Daily Word: Can Cincinnati hand SMU its first loss?

Each weekday, our college hoops experts discuss the biggest issues, trends and themes in college basketball.

1. What will it take for Cincinnati to hand SMU its first loss?

Andy Katz: Be beasts on the boards. The Bearcats can be more physical and certainly can be the aggressor.

Myron Medcalf: Cincy can't just rely on defense alone. Mick Cronin's squad must keep the pressure on Nic Moore and play an efficient offensive game to deal with a team that's tough on both ends of the floor and is as confident as any team in America.

Dana O'Neil: Cincinnati has to play relentless defense. Yes, the Bearcats are known for toughness and pressure, but SMU can match them in both categories. Cincinnati can't ease up on the gas, not even for a handful of minutes, and has to be able to expose its advantage on the boards.

2. What happened to UCLA? The Bruins were flying high but got swept by the Washington schools.

Katz: Coach Steve Alford said in a text message the Bruins didn't defend well. They must, if they are going to turn their Pac-12 season around and knock off Arizona.

Medcalf: You have to look at the turnovers for UCLA. The Bruins committed 25 in the Friday loss to Washington. They committed 51 total in their most recent losses to Washington, Washington State and North Carolina.

O'Neil: I think this is who UCLA is, frankly. The Bruins are a good team, but not a great one, and their margin for error is very slim. When they cough the ball up like they did in Washington, they can be easily beat. It could be a bit of a roller-coaster ride for UCLA all year.

3. Illinois is 8-7 and hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2013. Why has coach John Groce struggled in Champaign?

Katz: Injuries. Let's see what happens if Groce actually got a full roster. It's hard to judge. This team has been ravaged by injuries during his tenure.

Medcalf: I agree with Andy here. Groce might be the Big Ten's unluckiest coach. He has had dismissals and injuries and an arena that wasn't ready earlier this season, which forced the team to play its "home" games in Springfield for a stretch. Not sure any team has dealt with the streak of injuries and mishaps that has affected Groce's tenure.

O'Neil: Understand what Groce inherited first. Not that Bruce Weber did a bad job, but this was a program in dire need of a shakeup and wake-up, and if you've been paying attention, you'll also know that the entire athletic department hasn't exactly been the mark of stability. The challenges of recruiting the Chicago area have been well-documented and with all of that upheaval, convincing kids to stay home is certainly even more difficult. Mix in a team that has been beset by injuries, didn't have a home court and is in a rather tough league, and you've got the makings for a long, arduous climb back.