Cincinnati Bearcats Set To Take on Dayton in NIT Second Round

Alex CallosCorrespondent IMarch 22, 2010

NEW YORK - MARCH 10: Darnell Wilks of the Cincinnati Bearcats celebrates after a play against the Louisville Cardinals during the second round of 2010 NCAA Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 10, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In the days of Bob Huggins, trips to the NIT were non-existent. The Cincinnati program was as dominant as nearly anybody in the country and was in the midst of 16 straight NCAA Tournament appearances when Huggins resigned. Well, times have changed. 

After missing out on the NCAA Tournament the past four seasons under new head coach Mick Cronin, the Cincinnati Bearcats have finally reached meaningful postseason play, in the form of the NIT.

After opening Wednesday with an impressive victory over Weber St., the Bearcats take to the floor again tonight when they take on the Dayton Flyers at Fifth Third Arena. For a team with only two seniors, this is a time to build for next year, a season that will hopefully end with a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

After an impressive showing in the Big East Tournament, the Bearcats have some momentum heading into tonight's game. Confidence is building for this young team.

The suspension of junior forward Rashad Bishop figured to have a negative affect on the team, but a few players have emerged including junior Darnell Wilks who has been instant energy off the bench over the past two weeks with his high flying throw downs. 

Cincinnati is clearly coming into their own and perhaps signaling the end of the rebuilding project that was Cincinnati basketball for the past four years.

Freshman phenom Lance Stephenson has announced that he will be coming back for his sophomore year, news fans couldn't be happier about. Fellow freshman guards Jacquon Parker and Cashmere Wright are coming into their own after struggling for most of the early part of the season.

That trio will form an exciting backcourt for years to come, especially if Stephenson decides to stick around.

Sophomore big man Yancy Gates is still inconsistent at times, but has all the tools to be a dominant post player in the Big East. 

For senior Deonta Vaughn, one of the best careers in Cincinnati basketball history is about to come to an end. More than likely he will be playing in his final home game and going out with a win would be a great way to end an impressive career.

Last week Vaughn became Cincinnati's all-time leader in three pointers and assists. He currently ranks fourth in scoring only 26 points behind Danny Fortson. Vaughn would love nothing more than to bring home a victory in his last game at 'The Shoe'

The Bearcats are looking for their first 20-win season under Mick Cronin and more importantly looking to get back to Madison Square Garden.

They have some unfinished business to attend to.