Over the past couple of years the Bearcats haven’t been so lucky as to receive an invitation to a preseason tournament. But since Mick Cronin has revitalized this program Cincinnati has been getting more attention for these types of events. In 2009 UC was selected for the Maui Invitational and put on a show upsetting ranked Maryland and Vanderbilt but were edged by Gonzaga in overtime of the championship game. This year the Bearcats had the honor of traveling to Las Vegas and face a handful of marquee opponents.
After dispatching the Iowa State Cyclones on Friday night Cincinnati faced an Oregon Ducks team that upset the hometown favorites the UNLV Rebels behind a strong defense. So going into the game Saturday night most observers knew that Cincinnati and Oregon’s styles would clash on the floor. But the thing about the Bearcats is that even though their offense plays with such speed and controlled-chaos of sorts the defense is extremely sound. That’s the kind of team that Mick Cronin has built here; one that can score in bunches but not give up any easy shots on the backend. It’s a devastating combination.
And it was that style of play that led Cincinnati to a win last night and added yet another milestone to the Mick Cronin era; a preseason tournament win over a handful of marquee opponents. The wins were impressive and provided us Bearcat fans some insight as to how good this team was especially against better competition. The overriding conclusion? They have the potential to beat anyone. Cincinnati will clearly lean on their talented guards Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick, and JaQuon Parker but also have talent on the inside in Titus Rubles, who as far as I can tell can do nothing wrong, and Cheihk Mbodj, who looks 100% healthy for the first time at Cincinnati.
At 6 – 0 the Bearcats roll into a home game against the Alabama Crimson Tide who are also undefeated with a tournament title to their name in the 2K Sports Classic. They will likely be rolling into 5/3rd Arena with a head of steam on Saturday afternoon as both look to pick up a valuable nonconference win over a strong opponent. This time of the year is when the framework of March Madness resumes and wins over Iowa State, Oregon, and Alabama will be critical come tournament time.