Yancy Gates #34, Dion Dixon #3, Sean Kilpatrick #23 and...

Yancy Gates #34, Dion Dixon #3, Sean Kilpatrick #23 and Ge'Lawn Guyn #14 of the Cincinnati Bearcats celebrate after defeating the Syracuse Orange during the semifinals of the Big East men's basketball tournament. (March 9, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

Beware of the Bearcat. We’re talking about the Bearcats of the University of Cincinnati.

Cincinnati (23-9) hit several milestones during its 71-68 win over top-seeded Syracuse in a Big East semifinal on Friday night at the Garden, the biggest is advancing to the tournament final for the first time in school history.

If you let Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin tell it, his Bearcats were for real since day one. Beating Georgetown in double overtime on Thursday and then stunning Syracuse on Friday should be more proof than anyone needs.

“I’ve been telling them all year. People keep putting it that we stunned Georgetown,” said Cronin. “We beat them four [times] in a row. I’ve got faith in my team.”

Making it to the Big East final, 23 wins, including triumphs over Georgetown, Syracuse, Louisville and Marquette could warrant a fifth or sixth seed for the Bearcats. “When our toughness rises to the level of our talent, we’ve got a great team. We can beat anybody,” said Cronin. “We came here to win the tournament.”

Cincinnati’s player’s had the confidence, too. No one thought they’d be up, 35-23, at the break. But winning was not out of the question.

Said Yancy Gates: “I knew that we had a chance coming in here [to] beat Syracuse."

Gates (12.3 pts., 9.4 reb) leads a balanced scoring attack that should help Cincinnati make waves in the NCAA Tournament. Gates and Sean Kilpatrick each had 18 points on Friday night.