Good luck trying to predict Cincinnati in this NCAA Tournament.
Reactions to the Bearcats have been as mixed as its comes since they were announced as a No. 6 seed on Sunday.
Some say they were under-seeded. At 29-5 with victories over Iowa State, SMU and Xavier, one could certainly make that argument. But others think they are ripe for an upset. Vegas odds only favor Cincinnati by 3.5 over K-State, and some bracket prognosticators say the team has one-and-done written all over it. Given that it hasn’t reached the second weekend of this tournament since 2012, that argument also seems fair.
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“After the last couple years, we are very excited about the chance of doing big things,” junior forward Kyle Washington said. “We hadn’t beaten Xavier in a few years, and we beat Xavier this year. We hadn’t been to a AAC championship in a few years, and we did that this year. We know we have the people and the capacity to make a deep run, we just have to go do it.”
To that end, the Bearcats have tried to ignore outside expectations this week.
Did they expect a better seed? Yes. Do they think their conference deserves more respect? Of course. But now that the postseason is upon them, they aren’t worrying about those factors.
“It’s irrelevant,” Cincinnati coach Mike Cronin said. “I don’t aspire to the thought process that if we were to lose (Friday) that our year is a failure. With the year they’ve had, if they don’t make the Sweet 16 it’s a disappointment. To who? We don’t let other people quantify success for us.”
Besides, in the grand of scheme of things, a No. 6 seed isn’t that much different from a No. 3 seed.
“All the seeding stuff is subjective,” Cronin said. “It’s always going to be subjective. There will be years where you get a better seed, years where you get a worse seed. We’ve been in it seven straight, so it is what it is.”
Cincinnati lost in last year’s first round to St. Joseph’s 78-76, beat Purdue by one a year before that and lost to Harvard and Creighton the two years before that.
It last reached the Sweet 16 as a No. 6 seed in 2012, beating Texas and Florida State along the way. Perhaps its seed this time around will be a good omen.
“We’re not trying to put as much pressure on us,” senior guard Troy Caupain said. “We know this is our last time ever doing this, so we got to try to play the best, be ready to perform well. Focus on the little things and the game is going to take care of itself.”
For now, K-State is expecting one of its most difficult tests. At the least, it will be a step up from the Wake Forest team it beat on Tuesday.
“We are going to have to fight and claw for every basket. But we have been through it whether it’s Baylor or West Virginia, we have seen tough, hard-nosed teams.… Their defense will get you screwed up. It’s not going to be as easy as Tuesday night.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett