Cincinnati Bearcats (24-7, 11-7 Big East)
Big East Tournament Seed: No. 7; plays Villanova/South Florida on Wednesday (7 p.m. on ESPN).
Head Coach: It took Mick Cronin five years, but he’s finally gotten Cincinnati to the NCAA Tournament. Cincy's record is a little inflated, thanks to a weak non-conference schedule, but the Bearcats should earn an at-large bid to the big dance.
Team MVP: Junior forward Yancy Gates leads the Bearcats in scoring (11.3 points per game) and rebounding (6.9 rebounds per game). Gates is not a dominant scorer, but he's consistent one. In the Bearcats’ last five games, four of which were wins, Gates has been in double figures in scoring. The 6-foot-9 forward, who shot 49-percent this season, looks for high-percentage, in-the-paint points.
Playing For: A better seed in the NCAA Tournament. If the Bearcats go one and done in the Big East Tournament, Cincinnati is probably looking at No. 7/8/9 seed. A few good wins could help the Bearcats avoid a rough first-round NCAA matchup.
Breakdown: The Bearcats are a balanced offensive team, but their strength is their defense. This season, Cincinnati kept opponents to a conference-low 58 points per game. The Bearcats like games in the 60s and they usually find themselves there.
Cincinnati doesn’t have too many wins that may impress you. The Bearcats have taken care of the lesser teams for the most part, but have also been playing well recently. Down the stretch of the regular season, Cincinnati picked up two wins over Georgetown and also knocked off Louisville. Freshman guard Sean Kilpatrick gives the Bearcats a good shooter off the bench (39.9 percent on 3-pointers) and they’ll need him, with help from their other perimeter players if they’re going to make some noise in the Big East Tournament.
-- written by Chris Celletti.