Mailbag time!

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Apparently, me asking you to e-mail some questions for the long-awaited return of the mailbag has allowed you to let off some steam. Yikes. It's pretty easy to see that people are upset with the state of the basketball program, and that's reflected in some of the e-mails I've received.


So, let me try to assuage some of your fears, correct what I feel are some wrong impressions, and tell you how I feel about the prospects of changing coaches. Just an FYI, I edited some of the e-mails for length, but I've tried my best to keep the original intent of the e-mails intact.


Onward to the mailbag:


From Gary:


You should write another book. "The Rise and Fall of a Basketball Dynasty". The object of the game is to put the round ball in the hoop. Coach Cronin's style of offense doesn't know how to do that. Substitute, substitute, substitute, that's all we do. After 20 games I can't name you our starting five, and whoever the starting five are ,they won't play more than two minutes together before one or more of them is pulled out of the game. How can an offense develop a rhythm or continuity when it is changed every few minutes?


Gary's first comment, of course, allows me to plug the book I actually did write. You can find it and buy it right over here. So, thanks for that, Gary. There's little doubt that the Bearcats offense has struggled, and, in part, it's because UC is just not a great shooting team. It ranks ninth in the Big East in shooting percentage, 11th in scoring offense and last in 3-point shooting. Deonta Vaughn has struggled. Lance Stephenson has struggled. Larry Davis, minus the last couple of games, has been invisible. Simply put, if the team wants to win, it must rely on defense. And that's been a mixed bag during Big East play. But that's the hand the Bearcats are playing with this year.


Gary is also asking about the substitution pattern, and that's something some of the media have been asking about for weeks. The answer: UC has plenty of depth, and Cronin likes to make use of it. Simple as that. And while he did play 12 Bearcats against Syracuse, only seven played more than 6 minutes. In fact, it was nearly 7 minutes before Cronin substituted for any of the starters in the first half. In the second half, he subbed in Cashmere Wright for Deonta Vaughn about 3 minutes in, but other than that, he left the rest of the starters in until 13:37 remained in the game.


From Justin:


Why won't Mick take Lance off the wing and post him up?  He is so strong and skilled, wouldn't it help his game to get the ball eight feet from the hoop with a smaller defender on him?  He could get to the foul line much more, and if he turns and faces, he could offer a plethora of moves.  


Out on the wing, with his jumpshot in brick-mode, he's having a tough time - nobody is playing him tight because he has no confidence in his shot, so he doesn't have any room to drive to the hole.


Post him up, let him use that NBA body. Then have Yancy/Ibrahima/Steve dive to the hoop for dishes or to get into offensive rebounding position.  


An interesting question/theory. If you're talking about using Stephenson as a power forward and having him go against the other team's No. 4, that wouldn't work at all. Stephenson isn't nearly big enough - on offense or defense. He's got an NBA body, but he can't compete against a guy who's four inches taller and 40 pounds heavier.


The other factor, if you're talking about keeping Stephenson at the No. 3 but having him post up his small forward defender, is this: Stephenson, right now, has struggled at his role on the perimeter - the one he's been playing all season. I don't see how it would be possible to wave a wand and make him play a different style and expect him to handle a completely new assignment in the middle of a season. He's having a hard enough time as it is playing in the Big East as a freshman. I don't think moving him would help. Besides, he's an attacker and best with the dribble-drive. Posting him up is just a completely different deal.


And let me answer one final e-mail from Darrell, who writes he's been a UC fan since 1971 and obviously is quite upset. The gist of the e-mail is that Cronin should be fired, and it's basically, the same kind of sentiment found on many of the message boards lately. I don't need to run down the points Darrell makes, because I'm sure you've read them all before.


Here's my take on Cronin and whether he deserves the chance to coach a fifth year. Everybody seems to forget the predictions that were made when Cronin took over before the 2006-2007 season. I know I told this to whoever was interviewing me, whenever fans asked me. We all said the program wouldn't fully recover for five years minimum. That's how long we all predicted this program would take to stock itself with Big East talent and with players who could understand and could execute the system Cronin put in place. Well, it's still only year No. 4 of the Cronin era. Mike Thomas doesn't spend much time in the spotlight - and I'm not sure how or if he's answering these angry e-mails that angry fans say they're sending him - but he strikes me as a guy who remembers the predicament this program was in after Andy Kennedy left. He uses long-term analysis in his decision-making.


You have to remember who played center for the Bearcats in Cronin's first year to understand what I'm saying: yep, it was Marcus Sikes. Which means Cronin, in his first year, basically had nothing but a scholarship player in Cedric McGowan and some JUCO players who wereat the bottom of the barrel and unsigned for a variety of reasons. Plus, the immortal (and scribe favorite) Ron Allen.


Now, it's completely fair, I think, to judge the progress of the players who have been in Cronin's system these past few years. Fans are doing that, as well. But to expect Cronin to turn around the program so quickly (and there were people who were calling for Mick's head in Year 2) was simply unrealistic, especially in the Big East.


So yes, I believe Cronin deserves his fifth year. After all, we all said it'd take at least that long in the first place.


FYI, I've got more than enough questions to satisfy another Mailbag, most of which will focus on the football team. But if you disagree with anything I just wrote, let me know. I like the conversation we've got going. Hit me back at

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