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Cincinnati finds new home for 2017-18 season while arena is renovated

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Cincinnati will spend the 2017-18 season in a new arena as Fifth Third Arena will be undergoing renovations next season.

The Bearcats announced on Friday that they would play next season at BB&T Arena, which is Northern Kentucky’s home arena.

The 9,400 seat BB&T Arena is a good alternative for Cincinnati because it is a newer arena that was built in 2008 and it is only located seven miles away from downtown Cincinnati.

Fifth Third Arena is getting an $87 million renovation that begins in March and is scheduled to end in October 2018.

 

This is a solid move for both programs as it will be intriguing to see how two Division I teams share the same home arena for one season. My biggest question comes with the home floor. Is Cincinnati spending all season playing with Northern Kentucky logos on the hardwood?

Cincinnati had to find something during its arena overhaul so this is a natural solution that is still relatively close to campus.

Northern Kentucky is the big winner in this. BB&T Arena will get a lot of new fans coming there next season and that should only enhance the Northern Kentucky basketball brand in that area. Some Cincinnati fans could check out a game at that arena for the first time, realize how nice of a facility it is, and come back for a Northern Kentucky game or another event at the arena. That’s what Northern Kentucky gains from all of this.

Cincinnati’s larger national profile also means that a healthy amount of nationally-televised games should be coming from that arena as well, which gives it even more visibility.

 

No. 21 Rhode Island overcomes slow start, injury to beat No. 24 Cincinnati

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Rhode Island had every reason to fold after the first half against No. 24 Cincinnati.

The No. 21 Rams got off to a sluggish start and things looked potentially ugly when starting guard Jarvis Garrett left the game on a stretcher after a nasty fall.

But Rhode Island rallied in the second half behind a balanced scoring attack to erase a 12-point deficit and win 76-71 on Saturday afternoon at the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off semifinals at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

Garrett was scoreless when he was taken out of the game, but his fellow Rams starters picked up the slack. All four finished in double-figures as E.C. Matthews buried the dagger three-pointer with under a minute left and finished with 18 points. Jared Terrell and Hassan Martin both tallied 14 points while Kuran Iverson added 13 points and 12 rebounds.

The Rhode Island defense did a nice job of slowing down two key Cincinnati players as Troy Caupain (12 points, 4-for-14 shooting) and Gary Clark (four points, 1-for-5 shooting) both had off-nights.

Sophomore Jacob Evans and Junior Kyle Washington both had strong outings for the Bearcats. Washington, the N.C. State transfer, showed a versatile scoring package on his way to 23 points. Washington also added eight rebounds and was 2-for-3 from three-point range but didn’t get a lot of chances to create offense down the stretch.

When Cincinnati (2-1) was balanced offensively early in the game, they looked like a very strong team as Caupain was primarily involved. Washington looked tough to guard one-on-one and Evans (25 points) was also doing a lot of damage. Cincinnati could never find a consistent third scorer after Caupain’s start as their offense sputtered in the second half. Evans is going to be a consistent scorer and you hope that Washington is able to keep contributing like that, but Caupain and Clark need to step up more in the scoring column.

Rhode Island (4-0) moves on to face No. 1 Duke tomorrow in the championship game at Mohegan Sun. Even though the Blue Devils are battling plenty of injuries to rotation players, it should be a good test for the Rams against another top-flight opponent.

American Athletic Conference Preview: Cincinnati, UConn and SMU battle for the crown

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Beginning in September and running up through November 11th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2016-2017 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the American Athletic Conference.

The American is going to look quite different this season as the league lost a few familiar coaches and some very talented players. Most of the teams we’ve grown familiar with atop the standings are back in the title picture for 2016-17 as teams like Cincinnati, UConn, SMU and Houston have NCAA tournament aspirations, while many others are in rebuilding mode or trying to be more stable.

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:

1. The league has four new coaches: After helping SMU become a legitimate program, Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown abruptly resigned in the middle of the July live evaluation period this summer, handing things over to former Illinois State coach and SMU associate head coach Tim Jankovich. While Jankovich was left with enough talent to make another run, Tubby Smith at Memphis, Johnny Dawkins at UCF and Mike Dunleavy at Tulane face rebuilding efforts. Smith has a habit of turning things around and should be able to help Memphis become nationally relevant again while Dawkins and first-time college coach Dunleavy have more to prove.

