At most holiday households, there's a ritual the youth must go through in November and December. It starts around Thanksgiving and goes through Christmas.
It involves graduating from the "little table" to longer, more elaborate table of distinguished (well, some) adults. It comes with the passage of time and it signifies the acknowledgment of your maturity.
For UC men's basketball, after youthful feasts in November and December of several hyphenated directional "appetizers", they've been signaled in to the "big boy table". It's called, the Big East.
At this writing, seven Big East school are ranked in the Top 25 (Connecticut, Syracuse, Pitt, Villanova, Georgetown, Notre Dame and Louisville). West Virginia and the Bearcats are among the schools receiving votes in the poll.
After an unblemished beginning, Mick Cronin's Bearcats are ready to go from off-Broadway to the difficult league that culminates near Broadway in a tournament at Madison Square Garden.
"Time to handle business now," said New Yorker Sean Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick was denied the chance to play at "The Garden" due to being redshirted in favor of fellow New Yorker Lance Stephenson. Still, Sean knows the extreme competitiveness of the league as he had a front row seat all last season.
"Everyone in the Big East plays defense," said Kilpatrick. "I can tell from the experience of watching, the play extremely hard. If we don't rebound and if we don't execute offensively, everything isn't going to come easy."
Early on, most everything has come easy as UC has only been remotely tested by IPFW (six) and Wright State (eight). Every other game has been a double-digit win, including a 34-point white-washing of the team that eliminated them in the NIT last March, the Dayton Flyers.
"It was a good test because it showed where everyone was and how everything was going with our season," said Kilpatrick of the pre-conference games. "We're ready for the Big East."
A year ago, it appeared UC was also ready for the league, even though they did have three losses at this point (Gonzaga, Xavier, UAB). The Bearcats opened with back-to-back Big East wins over Connecticut and Rutgers, but then eventually struggled in the college basketball's virtual minefield finishing 5-11.
Despite the loss of scorers Deonta Vaughn and Stephenson, many feel better about this particular team. That includes one of the current players.
"I feel better about this team because I see a lot of maturity," said Larry Davis. "When we went to Miami (OH) and got down, we didn't start arguing, we didn't start crying or getting down on ourselves. We just held our composure and came back as a team."
Davis is a senior who has the ability to score and knock down shots like Kilpatrick, but has bought in to Coach Cronin's sharing philosophy this season.
"It's fun to score like that, but us on the side, when we come in, we love playing defense," said Davis. "Me and him (Kilpatrick) we talk everyday--'let's play defense, let's play hard, let's not let the other team get this', when we come out with a 'W', it doesn't matter who scores."
The unselfishness is almost contagious.
"It doesn't really matter about the minutes," said Kilpatrick. "As long as we're winning, we're fine. We don't care about who's playing what and how many minutes someone's playing. Whoever's hot that night--that's who we give it to."
"I think that's where we've matured at, in that area," added Davis.
Cupcakes or not, the Bearcats are not all that far away from the magical number of 20. Given their capacity to play a lot of guys and their fairly balanced scoring, it's certainly not far-fetched to think those victories will be reached (and then some).
Having watched some Big East teams already, UC doesn't seem to in awe of anyone. A few years back, that might not have been the case.
"We watched Pitt and we've seen how hard they play," said Kilpatrick. "I feel if we can match the intensity, which most likely we will, we should have no issues in the Big East."
Larry Davis has it all mapped out....
"My expectations are to take everything we did in the first half of the season and take it to the second and the third halves of the season," said Davis.
Sure, there can only be two halves, but we're talking basketball, not fractions. Just play along and enjoy the fun.