The Cincinnati Bearcats will face the Rhode Island Rams first in the 2016 Hall of Fame Classic, CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein announced yesterday.
Duke will play Penn State and Cincinnati will face URI in the first round of the 2016 HOF Classic at Mohegan Sun, source told @CBSSports.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 4, 2016
I was pretty excited to hear that UC was selected for this early season tournament when it was announced in October of last year, which is full of fairly quality teams and continues a trend of solid opponents for the Bearcats to face before AAC play. Obviously when you hear teams like “Duke”, “North Carolina”, or “Kentucky” associated with your favorite school, it puts all kinds of warm fuzzy feelings in your belly.
At the time it appeared that the field was split into the marquee teams UC/Duke and the “others” Rhode Island/Penn State, given each pairing’s respective prowess on the hard wood. So I also assumed that the Bearcats and Blue Devils would be placed on opposite ends of the bracket such that it increased the chances of them facing each other in the tournament finals. And that’s exactly what the Hall of Fame Classic committee did.
The Bearcats will face Rhode Island in the opening round and the winner of Duke and Penn State (so… Duke) in the finals.
The Blue Devils speak for themselves as far as quality opponent is concerned with several early projections rank them in the top five heading into the 2016-17 season. Jon Rothstein even has Duke as the #1 team in the country. So they, along with Michigan, Xavier, Iowa State, and Butler bodes for yet another non-conference slate with several NCAA Tournament resume polishing opportunities.
But that’s not to say Rhode Island is a team of schlubs. The Rams return four of their top five scorers from last season, all of whom grazed the double-digit point mark in 2015-16, including Allen Iverson’s cousin Kuran Iverson. So not only will Rhode Island be a tough test in the Hall of Fame Classic but should Cincinnati win, that could win up being another top 100 or even top 50 RPI win in their belt.