Connecticut and Cincinnati each came into Friday afternoon’s AAC quarterfinal matchup needing a win. A win for Cincinnati would likely lock its place in the NCAA Tournament field. On the other side, a defeat for UConn would likely knock it out of the Big Dance for the second consecutive season after winning the national title in 2014.
I don’t think either team expected a game like this though.
Haymakers back and forth. Four overtimes. A 55-foot buzzer-beater to tie the game and force yet another extra session.
Jalen Adams saved Connecticut’s season with this miraculous third-overtime heave from beyond mid-court, and allowed the Huskies to pick up a 104-97 win when it needed it most in the ensuing fourth overtime.
Here’s the ridiculous ending to UConn – Cincy’s 3rd OT pic.twitter.com/hz30wwU5vd
— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) March 11, 2016
“If it goes in, it would be amazing,” Jalen Adams said in a televised interview about the final shot. “If not, at least we went out fighting,”
Indeed they did fight, and in the end the Huskies put themselves in a pretty remarkable position. Connecticut is now sitting at 22-10 on the season. Is this enough to get them to the Dance? Good question. They do only have three wins inside the top-50 and have dropped five games outside of it, according to the RPI. But there are no truly crippling losses in that bunch, as they still haven’t dropped a game outside of the top-75.
That win also bumps them up to around No. 45 in the RPI rankings, which is much more comfortable than the No. 55 they were in before this game began. However, they can’t get complacent due to what’s coming next. Temple is the next team on their schedule in the AAC semifinals, and a projected loss to them would undo all of the goodwill done to their RPI number with a loss, as a loss to the Owls would drop them back down to No. 57. It’s also worth noting that coming into today’s game, the Huskies were ranked No. 29 in KenPom, likely to move up a couple of places following the win.
If you made me guess right now, Connecticut would probably be in the field. If they go out and beat Temple tomorrow, that would probably clinch their spot. Lose though, and things get awfully precarious again, as the Huskies would be right on that cut line in all likelihood of the last four in or the first four out.
That cut line is also right where Cincinnati is at the moment. The Bearcats will enter tomorrow with around the No. 43 RPI in the country — which is good — and a slightly higher KenPom number. They also beat Connecticut two out of three times this year. But they also have one few top-50 win than Connecticut, and also have a loss far worse than anything the Huskies do — against Memphis.
Like UConn, my guess is that the Bearcats have just enough to get into the field, but it’s going to be tight on Selection Sunday. Unlike UConn though, they no longer have a chance to improve their positioning. That’s their biggest problem at this point, and what their biggest source of concern will be over the next 48 hours.
Basically, these two teams are in about as even a situation as any two teams could be.
And given what we saw in this game, it makes perfect sense that it would be that way.