The Bearcats have lost to Tulsa just three times in AAC history.
CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bearcats (14-8, 5-4) face the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (5-15, 1-8) at home on Wednesday night.
Tulsa is the worst team in the AAC and should be a nice bounceback spot after Cincinnati blew an 11-point second-half lead against Houston on Sunday. UC lost its last meeting in this series 83-77, one of just three losses to Tulsa since joining the AAC.
The Bearcats enter the game ranked 65th in KenPom, while Tulsa is 251st.
ESPN's Matchup Predictor gives Cincinnati a 95.6% chance to win the game.
Let's dive into the preview of these teams' 46th meeting.
There's Always Next Year
Saturday's loss cemented one thing about the 2022 UC basketball season: They aren't cracking the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team.
Team Rankings currently gives UC a 0% chance to make the field through that avenue.
Zero Quad 1 wins in the past calendar year will leave a program in that spot, as UC has just 1 Q1/Q2 win this season. That came on the road against Wichita State, who aren't exactly the Shockers of last decade.
Since the start of Wes Miller's tenure, UC is a combined 4-17 in Q1/Q2 games.
Saturday showed signs of life. UC outplayed a top-three team for 30 minutes, and as I've pointed out throughout the season, they didn't have enough talent to finish.
“We’re getting better. Everybody needs to stay with us," Miller said after the 75-69 loss. "This is going to be a good basketball team down the stretch.”
All Bearcats fans can do is be patient—this likely won't be the leap year some optimistic viewers had hoped. Still, players like Landers Nolley II and Viktor Lakhin have taken huge jumps.
True freshmen are getting valuable experience as well. The building blocks are in place, and something may get built in 2024—should UC land one more impact transfer while retaining top talent, namely Nolley.
Hope is there, but so is the nation's best basketball conference. Nine of the league's ten teams rank inside KenPom's top 38 teams. There won't be any conference foes like Tulsa next season.
© Albert Cesare / The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK
The top way Tulsa can muster an upset on Wednesday is by stopping UC's strong three-point shooting run this season. The Bearcats are 75th nationally in three-point percentage (36.1%) and 50th in three-point attempts this season.
The Golden Hurricane enter the game allowing teams to shoot just 29.9% from deep and is 133rd in assists allowed per game (15.1),
Cincinnati's offense thrives on ball movement, and streaky shooting to open up the inside penetration with Lakhin and the guards. The top man on the mark is Landers Nolley II.
He's turned into UC's best player and a talent they should clamor to keep for one more season if possible. Nolley just earned his third-straight spot on the AAC Honor Roll with 24 points against Houston on 6-of-10 outside shooting.
Nolley's 45.5% three-point shooting leads the AAC and is 10th nationally. He is also 50.8% in league play, with three 20-point games over his last five. At 6-foot-7, Nolley is the tallest player among that national top 10, and it's hard not to feel his presence from outside.
His use in wing actions should continue to get featured on Wednesday as Tulsa's smaller backcourt deals with the tweener star.
© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Tulsa is the worst team in the AAC, having won just one game since Dec. 21.
Two players stand out on this team, and only one can be the skeleton key for a Tulsa win: Bryant Selebangue (13.0 Pts, 9.3 Reb, 0.8 Ast).
The bruising 6-foot-9 sophomore forward could give UC's lacking frontcourt some problems. He is the nation's 33rd leading rebounder and is one of the most efficient shooters in America as well.
Selebangue ranks seventh in FG percentage (65.45%). He does all of his damage near the rim and is a very disciplined defender (1.5 fouls per game).
Having Lakhin run the Canadian off his sweet spots will ensure victory for UC. Four of Tulsa's five wins have come in games where he shoots 57% or better. You'd think his efficiency would warrant the highest-scorer status, but that belongs to guard Sam Griffin (15.8 Pts, 2.9 Reb, 2.3 Ast).
The 6-foot-3 junior loves taking threes, and the Bearcats should let him fire away. He's shooting just 38.6% from the field this seasonand 31.1% from deep on 8.4 chucks per game.
Tulsa enters the game averaging the 38th most three-point attempts in the country. UC will roll if they force Tulsa to keep firing triples and force the ball away from Selebangue.
© Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
Fans can watch the game at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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