2021 Final Four Connections: Cincinnati Bearcats

2021 was the end of a streak of 9 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for Cincinnati. Despite having not been to the Final Four since 1992, Cincinnati’s presence can be felt in Indianapolis this weekend – former UC head coach, current top conference rival, Cincinnati high school star.

A look at the Bearcats’ connections to the Final Four teams.

Houston vs Baylor


Houston is one of Cincy’s top rivals in the AAC. 2021 was the third consecutive time the two met in the AAC Conference Tournament Championship, with Houston coming out on top for the first time. Cincinnati won the title game in 2018 and 2019.

Cincinnati is 33-8 all-time vs Houston. Before Houston joined the AAC before the 2013-14 season, Cincinnati has won 22 of 23 meetings and are just 11-7 (including 3 straight losses) since.


Baylor guard MaCio Teague grew up in Cincinnati and played for Walnut Hills High School. Teague was not recruited by Cincinnati and attended UNC-Asheville for two years, before transferring to Baylor in 2018. Teague has started every game for Baylor the last two years, averaging 14.9 ppg overall.

UC has never faced Baylor, but during the 2002-03 season, they beat Valpariso during Scott Drew’s one season as Valpo head coach.

Gonzaga vs UCLA


Cincinnati is 1-2 all-time vs Gonzaga.

The most recent loss came in 2009. 2009-10 season started off strong for Cincinnati and they seemed poised for a breakthrough season. Three straight regular season losses (and 5 of 6) to end the season, ended any faint bubble hopes. 

Part of the strong start was an exciting run in the Maui Invitational. After beating ranked teams in back-to-back games (Vanderbilt and Maryland), Cincinnati lost to Gonzaga in overtime of the Maui Finals. Lance Stephenson led Cincinnati with 15 points.

The other loss to Gonzaga came in the 2003 Tournament in the first round in an 8/9 matchip.


UCLA head coach Mike Cronin coached the Bearcats for 14 years (2006-2019), before making the move out west. In 9 NCAA Tournament appearances, Cronin went 6-9. In 1 NCAA Tournament appearance with UCLA, he is currently 5-0.

Cincy is 4-2 all-time vs UCLA, including a home-and-home sweep in 2017-2018 and a 1-2 Tournament record.

  • The one tourney win came in 1962 in the Final Four, en route to the Bearcats’ second straight championship game victory.
  • As a 1 seed in 2002, Cincinnati was upset by #8 UCLA in the second round of the Tournament.
  • In 2017, #3 UCLA, led by Lonzo Ball, beat #6 Cincinnati in the second round

The 2018 home victory (93-64) was one of the worst losses in UCLA history and was a precursor to the firing of Steve Alford, which ironically led to UCLA poaching Cronin from Cincinnati.

Mike is an alum of the University of Cincinnati and the ultimate sports nerd.

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