2. Cincinnati remains consistent: With six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, expectations are that Cincinnati makes it back this season. With senior Troy Caupain, junior Gary Clark and transfer Kyle Washington, the Bearcats have plenty of upperclass talent with experience. The question will be whether the Bearcats can make the second weekend of the tournament (or beyond) for the first time since 2012.

3. UConn is loaded with talent: Head coach Kevin Ollie lost quite a bit of firepower from last season, but he has plenty to be excited about. Senior guard Rodney Purvis has talented sophomore Jalen Adams and McDonald’s All-American Alterique Gilbert with him in the backcourt while Amida Brimah is back at center. The key for UConn’s season could be production at forward from players like VCU transfer Terry Larrier and freshman Vance Jackson.

4. Larry Brown didn’t lead the cupboard bare at SMU: Brown might have handed the keys to Tim Jankovich, but the Mustangs still have plenty of firepower. Double-figure scorers like Ben Moore, Shake Milton and Sterling Moore are all back while Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye and freshman center Harry Froling add more punch in the front court. The Mustangs have the talent to reach the tournament again and remain a consistent program for the future.

5. Houston has a chance to break through: While the league’s top three is Cincinnati, UConn and SMU, the Cougars also have a chance to make a NCAA tournament run if some newcomers can help. Junior guard Rob Gray and senior wing Damyean Dotson both return and sophomore guard Galen Robinson Jr. emerged as a starter last season. Junior college transfer and former Indiana forward Devin Davis might be the key to where the Cougars play after the season.

MORE: 2016-17 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Memphis forward Dedric Lawson (1) goes up for a shot between Connecticut forward Shonn Miller (32) and guard Daniel Hamilton, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the finals of the American Athletic Conference men's tournament in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Memphis forward Dedric Lawson (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

PRESEASON AMERICAN PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Dedric Lawson, Memphis

After a monster freshman season in which he averaged 15.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, Lawson entered the 2016 NBA Draft. The combine in May was an eye-opening experience for Lawson as it showed he needed a lot of work to be a pro. As a sophomore, Lawson has even less help than last season and he should be regularly putting up double-doubles.

THE REST OF THE AMERICAN FIRST TEAM:

  • Troy Caupain, Cincinnati: One of the best senior floor leaders in the country, Caupain comes to play in big games.
  • Rodney Purvis, UConn: Purvis is coming off of his most consistent year shooting last season (38 percent 3PT) and played really well in the NCAA tournament.
  • Damyean Dotson, Houston: Dotson shot 36 percent from three-point range and averaged 6.8 rebounds per game as one of the conference’s most versatile wings last season.
  • Gary Clark, Cincinnati: The reigning AAC Defensive Player of the Year will be a strong contender for Player of the Year if he improves his offensive production.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • Jalen Adams, UConn
  • Shake Milton, SMU
  • Rob Gray, Houston
  • Jahmal McMurray, South Florida
  • Ben Moore, SMU

BREAKOUT STAR: UConn has a lot of options to choose from in its backcourt, but the Huskies are hoping for a big season from sophomore Jalen Adams. The 6-foot-3 guard has the makings of a high-level scoring guard who could be a nightmare to contain off the dribble. If Adams improves his perimeter jumper he might be a major weapon this season.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Orlando Antigua hasn’t had the turnaround he expected at South Florida as he’s 17-48 in two seasons with only seven conference wins. The Bulls also lost four starters from last year’s team and top recruit Troy Baxter opted to decommit on the eve of the school year.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : The American might not have a lot of NCAA tournament-caliber teams this season, but the ones in the field are the type of teams that nobody wants to face.

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT: Watching the UConn backcourt and the different combinations Kevin Ollie can use with all the talent he has. A perimeter duo of Jalen Adams and Alterique Gilbert would be a lot of fun to watch.

