The No. 2 seed Cincinnati Bearcats (29-4) take on the No. 15 seed Georgia State Panthers (24-10) in the First Round of the South Region. The game will be played at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Friday, March 16. Tip-off time is 2 p.m. ET.
Preview: The Bearcats are having perhaps their finest season under Mick Cronin. Cincinnati always grinds teams to a halt and plays ultra-physically, but this team could have what it takes for a solid run.
The American was very strong this season. Cincinnati impressively won the regular season, and held off upstart Houston in a very tight AAC final this afternoon.
KenPom‘s defensive efficiency metric has the Bearcats at No. 2 in the country, behind only Virginia. The offense is ranked 49th, and Cincy plays at the 322nd fastest pace in the country. Again, they grind it out.
— Cincinnati Men’s Hoops (@GoBearcatsMBB) March 11, 2018
Georgia State finished second in the Sun Belt regular season. The Panthers were helped out by Louisiana, which was 16-2, losing on the other side of the bracket. Georgia State is led by sophomore guard D’Marcus Simonds, who averages 20.9 points per game.
Date: March 15
Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TBS
Location: Wichita, KS
Announcers: Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Erdahl
Opening Betting Line: Cincinnati -15.5, via 5Dimes
This is Cincinnati’s 32nd NCAA Tournament appearance, and the eighth under Mick Cronin. The team has not missed the Big Dance since 2010.
Cincy has made 13 Sweet 16s and eight Elite Eights. The team reached five straight Final Fours from 1959 to 1963, and one more in 1992, the last time the Bearcats made the final weekend.
Georgia State is in its fourth NCAA Tournament, last making the field in 2015. The Panthers 2-3 in Tournament play, beating Wisconsin in the first round in 2001, and Baylor in 2015, before falling to Xavier.
Prediction: Cincinnati could really use a decent run here as a two-seed. Mick Cronin’s job is very safe, but he hasn’t had a ton of tournament success, reaching the Sweet 16 just once.
That could be tough, with Nevada or Texas awaiting the Bearcats in the second round, if they beat Georgia State. However, the Panthers shouldn’t be a major obstacle.
Georgia State plays at a relatively slow pace, which plays right into the Bearcats’ hands. Cincinnati wins.