The shutdown of sports in March due to the coronavirus pandemic created a situation of unfinished business for Cincinnati and also resulted in more time trying to schedule games than recruiting.
Nearly nine months after securing a share of the American Athletic Conference's regular-season title,the Bearcats make their return to the floor Wednesday when they host Lipscomb.
The Bearcats were 20-10 and went 13-5 in conference games last season, earning them a share of the regular-season title with Houston and Tulsa. They were three games away from clinching an automatic NCAA Tournament bid by winning the conference tournament. But those games were postponed due to the crisis that is forcing teams to adjust schedules on the fly and announce schedules late like Cincinnati did when it released its schedule on Nov. 19 and recently met for the first time in person since March.
"I do believe that with 28 practices in, this team certainly looks more along the lines of what we want to as time goes by," Cincinnati coach John Brannen said last week while noting he had three calls from teams inviting the Bearcats to multi-team events.
Cincinnati will take the floor for the first time since clinching a share of the title with a 64-63 win over Temple on March 7 in front of over 12,000 fans. Those fans saw Tre Scott tip-in a missed jumper by Jarron Cumberland with 2.8 seconds left to clinch it.
The departures of Cumberland who led the team in scoring last season at 15.5 points per game. and Scott, who was third (11.4 ppg), were a major reason the Bearcats were picked to finish fourth in the conference's preseason poll.
The Bearcats are banking on Keith Williams, whose 12.6 points were the second-highest on the team last year. Cincinnati also is hoping to get contributions from Colgate transfer Rapolas Ivanauskas; Chris Vogt, who averaged 11 points and 5.9 rebounds last season; top recruit Tari Eason; and David DeJulius, who transferred from Michigan, where he was the Wolverines' sixth man last season.
"I want to see the continuity, the ability to be able to make decisions on the fly and react without a coach blowing a whistle and stopping it," Brannen said.
Lipscomb (1-1) split a pair of close games over the weekend at the Tulane Classic in New Orleans. The Bisons opened the season with a 76-73 win over Lamar on Saturday and dropped a 68-66 decision to Tulane on Sunday.
Romeao Ferguson and Greg Jones led the Bisons with 18 points each, and Lipscomb missed a chance at going 2-0 when it nearly overcame a seven-point deficit in the final 37 seconds only to have a shot by Ahsan Asadullah blocked at the buzzer.
"I felt we showed a ton of character," Lipscomb coach Lennie Acuff said. "I feel a lot better about our team than I did yesterday."
--Field Level Media