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:

  • Nov. 17, Pittsburgh at SMU
  • Nov. 19, Cincinnati vs. Rhode Island
  • Dec. 1, Cincinnati at Iowa State
  • Dec. 5, UConn at Syracuse
  • Dec. 6, Houston at Arkansas

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @American_MBB

Connecticut guard Jalen Adams (2) celebrates a 3-pointer from half court at the end of the triple overtime to tie the NCAA college basketball game against Cincinnati in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference men's tournament Friday, MArch 11, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. UConn won104-97 in quadruple overtime. (Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Connecticut guard Jalen Adams (Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant via AP)

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Cincinnati: The Bearcats have the league’s best returning duo in senior guard Troy Caupain and forward Gary Clark and N.C. State transfer Kyle Washington should help on the interior on both ends. Play from senior guard Kevin Johnson and sophomore Jacob Evans III could dictate whether this team can make the second weekend of the tournament.
2. UConn: This team is a bit of an unknown since so many new pieces will have to step up and contribute. If Jalen Adams or Alterique Gilbert play well and Terry Larrier adds frontcourt production, the Huskies will compete for the league crown.
3. SMU: Plenty of talent remains at SMU as this team has the wing talent to score and defend with the league’s best. If the frontcourt additions of Semi Ojeyele and Harry Froling come through, this team could be very tough.
4. Houston: Coming off of 22 wins and an NIT appearance, the Cougars have to replace guard Ronnie Johnson and productive forward Devonta Pollard. If Devin Davis and the other newcomers can help defend, Houston could be a surprise team.
5. Memphis: Dedric Lawson could be in for a big season and brother K.J. Lawson might see a jump in production as well. The Tigers need Coppin State grad transfer Christian Kessee needs to produce for an unproven backcourt.
6. Temple: The status of senior guard Josh Brown and his surgically-repaired Achilles could be the key for the Owls as they have some intriguing young talent. Freshmen Alani Moore, Quinton Rose and Damion Moore are talented.
7. UCF: Johnny Dawkins has a strong front court in A.J. Davis and 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall and the Knights get former all-rookie selection B.J. Taylor back from injury.
8. East Carolina: The trio of B.J. Tyson, Caleb White and Kentrell Barkley are talented enough to make this team rise up the standings. The key for the Pirates is consistency in conference play.
9. Tulsa: Coming off the NCAA tournament and 20 wins, Frank Haith has 10 new players on his roster. Rutgers transfer Junior Etou will be expected to help starting wing Pat Birt.
10. South Florida: The loss of four-star freshman Troy Baxter will hurt but sophomore Jahmal McMurray is an all-league candidate who can really score. Transfer Geno Thorpe (Penn State) and Troy Holston Jr. should help.
11. Tulane: New coach Mike Dunleavy has some talent in the form of Malik Morgan and Melvin Frazier but this team needs a lot more talent to compete with the league’s best.

After visiting UNLV, Mick Cronin will stay at Cincinnati

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After visiting with UNLV earlier this week, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin has decided to stay with the Bearcats.

A Cincinnati native, who also graduated from the University of Cincinnati, Cronin released a statement on Friday indicating that he’s staying the Queen City.

“I would like people to try and understand after 10 years of dedicated service I chose to evaluate my career and my life,” Cronin said in a statement released by the school. “Reflecting through that process was extremely difficult, but it was something I needed to do for me personally.

“The city of Cincinnati and the university are special places to me and I’ve always said what an honor it is to be the head coach at my alma mater. This program has come such a long way in 10 years and we’ve still got work to do and goals to achieve. The 2016-17 season starts for me today and I can’t wait for the future that lies ahead for the Bearcats and this university.”

Cronin has been the head coach at Cincinnati since the 2006-07 season. After a few years of rebuilding, the Bearcats have been to six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, as Cronin has been keeping the program going after the move from the Big East to the American Athletic Conference.

The 2015-16 season was a return to the sidelines for Cronin after he missed most of the 2014-15 season after being diagnosed with a vascular condition known as arterial dissection. Doctors discovered an unruptured aneurysm in December 2014 after Cronin had been complaining about headaches. Cronin took a leave from coaching the team on a day-to-day basis but still ran the program from afar. He returned to his full-time coaching responsibilities in March 2015.

