Local teams making their final push


Andrew Christopher Schenkel

Local teams such as Cincinnat, Dayton, Xavier, Kentucky, and Ohio State are looking to continue their season into the NCAA Tournament

Selection Sunday is already less than a week away and many teams are doing whatever it takes to impress the selection committee to allow them to be a part of this year’s March Madness. In the Cincinnati area, many teams already known that they’ll be dancing later this month (Xavier, Kentucky, Dayton) while others still have to prove that they can play with the big dogs (Cincinnati and Ohio State) during this year’s tournament. Luckily, we’re here to break down what each team needs to do during Championship Week in their conference tournaments to end up playing later this March as well as where they’ll be seeded.

Cincinnati (22-9, 12-6 AAC):

RPI: 38

SOS: 77

Good Wins: @ VCU, vs. Tulsa @ UCONN, vs. UCONN, vs. SMU

Bad Losses: @ Memphis

Gary Clark (left) and Troy Caupain (right) look to help the Bearcats find away into this year's March Madness
photo from cincinnati.com
Gary Clark (left) and Troy Caupain (right) look to help the Bearcats find away into this year’s March Madness

Cincinnati finished off the regular season with a 61-54 win over the AAC regular season co-champion SMU Mustangs which will likely stand as their biggest win of the season. However, the Bearcats offense has gone cold at the wrong time as they are shooting 31% from the field and 21% from 3-point land in their past two games. Gary Clark, arguably Cincinnati’s best all-around player, hasn’t made a field goal in those two games and Clark needs to put the ball in the basket if they want to make a run in the postseason. Although their offense has fallen apart, the Bearcats defense has definitely been reliable by only giving up 61.5 points per game which places them eighth in the NCAA in that category. This Cincinnati team has also had their struggles finishing games with six of their nine losses by four points or less which could prove to be devastating down the stretch. Cincinnati currently finds itself on the bubble, but if they make a run in the AAC Tournament they could easily land as an eight seed. Take an inside look at the Bearcats journey through the AAC Tournament here.

Dayton (24-6, 14-4 A-10)

RPI: 20

SOS: 51

Good Wins: vs. Iowa*, vs. Monmouth*, @ Vanderbilt, @ St. Bonaventure, vs. VCU

Bad Losses: @ La Salle, vs. Rhode Island

From the beginning of the season up to February 17th, the Dayton Flyers were regarded as one of the best non-Power 5 teams in the country going 21-3 overall and 11-1 in the Atlantic 10. However, the Flyers then lost three of their final six games but did pick up a big win on senior night in Dayton against VCU to tie the Rams and the Bonnies from St. Bonaventure for the regular season conference title. Kendall Pollard, the Flyers best player, has not been completely healthy all year due to a bone bruise on the outside of his knee as well. Despite the slow finish, Dayton is safely in the tournament and will more than likely be seeded in the six to eight seed area depending on the result of the Atlantic-10 Tournament in Brooklyn later this week. You can get a preview of all Dayton’s road through the A-10 Tournament here.

Kentucky (23-8, 13-5 SEC)

RPI: 13

Tyler Ulis (left) and Jamal Murray (right) are looking to take Kentucky to their third straight Final Four
photo by Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Ulis (left) and Jamal Murray (right) are looking to take Kentucky to their third straight Final Four

SOS: 32

Good Wins: vs. Duke*, vs. Louisville, vs. Vanderbilt, @ South Carolina

Bad Losses: @ Auburn, @ Tennessee

After finishing last season with an astounding 38-1 record and an exit in the Final Four, the Kentucky Wildcats are looking to once again compete for a National Championship. The Wildcats, led by freshman Jamal Murray and sophomore Tyler Ulis, have once again shown that they are still a powerhouse despite only having one senior on their entire roster. Along with Texas A&M, Kentucky finds themselves once again on top of the SEC heading into the postseason. Although the SEC offers few opportunities for quality wins, the Wildcats showed how good they really are by beating Duke pretty easily and holding on late against a good, but postseason ineligible, Louisville team. The Wildcats also went to one of the toughest places to win a game, Allen Fieldhouse, and fell to a great Kansas team in overtime.  Kentucky is a solid four seed as of now but could easily move up to the three line with an impressive showing in the SEC Tournament. Check out a breakdown of who the Wildcats could be facing here.

Ohio State (19-12, 11-7 Big 10)

RPI: 75

SOS: 37

Good Wins: vs. Kentucky*, vs. Iowa

Bad Losses: vs. UT-Arlington, vs. Louisiana Tech, vs. Memphis*

This year, the Ohio State Buckeyes have had there chances to get multiple good wins on their tournament resume while playing in the Big 10, but they just haven’t been able to come through. In their non-conference games, they came up short against tournament teams Virginia and Connecticut as well as losing three straight games against UT-Arlington, Louisiana Tech, and Memphis. However, the one game that stands out is the 74-67 win against the Kentucky Wildcats on a neutral court. You may see the 11-7 record in the Big Ten and think that there’s no way they miss the tournament with that record in such a good conference, but that’s not the case. When playing the bottom seven teams in the conference, the Buckeyes have a perfect 10-0 record with their only other conference win coming in a four point victory against the Iowa Hawkeyes. As of now, the Buckeyes are on the outside looking in but could find their way in the tournament if they pull off an upset or two in the conference tournament but without sophomore Jae’Sean Tate, it’s going to be a hard time. Take a look at what other challenges Ohio State will face in the Big 10 Tournament here.

Xavier (26-4, 14-4 Big East)

RPI: 6

The Xavier Musketeers are trying to use their depth to make the program's first Final Four.
photo by Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
The Xavier Musketeers are trying to use their depth to make the program’s first Final Four.

SOS: 52

Good Wins: vs. USC*, vs. Dayton*, vs. Cincinnati, vs. Butler, vs. Seton Hall, @ Providence, @ Butler, vs. Providence, vs. Villanova

Bad Losses: vs. Georgetown

The Xavier Musketeers are the best team on this list, hands down (coming from a UC fan, that means something). The Big East Coach of the Year, Chris Mack, has led this Xavier team to an astounding 9-2 record against the RPI Top 50. The thing that makes this team so special is that so many different players can take over the game such as freshman Edmond Sumner, sophomores Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura, juniors Jalen Reynolds and Myles Davis, and senior James Farr. This depth was evident during a 90-83 win over then #1 Villanova in which all six players mentioned scored double digit points led by Sumner and Macura who each scored 19 points. The Musketeers also get the job done with their 1-3-1 defense that helps create turnovers and fast breaks. Now, Xavier is sitting as a two seed in most NCAA Tournament bracket projections but will try to prove themselves in the Big East Tournament. Check out the Musketeers path to a likely rematch with Villanova here.

All basketball fans in the Cincinnati area should be rooting for all five teams on this list because sports fans in this city need some team that they can be proud to be supporting.

* – indicates game was at a neutral site

NOTE: All RPI and SOS numbers as of Tuesday March, 8th