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University of Cincinnati men's basketball player Chris McNeal (0) drives to the hoop for a layup Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 at Fifth Third Arena during "Bearcats Madness." 

The University of Cincinnati men’s and women’s basketball teams have tough schedules this winter, as both programs begin their quest for March Madness next week. Both teams have matchups with notable opponents and these five events may attract the most attention:

Dec. 18: Men’s basketball vs. Tennessee

The Bearcats begin a home-and-home with the Volunteers this year and will be the only team UC faces from the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Tennessee lost key contributors Grant Williams, Admiral Scholfield and Jordan Bone to the NBA, but head coach Rick Barnes is back with a new contract and a No. 31 overall recruiting class in 2019. The two schools haven’t met since 1993, when the Volunteers defeated UC 79-58. Tennessee is projected to finish fifth in the SEC after making the Sweet Sixteen in March.

Jan. 12: Women’s basketball vs. Central Florida

Despite losing both matchups to the Knights in 2018, UC was able to make them close, losing by one point at home. UCF tied with the Bearcats in the preseason poll, as both were picked to finish third in the AAC. Junior I’imari Thomas and seniors Sam Rodgers and Antionette Miller combined to average 41 points and are all back for another year. UC hasn’t beaten the Knights since January 2017, but the program is going in the right direction after winning 23 games last year.

Feb 1: Men’s basketball vs. Houston

UC saw the Cougars three times last season — twice on the road in Houston and once in Memphis during the AAC Tournament. Houston compares to Tennessee, as they lost their two best players to the NBA. However, Houston will have Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes playing this season after he received an approval on a waiver. Houston was tied in votes with Memphis to win the AAC, and UC hopes to change the narrative.

Feb. 13: Men’s basketball vs. Memphis

Penny Hardaway is in his second year at Memphis and pulled off the top recruiting class in the country this season. James Wiseman (No. 1 overall recruit in 2019 class) was named Preseason Freshman of the Year in the AAC and could be one of five freshmen in the starting lineup. Wiseman, Precious Achiuwa (No. 15 recruit), Boogie Ellis (No. 38), DJ Jefferies (No. 52) and Lester Quinones (No. 58) could round out the top five. Hardaway is already confident, saying Memphis will win the national championship this year, so this is a must see matchup.

Feb. 26: Women’s basketball vs. UConn

It’ll be the last season women’s basketball will see the Huskies consistently, as they will be moving to the Big East in 2020-21. One could make the argument UC had a good loss against last year, losing by just 10 points at home in February, which tied for UConn’s closest loss in the conference. UConn averaged a 31-point margin of victory in 20 AAC games. The Huskies are ranked third in the Preseason AP Top 25 poll and are arguably the toughest home game for UC this year.

Sports Editor

Schultz has been with The News Record since September 2017. A Cincinnati native, Schultz is interested in a career in broadcasting.