Often overshadowed by the nearby No. 4 ranked Ohio State, who happened to defeat them in last year's NCAA Tournament, No. 17 Cincinnati's slow development into a national contender may come to fruition this season.
After reaching the Round of 32 two seasons ago and the Sweet Sixteen last year, the Cincinnati Bearcats may have the talent and makeup to take the next step and advance to the Elite Eight or Final Four in 2012-13.
Led by the versatile Sean Kilpatrick, who has emerged as one of the Big East’s premier players, the Bearcats have jumped out to a 6-0 start.
While they might not have a signature win thus far, Cincinnati has defeated two dangerous opponents in Iowa State and Oregon. It is the way Cincinnati has been winning, however, that makes the Bearcats a legitimate Final Four possibility.
Keeping true to their reputation as one of the most physical teams in the country, Cincinnati is leading the nation in rebounding at 49.2 boards per game. But it is their improvement on offense that gives fans reason to believe Cincinnati should be considered amongst the country’s best.
In its first six games Cincinnati has averaged 86.8 points per game, over 16 more points per game than last year. This number will undoubtedly shrink when Cincinnati enters their Big East schedule, but the improved scoring of Kilpatrick and senior Cashmere Wright is evidence that relative offensive improvement will persist throughout the season.
However, there is one slight caveat with this Cincinnati team. They rely far too heavily on their three-point shooting for offensive production, launching a remarkable 134 shots from behind the arc in only six games. They have shot 40 percent from long range so far, but in any given game, if they were to go cold, look out for an upset.
On the other hand if Cincinnati’s shooters heat up, do not be totally surprised if they make an improbable run at a National Title.