CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Mick Cronin knows his players can't avoid NCAA tournament talk, but he won't stop trying.
Projected by most experts as one of the last teams currently "in" the field, the Bearcats likely need more wins to ensure their name will be called on selection Sunday.
"Any loss would hurt, whether it's a good team or a bad team," said UC guard Kevin Johnson. "We just want to get our wins and lock ourselves in that tournament position."
Cronin has consistently said he doesn't want his team paying attention to projections and focus solely on getting better, but he understands the players can't avoid it.
"I remember times with Coach Huggins, sitting in that same locker room, where he had to explain to our guys what the committee's looked at," said Cronin before Tuesday's practice. "The beauty of (the media), I don't have to do that. We just coach basketball because everybody else takes the time to do that. But, it would be very naive of me, they know, because they all have phones. I'm not a genius, but I know they look at that stuff. They're well aware we're on the cusp of doing what we need to do to get into the tournament."
The Bearcats have two regular season games left before the start of the American Athletic Conference tournament, both against 20-win teams. First up is a game at Houston Thursday night.
"We understand the importance of this game," added Johnson. "We're both fighting for something. We definitely want to be in the NCAA tournament a little bit more than them."
Houston, like UC, is trying to boost their tournament resume with a win and are expecting one of their biggest home crowds of the season.
"I think the good thing to playing a really good team at home and probably a sell-out crowd is your guys would rather play those type of games."
Farad Cobb (sprained knee) and Shaq Thomas (groin) are both considered day-to-day. Cronin hinted that Thomas will likely not play either of the final regular season games in hopes to be ready for tournament play.
The Bearcats play at Houston Thursday night at 9 p.m.