami and started getting rebounds and loose balls the game changed."
The standouts were Dion Dixon and Ibrahima Thomas.
Dixon finished with a career-high 23 points, along with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 0 turnovers. After shooting 3 of his first 5 shots from outside the 3-point arc, Dion relentlessly attacked the basket for the remainder of the game.
"We had maybe the greatest player of all-time play at Cincinnati," Coach Cronin said. "I've only seen him on film, but Oscar Robertson was a great big guard that used his body. Dion has great size and when he uses his body and gets into the lane, and is not relying on the outside shot, he is very effective."
Thomas tied his career-high with 13 rebounds and added 11 points for his second double-double of the season.
"Thomas has brought a lot to our program," Cronin said. "He's brought stability to his position and he's a guy who is really focused on winning. He gives us a great voice defensively and understands how to play the game. He is still searching on offense because he hasn't played as much basketball as the rest of the guys, but his shot-blocking, rebounding, and defense are things that he can be among the best in the Big East at. He's got great size, really runs the floor, and he is a guy that brings other people together in a positive way."
Ibrahima's defensive versatility is one of the reasons why Cincinnati is #2 in the country in fewest points allowed at 53.6. But Coach Cronin seems especially pleased with another stat: UC is #14 in the country in fewest turnovers per game at 11.1.
"We said in the off-season that we would score more points if we took care of the basketball," Mick told me. "Tonight we didn't shoot the ball very well but we still won by 16 because we took care of the ball. If we continue to take care of the ball and know what we're good at on offense and know how to make other teams break down defensively, we'll score points because we'll get open shots."
In other words, if they continue to play stingy defense and take care of the ball, the Top 25 will take care of itself.
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