Driving the lane


Nashville gives Bearcats fans a long-awaited opportunity to see their team make March Madness music



By Matt Koesters


Photos by Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services

March 16, 2018

This year's NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament is likely the University of Cincinnati's best chance to make a deep run in March Madness in more than a decade. The Bearcats' end-of-season run earned them a much-coveted No. 2 seed, the best tournament position achieved during the Mick Cronin era. While almost nothing is guaranteed, great seeding and great success in March tend to go hand-in-hand. 

The guaranteed exception: A big, loud, hungry fanbase, grateful for the opportunity to make the drive to Nashville and cheer on their Bearcats. C-Paw bumper stickers and drivers clad in red were common sights on the interstates Friday morning, and Bearcat fans cheered each other on at rest stops along the way. In downtown Nashville, Cincinnati fans took to the streets and represented their colors with pride. And when the clock reached zeroes, the fans rejoiced as the Bearcats advanced past Georgia State, 68-53. 

A big following in the NCAA tournament is something the team hasn’t enjoyed in the past two seasons, when the tournament committee shipped them out to Sacramento (2017) and Spokane (2016). After playing all of their home games at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena, the sound of noisy cheers in a venue not their own is nothing new. 


A UC fan shows off his colors at a rest stop in Tennessee.

Also not new to this year’s squad: Calm in the face of adversity. Adjusting to the challenge. Being hungrier, bigger, stronger. 

“We don't believe in entering a tournament to get to the second round or the fourth round,” Cronin said. “If you're in the tournament, you're trying to win the tournament. That might be the Tiger Woods in me. I don't believe in Elite Eights and all that stuff. If we win three more in a row, I won't be celebrating.”

The locker room was calm after the game, a trait senior Gary Clark exudes and Cronin encourages. But during the game, Jarron Cumberland brought the fury. Cumberland put together a career-best performance, and was the best player on the court by Cronin’s estimation. He was the only player on either team to spend the entire game on the court, and his game-high 27 points came on second chances he created as he gathered up eight of UC’s 20 offensive rebounds.

Clark (11 points, 13 rebounds) and Cumberland (27, 11) both finished with double-doubles. Kyle Washington put up 13 points, while Jacob Evans’ 10 — including two critical 3-pointers down the stretch — helped propel the Bearcats into the second round, where they’ll face the winner of the Texas-Nevada tilt that followed Friday’s victory.

To read full coverage of the Bearcats' first-round victory over the Panthers, visit the men's basketball page at GoBearcats.com. 

How did the rest of Friday's results affect the Bearcats? 

Gary Clark slams down a dunk.
Trevor Moore
Jarron Cumberland shoots a contested jumper in the paint.
UC Fans pre-game at Margaritaville in Nashville.
Exterior shot of Bridgestone Arena.
UC Director of Athletics Mike Bohn with a young fan.
The Bearcats talk to the media in their locker room.
The bracket.
The UC Band.
A male cheerleader shouts into a megaphone.
UC Coach Mick Cronin
Justin Jenifer listens as Coach Mick Cronin draws up a play during a timeout.
UC takes the court.
Kyle Washington attempts a jump shot.
Jacob Evans attempts a 3-point shot.
Jacob Evans battles two Georgia State defenders for a rebound.
The UC band's trombone section.
A young UC fan shows off her colors.
Two UC fans pose for the camera before the game.
The NCAA bracket, with Cincinnati displayed as having advanced to the round of 32.
Jarron Cumberland answers questions in the UC locker room.
UC cheerleaders
UC cheerleaders pump up the crowd.
Kyle Washington
Cronin gives instructions to a player.