Cincinnati revealed its out-of-conference matchups for the upcoming season Thursday, and the Bearcats did not mess around.
One of the first things that should jump out at you: a Nov. 6 date in Columbus against Ohio State to kick off the campaign.
Last year, the Buckeyes won season opener in Cincinnati between the two, 64-56, which ended up being one of the most important wins in Ohio State’s season and a crucial aspect to its inclusion in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. It ended almost 100 years of the schools avoiding one another on the court in the regular season with the last meeting beforehand happening in 1921.
The atmosphere in Fifth Third Arena was intense, and proximity makes these schools very familiar with one another. There should be a similar tension in Columbus this November, and hopefully this home-and-home will be the start of a series between the programs.
The Bearcats will face another Big Ten program in the tail end of their non-conference schedule, heading to Chicago to face Iowa in the Chicago Legends event at the United Center on Dec. 21. It’s a rematch from the first round of the Big Dance last March, which Iowa won, 79-72, and that will likely add some extra juice to the game this time around.
The Hawkeyes bring back Jordan Bohannon, Joe Weiskamp and Luka Garza, plus add four-star recruit Patrick McCaffery to their roster. Iowa on a neutral floor could be a good chance for Cincinnati to pick up a Q1 win before conference play begins.
Per usual, Cincinnati will battle against its hometown rival Xavier in Cintas Center on Dec. 7 in the Crosstown Shootout in the 87th meeting between the teams. The Bearcats extended their series lead to 51-35 last year with a 62-47 victory at home, but Xavier should be much better this time around, greatly improving throughout the course of the last campaign and returning its four top scorers from a season ago. This is one of the best rivalries this sport has to offer. Whether you’re from Cincinnati or not, if you love college basketball, you should watch this game.
The other massive matchup on Cincinnati’s schedule is with Tennessee, with the Vols coming to Cincy on Dec. 18. Tennessee lost a lot of its production from last season and will most likely experience a transitional phase this year, but that doesn’t make this an easy game. The Vols will still retain some talent from last year’s roster, and even with the AAC seemingly improving each season, having power-conference teams on the schedule is important for programs like Cincinnati. It remains to be seen how quality of a win this could be for the Bearcats, but it’s certainly an attempt for one.
The rest of Cincinnati’s non-conference schedule is filled out in part by winners of their conferences a season ago – Patriot League co-champion Colgate (Dec. 14), American East Conference champion Vermont (Dec. 3) and MVC co-champion Drake (Nov. 11) – with all games to be played at Cincinnati. First-year head coach John Brannen explained the reasoning behind these games in Cincinnati Athletics press release.
“Our philosophy on our one-off games, which are considered buy games, was to play against some of the top mid-major schools in the country,” he explained. “Colgate, Drake and Vermont were all league champions and they provide high NET numbers and will be very difficult games for us.”
The Spin on Cincinnati
This is a very impressive non-conference schedule, and this is precisely what the committee wants to see. Cincinnati is challenging itself in November and December, and it will have already played a bevy of Q1 and Q2 games before the conference portion of the season kicks in. The Bearcats have so many valuable games on their out-of-conference slate that I didn’t even mention the Paradise Jam, which guarantees them a game against Illinois State, then matchups with two of Bowling Green, Western Kentucky, Valparaiso, Grand Canyon, Nevada or Fordham.
When Selection Sunday rolls around, Cincinnati will be thankful it scheduled like this, not to mention how good it is for programs like Vermont and Drake to get games with programs like Cincinnati outside of their conferences. Everybody wins when teams schedule like this, and it’s a pleasure to see as a fan.