Where Are They Now?

With a win over St. John's Wednesday night, the Bearcats assured themselves their first winning season under head coach Mick Cronin. At 7-5 in the Big East and 17-8 overall, where do these Bearcats stand both in their own conference and across the country?

"I'm not interested, to be honest with you," Cronin told the media upon hearing his club is guaranteed a winning season. "No, I'm interested in getting better tomorrow and getting ready for Saturday (against Pitt), and I mean that in all sincerity."

After dropping their first three conference contests of the season, Cincinnati has gone 7-2 in Big East play, including two wins each against both Georgetown and St. John's and an upset win over Notre Dame. The 7-5 Big East record has them tied for sixth place in the league with Providence, a team that has beaten the Bearcats twice this season, by eight and nine points, respectively.

But the back-to-back wins against the Irish in US Bank Arena and at Georgetown in overtime three days later got people talking. The team was featured in ESPN's Bracketology, and suddenly people are starting to believe that this could be the year that the Cincinnati Bearcats return to the Big Dance.

But coach Cronin knows he needs to keep his team living in the now.

"We're still not where we want to be. I tell the guys, ‘Ignore criticism, deflect praise. Get ready for tomorrow's practice,'" said Cronin. "We've got work to do. One thing we're not short of is people that are going to judge and have opinions. I'll worry about coaching and trying to keep out guys focused. Obviously we have some tough games coming up our next three: Pitt, Louisville, and West Virginia."

Those three games, along with a trip to Syracuse following them, will be of key importance to the Bearcat's season. With just six games left in the regular season, UC needs to win half to finish 10-8 in conference play. That kind of record should all but lock up a first round bye in the Big East tournament, and put the Bearcats on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. A 10-8 record in the toughest conference in America should be looked at admirably, but you never know what to expect from the selection committee come Selection Sunday.

I never count my chickens before they hatch, or my tournament appearances before invites arrive, but even the most pessimistic of fans would have to be fairly comfortable with this team's chances at the Big Dance if they finished the year say, 11-7 in conference during the regular season and win a conference tournament game.

"Where are they now?" is easy. It's "Where will they be come season's end?" that's the tricky question.

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