Cincinnati is in search of its eighth consecutive victory when it travels to Memphis on Thursday night in a classic trap game for the No. 25 Bearcats at FedEx Forum.
The Bearcats (19-3) entered the Top 25 for the first time all season and embark on a two-game road trip that starts against the Tigers and ends at No. 12 Houston on Sunday. The Bearcats and Cougars are tied atop the American Athletic Conference at 8-1.
Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin couldn’t care less about the Top 25.
“I’m more worried about Selection Sunday,” Cronin said Monday. “… I don’t worry about the Top 25 rankings. I’d rather win on gameday. I don’t say this to be condescending, but what writers think about us or any team, they’re not in the room on Selection Sunday … It’s exciting for your fans and for your players and stuff like that.”
It would be easy for the Bearcats to look past Memphis ahead to Sunday’s titanic matchup in Houston; the Tigers (13-9, 5-4) limp into the contest as losers of two straight and three of their past four.
Cincy leans heavily on superstar junior guard Jarron Cumberland, second in the AAC in scoring at 18.7 points per game. He’s scored 23 points or more in three straight games and notched a season-high 34 points on Jan. 15 against South Florida.
Cumberland scored 24 to rally the Bearcats to a 73-68 win over SMU on Saturday.
But the Tigers can score points in bunches. Memphis leads the AAC in scoring at 82.8 points per game, also good enough for 21st in the country, more than seven points per game better than the Bearcats.
Senior guard Jeremiah Martin leads the Tigers with 16.3 points per game, followed by senior forward Kyvon Davenport (14.4) and freshman guard Tyler Harris (12.6).
Martin went for 41 — all in the second half — in the Tigers’ 84-78 loss to South Florida on Saturday. Martin moved into 21st on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,275 points. His effort set a school record for points in a half and was the first 40-point performance by a Tigers player since Marcus Moody scored 41 in 1997.
“It really doesn’t feel good because we lost,” Martin said after the game. “If we would have won, it would have been great, I would have been happy.