No. 20 Cincinnati vies for 10th straight win, visits Tulane (Jan 21, 2017)

NEW ORLEANS — For once, the polling experts were accurate.

In November, the coaches of the American Athletic Conference predicted Cincinnati would win the conference while Tulane would bring up the rear.

That’s exactly the case as the No. 20 Bearcats (16-2, 6-0 AAC) seek their 10th consecutive victory Saturday against Tulane (4-14, 1-5), which has lost seven of its last eight games.

But Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin is warning his players against overconfidence in the game at Tulane’s Devlin Fieldhouse.

“Every game is unique and, if Saturday is the day that Tulane makes shots, you better come to play because every other facet of the game, they play extremely hard, they stay positive,” Cronin said. “I’m not going to win the game Saturday. I might lose the game as a coach, but I think with our team, you have to give the kids credit and continue to have guys step up and put the ball in the basket. That’s the key.”

The Bearcats have spread the wealth in winning 16 of their 18 contests, with four players in averaging double figures in points per game. Forward Jacob Evans is Cincinnati’s leading scorer at 14.1, followed by forward Kyle Washington (13.9), point guard Troy Caupain (10.7) and forward Gary Clark (10.1).

Kevin Johnson, a senior shooting guard, is averaging just under double digits at 8.6 per game.

“Coach holds us at a high standard, and he’s been proud of us the whole season because we’re an unselfish bunch,” Washington said. “I’m just as excited when I score as when anybody scores. I’m just proud of all my guys, because we’re trying to take this thing to Phoenix (host of the 2017 NCAA Final Four).

In addition to averaging 16.8 assists per game, Cincinnati also has been very effective on the defensive end. The Bearcats are third in the country in defensive efficiency, allowing 89.7 points per 100 offensive possessions.

Cincinnati routed Tulane 92-56 at home on Jan. 1. The Bearcats’ Jarron Cumberland led all scorers with a career-high 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting with a trio of 3-pointers.

“I will say this about the Tulane game, they play really hard and I am extremely impressed with how hard they played here,” Cronin said. “We made every shot and they missed every shot, and they missed three dunks. So, I don’t look at the result as much as I watch the game of what actually went on.”

The Green Wave, under first-year head coach Mike Dunleavy, lost 89-82 Wednesday at Tulsa. Four Tulane players scored in double figures led by guard Cameron Reynolds, who posted a double-double with 20 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

Tulane is led by Reynolds (15.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, team-high 41 3-pointers); guard Kain Harris (12.5 points, 32 3-pointers); and guard Melvin Frazier (10.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, .421 field goal percentage).

Cincinnati’s current nine-game win streak is its longest since a 15-game run during the 2013-14 season (Dec. 17 through Feb. 6) and the fourth longest under Cronin. The Bearcats are off to their best start in league play at 6-0 since winning their first 11 AAC games during the 2013-14 season.