For the fourth consecutive year, Mick Cronin arrived in New York City for Big East media day feeling sick to his stomach.
"It's depressing," Mick told me. "Of all the places to have a stomach bug and not be able to enjoy a good meal. I've been waiting for three months to go out to my favorite restaurant up here and instead I was watching the Yankees in my hotel room."
Still, that beats being nauseous because you've just lost a key player.
In his first year, UC lost Hernol Hall and Adam Hrycaniuk due to eligibility issues. In Mick's second year, Mike Williams tore his Achilles tendon before the season. And last year, Cashmere Wright went down with a knee injury just before Cronin headed to the Big Apple.
"Last year while we were here I got the call that Cashmere was out for the year, so I was regurgitating while I was here anyway. I'd rather be here with a stomach bug and optimism about the upcoming season than to have a nice dinner while coaching a rebuilding team."
The rebuilding phase appears to be over. Cincinnati was picked to finish seventh in the Preseason Coaches' Poll - ahead of Pitt, Notre Dame, and Marquette - and a Top 7 finish in the Big East would almost certainly mean a return to the NCAA Tournament.
"I didn't know where we were going to be picked and didn't have any expectations on where we should be picked," said sophomore Yancy Gates. "Being picked seventh isn't bad - in other conferences that wouldn't mean very much, but in the Big East that could mean an NCAA bid."
"Cincinnati is a tough, hard-nosed team that has most of their players returning and with a great recruit like Lance (Stephenson) coming in, there's no telling how good they can be," Louisville guard Edgar Sosa told me. "Cincinnati is definitely a team to look out for in the Big East."
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins answered "Cincinnati" when a reporter asked him to identify his dark horse pick to contend this year.
"Cincinnati is really talented," Huggins said. "I think Yancy Gates is as talented as any power forward in the league. Lance Stephenson is a very talented guy. Deonta Vaughn is a first team all-Big East guy. Cashmere Wright is extremely talented and then Mick's got about six guys that are 6'6" or bigger that fill a role for him. I think they're really, really talented. They're experienced and they've been through it before. I think Cincinnati and Seton Hall have a chance to make a huge jump."
Vaughn was one of six players named to the Preseason All-Big East First Team and Stephenson was named Preseason Rookie of the Year. Connecticut and West Virginia were the only other schools to have at least two players receive preseason individual honors.
"To win this league you have to have guys who are named all-league or all-freshman," Coach Cronin said. "It means you have talent and you're not going to win in this league without talent."
A dilemma that Mick no longer has to stomach.