By Jon Rothstein
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1. CAN CINCINNATI TURN THINGS AROUND?
It all depends on their reserves. Mick Cronin told me last summer that Cincinnati’s bench would be the key to their season and up to this point, the Bearcats’ reserves have been a disappointment. Ge’lawn Guyn and Jermaine Sanders have been inconsistent offensively — and while Titus Rubles has been a regular contributor on the boards — he’s yet to become a reliable scorer. Cincinnati has had serious offensive struggles all season long, but those struggles have been magnified recently due to the health of Cashmere Wright. Wright injured his knee against DePaul on January 10th, and in the ten games since Wright has shot just 12-of-60 from three-point range. The Bearcats have lost five of their last six games and will next host UConn on Saturday.
2. WHICH POTENTIAL HIGH SEED COULD DROP A BIT?
Possibly Florida. The Gators have to play at Tennessee tonight and won’t have freshman guard Michael Frazier, who suffered a concussion on Saturday against Arkansas. Billy Donovan’s team will have their hands full in Knoxville against the Vols, who have quietly won five games in a row under Cuonzo Martin. Florida will also close the SEC regular season at Rupp Arena against Kentucky, who will desperately need to beat the Gators to ensure their place in the NCAA Tournament. We’re not bailing on Florida in terms of their potential in the field of 68, but they’re going to have some tough games down the stretch.
3. WHICH MID-MAJOR TEAM HAS THE MOST TO LOSE IN THEIR CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT?
Akron. The Zips have the nation’s longest winning streak at 18, but have no shot of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Akron hasn’t lost a game since December 15th and needs to win their conference tournament to ensure their place in the field of 68. Keith Dambrot’s team plays at defending MAC champion Ohio on Wednesday, and will likely face the Bobcats again at some point in the MAC Tournament.
4. WHICH BUBBLE TEAM HAS THE MOST OPPORTUNITIES TO EARN QUALITY WINS?
Xavier. The Musketeers lost a tough game at home on Saturday to VCU — but Chris Mack’s team hosts Memphis tonight and Saint Louis on March 6th — while finishing the season against Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Xavier already has wins over Temple, La Salle, and Butler, and could really improve their NCAA resume down the stretch. The Musketeers also have a victory over NEC favorite Robert Morris, a team that has a legitimate chance to be in the field of 68.
5. WHAT SHOULD EVERYONE REMEMBER?
That conference tournaments could produce some unlikely results — and that means that teams that were on the bubble could be bumped out of the tournament. The main story line throughout this season has been revolving around one word — parity. Don’t be surprised if a few teams that weren’t on the radar heading into conference tournaments get an automatic bid and steal opportunities from teams that were on the bubble.
Which potential high seed do you think will drop the most? Be heard in the comments!