CINCINNATI -- The 2008-09 University of Cincinnati men’s basketball season, which opens Nov. 16 vs. South Dakota, features 16 games against teams that participated in postseason action last March.
Cincinnati opens preseason play with a pair of exhibition games at Fifth Third Arena vs. Carleton University (Nov. 1) and area opponent Northern Kentucky (Nov. 11), before lifting the lid on the 2008-09 regular season on Nov. 16.
Beginning Nov. 22, the Bearcats will play four games as part of the eight-team Global Sports Classic. Cincinnati will play host to Western Illinois (Nov. 22) and Coastal Carolina (Nov. 24) in opening round games, before traveling to Las Vegas on Nov. 28-29 for closing round contests. The Bearcats will take on Florida State in the third round at the Thomas & Mack Center and then the winner of the California vs. UNLV game.
The annual highlight of the non-conference schedule is UC’s Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout with city-rival Xavier University. The game will be played this year at Fifth Third Arena on Dec. 13. Head coach Mick Cronin, who is in his third year behind the bench at UC, will be looking to stay unbeaten at home in the Shootout. His 2006-07 squad knocked off the Musketeers, 67-57, at Fifth Third Arena in his first Crosstown Shootout.
Less than a week later, the Bearcats will participate in the second annual BIG EAST/SEC Invitational, taking on Mississippi State on Dec. 18 as part of a doubleheader at U.S. Bank Arena. This will be the fourth meeting between the two schools and the first since UC knocked off the Bulldogs, 90-56, in 2001. The second game pits Louisville vs. Mississippi.
For the second year, the BIG EAST will be playing an 18-game league schedule. The format has schools playing each opponent at least once and three teams twice. The process started last season with a clean slate regarding where each team’s single-game series would be played. This year, the 12 single-game sites were predetermined under the league policy that the site would be reversed if an opponent was played once last year and once this season.
UC will face the regular-season BIG EAST champion Georgetown University (H - Jan. 28; A – Feb. 7), Providence College (H – Jan. 7; A – Jan. 19), and St. John’s University (A – Jan. 22; H – Feb. 11) in home-and-home series.
Besides Georgetown, the Bearcats will play four additional 2008 NCAA Tournament participants – Connecticut (Jan. 10 or 11), Louisville (Feb. 21), Notre Dame (Feb. 4) and West Virginia (Feb. 26) – at Fifth Third Arena.
The Bearcats’ road schedule is as tough as ever as they travel to 2008 BIG EAST Tournament champion Pittsburgh (Feb. 14) and visit DePaul (Jan. 17), Marquette (Jan. 4), USF (March 3 or 4), Syracuse (March 1), and Villanova (Feb. 1).
In Mick Cronin’s second year behind the bench, the Bearcats quadrupled their BIG EAST win total from 2006-07 and were selected to play in the inaugural College Basketball Invitational (CBI). UC returns eight letterwinners from last season’s team, including first-team all-BIG EAST guard Deonta Vaughn (Indianapolis, Ind./Arlington). Former McDonald’s All-American Mike Williams (Camden, Ala./Wilcox Central), who missed the last two years due to transferring from Texas and then an achilles heel injury, will join the squad, along with four incoming freshmen. Cincinnati native Yancy Gates, from Withrow High School, point guard Cashmere Wright (Savannah, GA/Urban Christian Academy), and 7-1 center John Riek (Sudan/ Winchendon School - Mass.) highlight the incoming class.