The No. 8 Cincinnati Bearcats will head to Louisville tomorrow to face off against No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats as part of the NCAA March Madness tournament. The Round of 32 game will take place at KFC Yum! Center.
Despite the fact that Kentucky (35-0) is heavily favored to win Saturday's game, Cincinnati (23-10) will do its best to hold its own against the top-ranked basketball team. Given the proximity of both their home cities, Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News reported that college team loyalties run deep in that part of the United States.
"I see it every day," Cincinnati freshman forward Gary Clark said. "It's just kind of like Cincinnati; we know it's the Bearcats' city. But five minutes away, it's Kentucky, and that's their little town."
Clark added that Kentucky's proximity "doesn't bother us," noting that their school "is still an hour away."
"We never see them, Clark said. "We just see a bunch of fans."
DeCourcy elaborated on what kind of Kentucky team the Bearcats would face on Saturday. He cited that Kentucky is favored by 18.5 points according to The Linemakers.
"They are a burgeoning legend," DeCourcy wrote in regards to Kentucky. "They have played 35 games without losing and they are widely expected to win the five more necessary to make them the first undefeated champions since Indiana in 1976, a period of nearly four decades."
DeCourcy reported that Cincinnati will take on Kentucky without coach Mick Cronin, who was forced to take a medically-induced absence "to deal with an arterial dissection in his brain." Despite that setback, Cincinnati managed to qualify for a fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament and advance for the first time since 2012.
"There've been a lot of trials and tribulations during the season, losing our coach, but the team fought together and made a great season for everybody," Cincinnati senior Jermaine Sanders said. "I can't thank my teammates enough for making my last season one I'll remember forever. We could have quit after the coach got sick and couldn't coach anymore, but we came together."
According to Brian Bennett of ESPN, Kentucky won its first NCAA Tournament game by beating Hampton 79-56. Despite that victory, the Wildcats plan to play with more focus and intensity in Saturday's game against Cincinnati.
"We know they're going to be tenacious on defense," Wildcats center Karl-Anthony Towns said in regards to Cincinnati.
Even though all opponents against Kentucky have failed to contain the team on the basketball court so far, Bennett argued that Cincinnati had "a program built on toughness" that plans to make the Wildcats earn their predicted victory.
"We have to be physical and go be the Bearcats," Cincinnati guard Kevin Johnson said. "I think we'll go about it in a very confident way. We've got nothing to lose."
The game between Kentucky and Cincinnati will air Saturday at 2:40 p.m. ET/11:40 a.m. PT on CBS. Because it will air on network television, online viewers will be able to stream this game for free on the official NCAA March Madness website and through various devices on the official app.