The Cincinnati Bearcats are the No. 6 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament, where they'll face 11th-seeded Missouri in the first round. Cincinnati hasn't made an NCAA Tournament since joining the Big East after their 2005 appearance. But Mick Cronin has revitalized the program that Bob Huggins built, and the Bearcats look like a dark horse Sweet Sixteen candidate this year. It would be Cincinnati's first appearance in the round of 16 since 2001 — otherwise known as the year Cincinnati looked like a national title contender before Kenyon Martin broke his leg.
Record: 25-8, 11-7 in the Big East
Key wins: Cincinnati's season has been predicated on taking care of the teams it should at home and battling on the road. The Bearcats' best home win is one 63-54 win over Louisville on Feb. 16, and their best road effort is a 53-51 win over St. John's at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 22. Also, though Cincy went undefeated in its non-conference schedule, the only two teams worth mentioning on a slate with more cupcakes than the cute parts of New York City were Dayton and Xavier. Both were summarily dispatched by 20-plus points.
Key losses: Weirdly, though, the Bearcats couldn't handle St. John's at home, losing 59-57 to the Red Storm on Feb. 13.
Players to watch: The names to know are Cashmere Wright (CASHMERE WRIGHT!), Sean Kilpatrick, and Dion Dixon. All three shoot better than 35 percent from three-point range and key a Cincinnati defense that is 10th nationally in efficiency.
Cincinnati profile by Andy Hutchins of SBNation.com.
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