Cincinnati has survived the rebuilding year, for the most part. If it wasn’t for a major hiccup at East Carolina, the Bearcats would be 20-2 and in sole possession of first place in the conference, but 19-3 is quite alright if you ask me.
On Monday, Cincinnati moved into the AP Top 25 for the first time this year. While they still only have three losses, none of their nineteen wins stands out on paper. During these next nine games, however, the Bearcats have a chance to gain some quality wins against the best teams in the American.
The best chance to gain national attention is this Sunday against the nationally ranked Houston Cougars, who only have one loss to their name this year. Even with Rob Gray leaving for the NBA last year, the Cougars are the team to beat in the American this year. Cincinnati will have to do a better job of creating opportunities for all five players on the court to score as they have struggled on the road this year. Houston also comes to Cincinnati for the last game of the regular season, which could serve as a revenge game if the Bearcats can’t come out of Houston with the win.
The Bearcats will finally get a chance to play against Penny Hardaway’s Memphis squad this Thursday, as well as in March again. The Tigers have been struggling as of late, losers of their last three out of four games, but still have the ability to score quickly and often, which could spell danger for a Cincinnati team that has struggled on the defensive side of the ball.
Games against at UCONN, UCF, and SMU also litter the Bearcats’ schedule as they prepare to boost their résumé. Cincinnati will need to play with more confidence and Jenifer and Brooks need to continue to grow on the offensive side of the ball. This is Jarron Cumberland’s team, and now he’ll be tested more than he ever has as a leader, and a playmaker, for the rest of this season.