UNLV also released a statement on Friday indicating that Cronin was no longer a candidate for their open position. UNLV athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy issued a statement about Cronin, saying “we appreciate his interest in the position, but he is no longer a candidate.”

Cronin is signed with the Cincinnati through the 2020-21 season after signing a seven-year extension in June 2014.

UConn beats Cincinnati in four overtimes in critical bubble battle

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The stakes in the American Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinal between No. 4 seed Cincinnati and No. 5 seed Connecticut were high to say the least. How close (or far) the two teams were to an NCAA tournament bid depends upon who was providing the opinion, but regardless of the conversation the best thing a team can do is live to fight another day.

The Bearcats and Huskies fought for a total of 60 minutes before determining a winner, with UConn winning by the final score of 104-97. And the win came five game minutes after one of the wildest sequences you’ll see in basketball, with Cincinnati’s Kevin Johnson hitting a three with eight tenths of a second remaining, only to have UConn’s Jalen Adams hit a 70-footer (a shot that some, most notably Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, did not think should have counted) as time expired to force a fourth overtime.

Whether the shot was luck or skill, all that matters is the fact that it went in. And UConn took advantage of that extra life, with Adams and Daniel Hamilton leading the team to a much-needed win and a date with top seed Temple in Saturday’s semifinals.

Hamilton finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, and Adams scored 20 of his 22 points after halftime. And for the Bearcats guard Troy Caupain was sensational, as he countered with an AAC tournament record 37 points while also grabbing ten rebounds and dishing out five assists. Each team had five players in double figures, but in the end UConn was able to use the momentum gained from Adams’ miraculous shot in the fourth overtime.

UConn had just three RPI Top 50 wins entering the game, so this was a critical win in that regard. The RPI isn’t the only metric the selection committee uses, but it certainly is a factor in the process. Just as importantly, with the win UConn gets to continue to make their case for inclusion into the field and can still eliminate all doubt by winning the conference’s automatic bid.

Will fatigue be an issue? That’s certainly possible, and Kevin Ollie’s team will need to make the most of their recovery time before Saturday’s semifinal matchup with Temple. Just as big of a concern for UConn is figuring out how to get over the hump against a team that beat them twice during the regular season. That’s the same situation the Huskies were confronted with going into their matchup with Cincinnati, and thanks to the heroics of Adams and Hamilton they found a way to win.

American Athletic Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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There may not be another conference in America with as much on the line from a bubble standpoint this week as the American Athletic Conference. With SMU on the sidelines as a result of NCAA penalties, the other ten members convene in Orlando with the top dogs all looking to sew up a bid to the NCAA tournament. Winning the automatic bid is the best way to do that, but with four teams harboring realistic hopes of earning an at-large bid some will likely have to sweat out Selection Sunday.

Temple managed to win the regular season title outright, but there’s still some work for Fran Dunphy’s team to do. The two-seed is Houston, whose non-conference slate likely puts them in a position where they need to win out in Orlando, and seeds three through five (Tulsa, Cincinnati and Connecticut) all find themselves on the bubble. That should make for an intense four days in Orlando, and only the winner will be able to breathe easy in the wait for the announcement of the NCAA tournament field.

The Bracket

american

When: March 10-13

Where: Amway Center, Orlando

Final: March 13, 3:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Favorite: Temple

The Owls managed to win their first outright regular season conference title since 2012, when they were still in the Atlantic 10. This year’s group has done it with defense, as in conference games they ranked third in field goal percentage defense and first in three-point percentage defense. Offensively senior guard Quenton DeCosey’s led the way, with forward Obi Enechionyia being a tough matchup due to his ability to step outside at 6-foot-9 and emerging as one of the American’s most improved players. Add in contributors such as forward Jaylen Bond and point guard Josh Brown, and Temple has enough to win the tournament. Close games shouldn’t cause much concern either, as in conference games decided by five points or less they’re 7-2.

And if they lose?: Houston

The Cougars arrive in Orlando as one of the hottest teams in the American, as they’ve won nine of their last 11 games (6-1 in their last seven). Forwards Damyean Dotson and Devonta Pollard combined to average 28.3 points per game in American play, and on the perimeter Rob Gray Jr. is the team’s leading scorer (16.3 ppg overall) and the point guard tandem of Purdue transfer Ronnie Johnson and freshman Galen Robinson Jr. has been a positive as well. Kelvin Sampson’s rebuilding job has gone well to this point, and it wouldn’t be a shock if they landed the automatic bid.

