Location: Cincinnati, OH
Conference: Big East
Last Year’s Record: 18-14
Why they’ll make it: Cincinnati returns four starters from a team that at one point late last season, had a legitimate shot at a NCAA tournament berth. Led by senior Deonta Vaughn and sophomore Yancy Gates, the Bearcats have the right mixture of youth and experience to help them be successful this year and in the future. Then, out of nowhere, Lance Stephenson signed with the Bearcats becoming the biggest recruit to arrive on campus since Kenny Satterfield and Dermarr Johnson in 1999. He’s a very talented guard who may be the favorite for Big East Newcomer of the Year. With their returning talent and the arrival of Stephenson, the Bearcats are on the fast track to reclaiming a NCAA tournament berth.
Why they won’t make it: The confidence of this team is very fragile. This team struggled last season when it allowed doubt to creep in. The Bearcats had four-game losing streaks on two different occasions last season. Were it not for that, this team may very well have gone to the Big Dance. It was a young team last season so that may have played a part in it. However, with Stephenson expected to have a big role on this team, it could once again be a combustible mix. Massaging the psyche of this team will be Coach Mick Cronin’s toughest task this season. If he’s not able to do it, the natives will get restless. The talent on this team will not grant him a pass if it fails to meet expectations.