Over the last three years, Cincinnati has collapsed, in some way or another, down the home stretch of the season. Sure, part of it is switching from a much easier non-conference schedule to Big East play, but part of it is also, well, ugly basketball.
In 2007 (the 06-07 season), UC started out 9-3 and had quality wins against teams like Xavier and NC State. They looked like a decent team. After that start, however, they went 2-16 the rest of the way and lost 11 of their last 12 games.
Last year’s team was sitting at 13-12, coming off a nice three game winning streak. They did not win again, and finished the year 13-19.
This year’s collapse, if you wish to call it that, was much more of a quick, punch in the gut, than a long, drawn out string of poor performance. Again, after a three game winning streak, the wins coming against Notre Dame, Georgetown, and St. Johns, the Bearcats sat at 17-8 (7-5 in the BE) and were in prime position to make the NCAA tournament. They lost back to back tough games against Pitt and Louisville, but came back to get a big win against Bobby Huggins’ West Virginia team. Then UC lost the final three against Syracuse, South Florida, and Seton Hall, making an at large bid extremely unlikely. Losing five out of the final six just isn’t going to cut it.
The good news is that we’ve still got the Big East tourney left this year. The 2007 and 2008 seasons are over : ) UC will face the #16 seed DePaul, who went winless in conference play, on Tuesday. Assuming a win there, a solid Providence team is up next. Then it’s number one seed Louisville. To really reestablish a possibility of an at-large bid, I think Cincy has to win those first three games, and that is no easy task. Heck, if we get that far, we may as well just win the final two games and get the automatic berth.
The other good news is that we should be happy that we’re disappointed with an 18-13 season. Cincinnati was expected to play much worse than they did this year, and I think progress is being made. If you look at Pomeroy’s ratings over the last three years, you can see it:
It may be slow, but it’s progress. If you trust Pomeroy’s ratings, this team picked up a lot of good wins: UNLV (57), UAB (38), Georgetown twice (24), Notre Dame (36), and West Virginia (9).
Anyway, while I’m upset with the regular season finish, we can salvage things -- to a degree anyway -- with a good tournament performance. I’m looking forward to that.