Other Contenders:

  • Tulsa: Tulsa’s backcourt is very good, with James Woodard, Shaq Harrison and Pat Birt Jr. being the leaders. A key for Tulsa will be finishing defensive possessions with a rebound, as they ranked ninth in the American in defensive rebounding percentage (67.7) in conference games.
  • Cincinnati: The Bearcats are tough, and only UConn was better in league play when it comes to field goal percentage defense. With Troy Caupain running the point and Gary Clark in the front court, Mick Cronin has the pieces needed to make a run.
  • Connecticut: Kevin Ollie’s team led the American in field goal percentage defense, limiting teams to 38.4 percent shooting in conference games. But the offense has sputtered at times. If Daniel Hamilton looks to take over consistently, making plays for himself and others, this can be a dangerous team in Orlando.

Sleeper: Memphis

Josh Pastner’s Tigers have the league’s top scoring duo in forwards Dedric Lawson and Shaq Goodwin, and there’s talent on the perimeter as well. But can they put it all together over the course of three days? That remains to be seen.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Temple: Opening with either East Carolina or USF won’t do much to bolster Temple’s argument for inclusion. But a loss to either would be damaging. Take care of business there and the Owls should be OK.
  • Houston: The Cougars likely need to win the automatic bid, thanks to the weakness of their non-conference schedule. They have wins over SMU and Temple on their résumé, but that may not be enough.
  • Tulsa: They face Memphis in the quarterfinals, and that’s a win Frank Haith’s team will need to get. They did pick up wins over SMU (in Dallas), Cincinnati and Temple last month, and there’s also the early season win over fellow bubble team Wichita State.
  • Cincinnati: Beat UConn in the quarterfinals Friday, which would be their third win over the Huskies this season. The Bearcats have wins over bubble teams George Washington and VCU to their credit, but there would be a lot less stress if they’d been able to close out Iowa State (81-79 loss) back on December 22.
  • Connecticut: Beat Cincinnati in the quarterfinals and that should sew things up for the Huskies. At the very least a win should get them another shot at a Temple team that swept the regular season series.

American Player of the Year: Nic Moore, SMU

Moore won the award last season and he’d be a good choice for the 2016 edition of the award as well. The senior point guard led the way for a team that was ranked for most of the season despite being ineligible for postseason play, averaging 15.9 points and 4.9 assists per game. A good case can be made for Temple’s Quenton DeCosey as well.

American Coach of the Year: Fran Dunphy, Temple

Sure, this can be seen as giving the award to the man whose team was picked to finish sixth in the preseason coaches poll. But Dunphy deserves this honor just as much for the way the Owls played once out of non-conference play. Temple began play in the American with an overall record of 5-5, only to take a considerable leap forward in conference play. Led by Dunphy and seniors DeCosey and Jaylen Bond, Temple won the American outright with a conference record of 14-4.

First-Team All-AAC:

  • Nic Moore, SMU (POY)
  • Quenton DeCosey, Temple: If Moore isn’t the choice for league POY then it’s probably DeCosey, who was the leading option on the American’s best team.
  • Troy Caupain, Cincinnati: Caupain averaged 13.6 points and 5.1 assists per game in conference play. He was also fourth in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2).
  • James Woodard, Tulsa: Woodard led the Golden Hurricane with an average of 15.6 points per game, ranking sixth in the conference in scoring.
  • Dedric Lawson, Memphis: The conference’s best freshman, Lawson paired up with Shaq Goodwin to form the highest scoring tandem in the American. And to think, he was originally supposed to be in the 2016 freshman class.

Second Team All-AAC:

  • Devonta Pollard, Houston
  • Shaq Harrison, Tulsa
  • Daniel Hamilton, Connecticut
  • Gary Clark, Cincinnati
  • Shaq Goodwin, Memphis

Defining moment of the season: Temple hands SMU its first loss of the season

CBT Prediction: Houston continues its recent run of solid play, winning three straight to punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament.