Hundreds of fans packed Fifth Third Arena in support of Bearcat basketball team on Selection Sunday to find out Cincinnati's first opponent in the NCAA Tournament. After about an hour of waiting to hear UC's name called while the crowd booed when Ohio State, Louisville, Kentucky and Xavier's names were called, Cincinnati (27-6) was granted with the number five seed in the East region and their opponent will be the Ivy League Champion Harvard Crimson who finished 26-4 on the season.
The Bearcats finished the regular season with a 27-6 mark, their best regular-season record since the 2001-02 campaign. UC finished with 15 American Athletic Conference wins, the second-most league victories in school history. The team has been led by the three great seniors in Titus Rubles, Justin Jackson and Sean Kilpatrick. Besides leadership from the seniors, the strength of the Bearcats has been their stifling defense. Their have allowed 58.3 points per game, which ranks 6th in the country. Blocks (5.5 bpg) and steals (7.9 spg) also rank in the top 25 in the country.
Harvard is 26-4 on the year, winners of the Ivy League Conference. The Crimson, coached by Tommy Amaker, closed the season on an eight-game winning streak. The two teams' only common opponent was UConn with the Crimson falling 61-56 in Hartford, Conn. UC faced the Huskies three times, with each team winning on its home court and UConn earning the win in the American Athletic Conference Championship semifinal. Harvard averaged 73.6 ppg, which ranked 91st overall in the country. Harvard's defense has also been a strength, as the Crimson ranks 13th in the NCAA in points allowed (60.5) and is ninth in the country in scoring margin (+13.1).
The Fifth Third crowd rose to their feet and applauded when Cincinnati's name was called and soon after Harvard's name was called. Seconds after the East region was completed, CBS Sports Commentators Doug Gottlieb and Seth Davis both provided their opinion on the upcoming matchup and both said without hesitation that Harvard would pull the first round upset. Obviously, the UC fans and the players were displeased with the opinions of the commentators. Soon after the watch party, senior forward Titus Rubles tweeted out the simple message "We gon make them respect us". Needless to say, if the Bearcats for some reason needed a motivational push for the tournament, this helps.
After the watch party in an interview with the media, Kilpatrick talked about the doubters pertaining to Gottlieb and Davis' opinion and the mindset the team has adapted this season.
"Everyone we played, they said that we would lose to them," Kilpatrick said. "But when it comes down to the last two minutes of the game, that's where we kick it up. So we're used to the criticism. But we're so locked into the moment of what's happening right now, that we don't really pay attention to what they say about us."
Coach Mick Cronin talked his opinions about his seeding and his opponent Harvard for the start of the tournament.
"I think too much goes into the bracketology of the tournament," Cronin said. "Like some experts picking Harvard over us and other upsets. The only thing that matters is who is better on Thursday. The only unfortunate thing about our seeding is the location."
Finally, Justin Jackson gave a little comedic statement about receiving the five seed for the tournament.
"Five is my favorite number."