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Bearcats Breakfast 12.21.10

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I have to start by thanking all the readers who sent in emails yesterday for the ticket contest. The response was phenomenal and thorough.

The winner of the contest was an '09 UC Law Grad, Antonio. He'll be enjoying the game tonight with one of his UC classmates who is also a Miami grad. On behalf of the Bearcats fans who read this, I hope you strap a muzzle on your buddy.

Antonio was happy with the direction of the basketball program and actually optimistic about the football program as well, at least with what has occured since the year ended on the recruiting trail.

As for his concern, he expressed disapointment with the lack of attendance at 5/3. He was far from alone. That was one of the common themes that ran through all the emails. People were also concerned about the athletics budget while many of you gave Butch Jones the benefit of the doubt from Year 1. Plus a load of other info.   

I feel like yesterday we combed the desert of the UC fan base to see what we found.

And we found sh#@

Here are a few exerpts of what I thought were the more insightful reasons for optimism:

You have to start with the winner, right?

Antonio:

"It's the right mix of upperclassmen and younger players, with actual four-year program guys leading the way from Mick's first real recruiting class. While the non-conference schedule isn't doing the battle testing some would like, this team is battle tested from previous seasons. They should even do well in the Big East where they can and certainly should clean up against some of the bottom feeders, split with the middling teams, and steal a win or two from the top teams to finish with a winning record and thus lock up an NCAA berth. I think Bearcat Hoops fans have every right to be excited about this team's future. Bleacher seats at the top of the Shoe smelling like stale beer and burnt popcorn excited? I think so."

--- If you look at some of the struggles among those in the bottom of the Big East, there are some very winnable games on the Big East schedule -- particularly with the struggles of St. John's, DePaul, USF, Seton Hall (w/out Hazell) and Rutgers on the road (they're at UC this year). The Bearcats host all five of those. Now, with five teams in the top 10 right now, it's easy to see the flip side, but these are all games the Cats should be favored to win. After that, it's about winning the close ones.   

This from Christian:  

"The football program, while their season was not where we would want them to be, but Coach Jones will have them ready next year, just like he did with the Central Michigan teams after BK left.  The academic scores just came out for the football program and they are at a high point."

--- Great point about the academic scores, this last quarter was one of the best UC has had. The football team had 37 players over 3.5 GPA and 73 over a 2.5.  

This from Scott:

"And the most important reason is that with a win Tuesday night UC and the upcoming game vs. Xavier, UC will again hold the mythical Miami Valley Crown having already beaten Dayton and Wright State."

--- You can talk all you want about the NCAA tournament and Big East titles. There's nothing quite like the pride that stems from the mythical Miami Valley Crown.

The optimism outweighed the concerns in most of the emails I received, which isn't normally the case for a reporter's inbox. People love to complain to us. It's part of what makes us the miserable bastards we are -- or at least Geno Auriemma says we are.

Particularly after a 4-8 season, you would anticipate plenty of complaining, but those keeping tabs on the recruiting verbals (which I can't do here) have been very encouraged.

Of course, there are plenty of concerns.

Here are a few excerpts:

Back to Antonio:

"The Big East is ridiculous. Much more ridiculous than what the football team will face in the fall. Try to find a road win in these games: @Nova, @ND, @PITT, @GTOWN, @SYRACUSE. If all 5 of those are losses, and roadies @PROV and @MARQ are a split, that's already 6 losses. Then keep in mind they entertain LOU, GTOwN, WVU, and UCONN. It's not hard to envision 9 losses pretty quickly in the Big East."

--- It's part of the reason UC must win those home games mentioned earlier, but yes, the Big East is the most brutal grind in college basketball. It's why most everyone plays easy non-conference schedules this time of year. Seven teams in the Top 25 right now.  

From Christian:

"The reason to be concerned is money. How is UC going to continue to compete with programs like TCU and other Big East programs when we continue to spend fewer dollars on the program?  How will the University work to fill the gap in funds, and how will they continue to to fulfill the demand of the fans?"

--- The numbers spent on football by UC is near the bottom of the Big East and the bottom of all the BCS schools. It's a battle this athletic department will face. The budgets across the sports board are tighter here than many other schools across the country. They'll rely on being smarter than everyone else because it would be unrealistic to think they will win by outspending a school like TCU on football.

From Ryan:

"Fan Support..... Plain and simple, its awful. I sat through the Huggins years and I know how great it is to be a part of a sold-out Shoemaker Center. We now have a winning team on the floor and we are averaging 4-5k per game??? Granted Cincinnati is a fair-weather town, but to sit in the lower level and still see empty seats makes me realize how far we have fallen."

