CINCINNATI — They’re commiserating about “Black Sunday” in the chili parlors around town. And there’s plenty of company in the city’s latest sports misery.
They’ve seen this oh-so-many times.
No other city went into the NCAA Tournament with such pride and expectations. Xavier had the first No. 1 seed in its history. Cincinnati was a No. 2 with aspirations of a long-awaited run deep into March. They’d spent the last half of the season shoulder-to-shoulder in the AP Top 25 , finishing at No. 3 and No. 6.
Surely this would be a March to remember around town, right?
Instead, it added two more breathtaking meltdowns to the city’s recent history of them.
Cincinnati matched the second-biggest collapse in NCAA Tournament history on Sunday, blowing a 22-point lead — 22 points! — in the last 11 minutes for a 75-73 loss to Nevada in Nashville. A few minutes later, Xavier took to the same court and blew a 12-point lead in the second half while losing to Florida State 75-70 .
All those folks who made the five-hour drive watched in horror as their dreams of a Sweet Cincinnati 16 turned sour in a few hours.
“You know, we don’t lose too often around here,” Cincinnati guard Jacob Evans III said. “So whenever we do lose, it’s a shock.”
It’s not really shocking anymore. Cincinnati sports teams have excelled at pulling off the improbable postseason defeat for nearly a generation.
The Reds are the city’s cherished team — baseball’s first professional franchise, the one that produced Big Red Machine dominance in the 1970s. That was then. This is now: no National League pennant since a 1990 World Series title.
The Reds made the playoffs in 1995, beat the Dodgers and were swept by the Braves. That started a trend. The Reds haven’t won a playoff series since. They were swept by the Phillies in 2010 — Roy Halladay no-hit them as an added indignity — and blew a 2-0 lead to the Giants while dropping their five-game series in 2012. They lost the NL wild-card game at Pittsburgh a year later, fired Dusty Baker and launched a rebuild that has produced three straight 90-loss seasons.
And then there are the Bengals. Don’t get folks started on that one.
The Bengals blew a late lead in the 1988 season’s Super Bowl as Joe Montana led San Francisco’s now-legendary 92-yard drive and threw a touchdown pass with 34 seconds left. In 1990, they beat Houston in the first round — the Oilers, not the Texans — and lost to the Raiders in the next game.
They haven’t won a playoff game since, the sixth-longest streak of futility in NFL history. They’re 0-7 in the playoffs since 1990, all under Marvin Lewis. Carson Palmer got his left knee shredded on his first pass of a playoff loss to the Steelers in 2005. The Bengals lost five straight first-round playoff games from 2011-15.
The torment reached new depths during the 2015 season. Fans were dancing in the aisles at Paul Brown Stadium after the Bengals seemed to have a playoff victory over those rival Steelers in hand. Jeremy Hill fumbled while the Bengals were in field goal range to finish it off. Vontaze Burfict hit Antonio Brown in the head on an incomplete pass, moving the Steelers in range for a winning field goal with 14 seconds left.
They still talk about that one like it was yesterday.
Last season, the Bengals went to Nashville and lost 24-20 on Nov. 12. Burfict was ejected in that game for pushing an official’s arm out of his way. The Bengals fell to 3-6, essentially scuttling yet another season.
Now, Cincinnati sports fans can add the NCAA Tournament double-whammy in Nashville to the list.
The Bearcats were determined to break their streak of five consecutive years failing to make it past the tournament’s opening weekend. The Musketeers were hoping the first No. 1 seed in their history would be a springboard to the Final Four, a place they’ve never reached.
They’re both back home, trying to get over that feeling the town knows so well.
“Obviously, tough loss for our group,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “Pretty emotional ending, the finality of what I think is the greatest sporting event in our country.”
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
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