After qualifying for the NCAA Tournament nine years in a row, the University of Cincinnati men's basketball team is in danger of failing to make the tournament this season. It would be the Bearcats first time missing the tournament since becoming members of the American Athletic Conference (AAC).
Last season, the Bearcats finished 28-7. This year, they've matched those seven losses in half the amount of games, sitting at 11-7 midway through the season under new coach John Brannen.
Two major sources of bracketology, which predicts participants of the tournament, are ESPN and CBS Sports. Neither has mentioned UC in their brackets so far. This is despite ESPN's renowned "Bracketologist" Joe Lunardi predicting that UC would qualify as a No. 10 seed in July 2019.
Currently, there are little to no bracketology sources that list UC as an "on the bubble" team.
Teamrankings.com predicts UC to finish 18-12, which would be the team's worst record in ten years. These expectations result in a 42% chance to make the tournament.
However, all hope is not lost. The odds may be against them, but the percentage shows that the tournament is still reachable. However, there is little room for error in the remaining conference schedule.
While it would be ideal for the Bearcats to simply win as many games as possible, there are certain games remaining on the schedule that are more important than others. Coming off an important victory against East Carolina Sunday, it's imperative that UC keeps momentum.
Although the Bearcats don't face a ranked opponent in their next two games, there's a handful of games that could carry detrimental seeding implications, starting Wednesday at Temple.
Though this season has proved to be more difficult than expected, their biggest tests lie ahead of them in the form of Wichita State and Houston, both of which will be played twice in the latter half of the season.
Houston will come to Fifth Third Arena Feb. 1 and will be looking to keep its strong season going. At 14-4, different bracket predictions have the Cougars hovering anywhere from a No. 5- to No. 10-seed. Collecting a victory in the first meeting would be a huge chance for UC to see its odds increase, and failure to do so will put more pressure on the matchup in Houston March 1.
Arguably the toughest opponent UC has left is Wichita State, who face the Bearcats Feb. 6 immediately following the matchup against Houston.
Sitting comfortably at 15-3, the Shockers have slipped a bit recently, losing back-to-back AAC games. Bracket experts have them sitting between a No. 4- to No. 6-seed, making these two teams ideal matchups for the Bearcats to increase their chances at a spot in the tournament this season.