I know this is the Bearcats blog, but it is impossible to start anywhere other than LeBron today. Actually, check that, it is impossible to start anywhere other than Dan Gilbert. Admittedly, like many Cincinnatians, my interest in the NBA ebbs and flows. But I do enjoy the NBA playoffs. I have called Cleveland my favorite NBA team only because LeBron was exciting to watch and I had some friends there.
Well, NOW Cleveland is my favorite team. Thank you, Dan Gilbert. I love every word of this letter where he calls LeBron out not just for leaving the team that has done nothing but appease his every wish since Day 1, but the manner in which he did so over the past month.
Epic. Here it is if you haven't read it. Not sure why he went with the font an 8-year-old would pick for a book report, but luckily the content overwhelms that failure.
Going through that letter I felt like Intense Double Rainbow Guy. (Epic, Part II -- if you haven't seen it, watch now) If you are watching that and have ever bobbed your head to a T-Pain song, well, enjoy.
OK, yeah, so, Bearcats....
--- ESPN Big East North Star Brian Bennett had a Q and A with Kerry Coombs. He talks about the differences between Brian Kelly and Butch Jones. He also talks about how much his attachment to the players currently on the roster played a role in turning down the Notre Dame gig. An attitude like Coombs' could be used more around college football, that is for sure.
All of that is in Part I of the interview, read it here.
In Part II, found here, Coombs talks about the youth in this year's secondary and his desire to stay at UC for the rest of his career in whatever capacity that entails. Not news, but reassuring to hear again for Bearcats fans.
Everyone at UC hopes Butch Jones stays for a long, long time. But if he doesn't, well, it's no secret that Coombs would one day be the ideal fit to lead this program.
-- Now to the main course of today's post. I was reading about the USA Basketball Select team that was annnounced yesterday and took a look at the roster. If you don't know, the team is a squad of rising juniors and seniors that play the US National Team during the four-day training period in July in Vegas.
There are only two Big East players on the team -- Scoop Jardine of Syracuse and Kemba Walker of UConn. The Big Ten had five, ACC four, SEC two, A-10 two.
I will continue to pound this line of thought until the opening tip of the season -- people want to harp on the fact UC lost its top two scorers in Lance Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn, but take a look around the league. Nearly everyone lost their top players.
The Big East star power was sapped by the NBA Draft and off-court issues.
Austin Freeman, Ashton Gibbs, Jeremy Hazell and DJ Kennedy are the only top scorers from their respective team's last year that will be back this season.
Does UC need a collection of its role players from last season to step into feature roles? Of course. Is that reason for concern? Absolutely not.
Take a look around.
Here's a list of players that won't be back with their teams and their average points per game.
UConn: Jerome Dyson 17.2 ppg, Stanley Robinson 14.5 ppg. (They do return Walker at 14.6)
-- Walker may be the best player in the league next season, but will have to do some heavy lifting to carry the scoring load vacated by Dyson and Robinson.
DePaul: Will Walker 16.2, Mac Koshwal 16.1
-- Does it really matter?
Georgetown: Greg Monroe 16.1 (They return two of top three with Austin Freeman 16.5 and Chris Wright 15.2 both back as seniors)
-- Freeman and Wright make GT significant, but that offense ran through Monroe's hands.
Louisville: Samardo Samuels 15.3, Edgar Sosa 13.1
-- Nobody returning that averaged double figures last year.
Marquette: Lazar Hayward 18.1. (Return next two in Jimmy Butler 14.7 and Darius Johnson-Odom 13.0)
-- Not a bad duo, but Hayward hit every big shot for MU last year, Bearcats fans are well aware of that fact. Still tough to believe a guy who was 0-for-10 buried that triple with a man in his face to tie the game in the final seconds.
Notre Dame: Luke Harangody 21.8. (Return next two in Tim Abromaitis 16.1 and Ben Hansbrough 12.0)
-- Let the Abromaitis era begin? I joke, but ND did play its best basketball without Harangody last year. But for the pupose of this exercise, yes, a significant loss.
Pittsburgh: Returning top three scorers in Ashton Gibbs 15.7, Brad Wanamaker 12.3, Gilbert Brown 10.7
-- There is a reason they are a consensus top 10 team and the prohibitive favorite in the league.
Providence: Jamine Peterson 19.6, Sharaud Curry 15.5
-- Peterson got booted from the team and Curry graduated, it's another major rebuild for the Friars.
Rutgers: Mike Rosario 16.7. (Return next two scorers in Gregory Echenique 12.6 and Jonathan Mitchell 11.8)
-- Echenique was injured and only played seven games last year and in nearly all of Rutgers' victories, Rosario tossed the team on his back.
Seton Hall: Returns all top three scorers in Jeremy Hazell 20.4, Jeff Robinson 12.2 and Herb Pope 11.5.
-- Sleeper team to make a run at a Big East title next season.
South Florida: Dominique Jones 21.4
-- Gus Gilchrist and Jarrid Famous will be back, but what does it matter without Jones? He was a first-round pick for a reason. Impossible to replace.
St. John's: Returns top three scorers in D.J. Kennedy 15.1, Dwight Hardy 10.5 and Paris Horne 9.2.
-- Like St. John's to be improved, but even with those players returning they are still a team UC should beat. And we can assume the Cats won't be taking them lightly this time around.
Syracuse: Wes Johnson 16.5, Andy Rautins 12.1
-- Cuse turns the keys over to Jardine, but not sure how you recover from the loss of those two talents.
Villanova: Scottie Reynolds 18.5
-- The announcement Corey Stokes would return was a relief for Jay Wright, but Reynolds was a first-team All-American.
West Virginia: Da'Sean Butler 17.2, Devan Ebanks 12.0 (Return Kevin Jones 13.2)
-- Butler was the heart and soul of the Mountaineers. A heart he ripped from the Bearcats nonetheless. Replacing those two is as difficult a task as any in this league, even with Jones in the fold.
The moral of this story is the UC fan base, particularly of late, tends to be so introspective about the concerns and frustrations of the team it fails to look around at the competitive landscape. The reality is you could make an argument 10 of the other 15 teams in the league suffered more devastating offensive departures than the Bearcats. Those that did not being Georgetown, Pitt, Seton Hall, St. John's and Marquette.
Don't think this is a claim that the Bearcats should be ranked in the top of the Big East preseason. You better believe I understand how losing the top two scorers from a team that already had problems putting the ball in the bucket makes a greater impact on their losses.
The only claim I make is for folks to take the blinders off and look around. Everyone in the Big East has scoring to replace. The majority of which are more significant departures than those of the Bearcats.