Similar sentiments from Mark

"The thing that concerns me the most is that football fans seemed to have fallen off the bandwagon after two years as Big East champs and the basketball die hards that have carried the university for years, have not returned 5 years after Huggins has left.  If you want to be considered a powerhouse and be not be taken lightly, you must have a following."    

--- This conundrum is one of the more frustrating elements of the program right now for everybody involved -- and outside the program judgin by the emails. It's been a hot topic of conversation here and across the other sports mediums in town. At the bottom line of wondering what it will take to bring the fans back is winning. And UC is doing that right now. They appear to be on the right track. If UC goes out and wins enough Big East games to make the NCAA tournament and become a player in the toughest conference in the country, the fans will return. A few years of consistent winning and it will be back to the Huggins era. The answer to this problem goes into deeper and more copmlicated corners than that, but it's unfortunately where the program is at right now.

--- I want to thank everybody for their responses and I only wish I had more tickets to give away to tonight's game at Millett Hall.  

--- Those of you who didn't win the free tickets should look into the UC ticket deal they have going on between now and midnight Christmas Eve. This is as good a deal as you will find across the Big East. They are selling tickets to every game on the rest of the schedule except Xavier and West Virginia for $15.

Here's the link on how to acquire them. Just type SANTA as the password.

--- As another reminder, tonight's game is on SportstimeOhio at 7 p.m. Here's a link to their channel depending on where you live. (h/t TommyG)

--- This will be UC's first trip to Millett Hall since 1993. The reason they are going to Oxford is this is part of a two-for-one series. Mick Cronin talked yesterday about how he wouldn't play these types of series if he didn't have to, but it's an unfortunate part of the budget right now.

UC pays Miami for both its trips to UC, but cancels out one of those payments with the return trip. Those with expansive budgets in hoops rarely do these. Specifically because it's a losing proposition to go into another team's gym and pull out a win, particularly one with any talent.

Take a look at what Miami has done at home compared to on the road this year.

Road: @ DUKE, @OSU, @Dayton, @Wright St. -- all double-digit losses.

Home: Towson (W), IUPUI (W), Green Bay (L), SDiego St. (L), Xavier (W), Savannah St. (W), Troy (W).

They've won three in a row at home and almost looked like a different team in Millett Hall. Tonight will hardly be a pushover, rarely is with Charlie Coles teams.

Bill Koch writes about that very fact in today's Enquirer.

--- UC still couldn't break into the Top 25. Actually, in the Coaches Poll they went from three votes to just one.

In the AP poll they moved up from 5 to 14 votes.

I still hold my prediction that if they continue to win, they will crack the first Top 25 poll of 2011.

There are nine undefeated teams in the country right now, seven are ranked. UC and Northwestern are not.  

--- Tommy G was told here are some of the stores that have the UC Throwbacks right now: Cardboard Heroes, DuBois, Koch's, Team Town, & Kuhl's Hot Sport Spot.

--- Coles is one of the gems of college basketball. I've expressed how much I love listening to Coles pressers on a daily basis. Mick Cronin said he wishes he could be as colorful as Coles, but sometimes humor and sarcasm are misconstrued by the media and lost in translation to fans. Then it backfires.

"Charlie doesn't have to be politically correct," Cronin said.

That's what makes him fun to watch. Here was his glorious response after the Miami-UK game last season where John Wall hit a buzzer-beater on him. One of many. We'll have the complete Charlie Coles comedy hour on the blog tomorrow.

--- Coles says he's just hoping to put on a good show with the Bearcats in town.

--- Chad Brendel writes about the challenge Miami presents.

--- Memphis nearly lost to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last night. Florida lost to the Jacksonville U. Dolphins at home.

Anybody want to bury those teams or continue to give UC no credit for beating up on inferior opponents?

--- Andy Glockner wins the prize of first person this season to publish a look at the NCAA bracket. He has UC in the mix, but calls them this year's Virginia Tech.

--- UC beat Bradley in seven overtimes on this day in 1981.

--- On to some randomness...

--- For new WXIX meteorologist Katy Morgan, she should know there's no better way to be welcomed to town. 

--- Eli Manning was pretty lonely for his postgame press conference after the Giants loss to the Eagles. Four TD passes doesn't get you what it used to.

--- If you are with a women and this is revealed, do you walk out? It should at least worth debating.

--- Thank goodness Blake Griffin doesn't still play for Oklahoma. I could watch him all day.

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