Media availability yesterday was with coach, Cashmere Wright and Yancy Gates. (You can watch the full video of Mick Cronin here and the players here) Of course, Gates' phone has been blowing up since his big shot against St. John's. It's great to see him reap some of the rewards of all the hard work (and junk he's had to put up) over the past few years.
Gates dunked the game-winner last year against Notre Dame, but that was more a Deonta Vaughn creation. This was all Gates. He openly embraced being handed the rock in that situation, which is good because it's highly likely to occur again.
I would say how much I enjoy Yancy Gates -- and I do -- but there really isn't anybody on this team that isn't extremely likable. I think Mick Cronin feels the same way and that's part of why he enjoys coaching this bunch as much as he does.
--- Speaking of likable kids, there are few more fun to chat with than Biggie McClain. I have a story that will run this afternoon on Biggie, so we chatted for about 10 minutes yesterday. Some of the fun details weren't able to fit into the story, but I don't want them to stay buried on my notebook, so I'll allow some Biggie speak as a teaser to today's story.
I had heard Biggie partially recieved his nickname from a likeness to deceased rapper the Notorious BIG, also known as Biggie Smalls. When I asked him about that, he gave a pretty funny anecdote.
McClain, a New Jersey native, took a visit to Rutgers during his recruitment and some people associated with the Scarlet Knights put together a a photo with Biggie's face with a crown on it, ala a CD cover featuring the rapper.
Settling once and for all exactly how the Biggie nickname came about, he said:
"Actually, Biggie came from -- I had a real chubby face. My high school coach, we were driving one day and we were listening to Biggie Smalls, so I was rapping and doing all that, he said I'm going to start calling you Biggie Talls. Then they started calling me Biggie. It just stuck with me. Ever since I was 15 that is what everybody has been calling me."
McClain went on to add he cannot rap. Or at least he wasn't willing to bust a freestyle for me.
Also, when I asked how much he gets noticed at 7-foot-1, 290 pounds walking around campus he claims people don't really know who everyone is if they aren't together.
"It's funny how, they see one of us I feel like they don't really know us because one day I will be walking around and get called Thomas or Yancy."
Finally, when I asked Cronin if he was going to start drawing up some plays to get Biggie some open 15 footers like the one he surprisingly buried against St. John's, he offered this response :
"He'll brag to you, if you get him in here," Cronin said. "Our shooting drills, he does great. We have one drill where he doesn't have to move. If he can just stand and shoot from 15 feet he can shoot with anybody. Don't play him in HORSE. He can just stand there at 15 feet. He'll beat you. Obviously, for him its hard to get his feet set. That is his biggest challenge. If you have to move him into the shot his percentage drops a bit to say the least."
Again, look for the full Biggie story this afternoon.
--- I also asked Cronin about the offensive struggles lately of Rashad Bishop. Earlier in the season, Bishop went on runs where he couldn't miss. It appared his offense would be the difference between last year and this season.
Unfortunately, his percentages have dipped lately -- as have most everyone else's, in his defense.
Since the Miami game, Bishop is 20 of 74 from the floor for 27.7 percent.
Prior to the Miami game, Bishop was 32 of 60, good for 51 percent from the floor.
In seven conference games, Bishop is hitting 20 percent from 3-point range and 26 percent on field goals. The 26 percent is the lowest number on the team over the span.
Obviously, the significant rise in competition deserves much of the blame, but Cronin also believes Bishop needs to stop settling for so many pull-up jumpers.
"With me, I just worry about shot selection. He had a couple questionable ones. The other thing with Rashad, a couple times inside the line he had a chance to try to get fouled, instead he was shooting over the defense or contorting his shot. For a guy who has missed three free throws the entire season, he's got to do a better job when he is on the attack of getting fouled. He is not the only one, but we have to drive and create when we are guarded. That is what great players do.
"I think a product of him not making shots, if you look all our shooting percentages have gone down is because we are not getting as open of shots as we were early in the season. Now, the competition has changed so its harder to get those open shots so we got to do a better job of execution and decision making. Basically creating for each other off the dribble.You got to have guys break the defense down and get each other shots. Rashad's field goal percentage going down is a byproduct of that."
--- UC dropped out of the AP Top 25. They fell one spot to No. 26. They sit one spot behind Michigan State, who have lost 3 of 5. Granted, all their losses have come against Top 25 opponents and Penn State, but how long do you vote on past history instead of recent history?
--- Scott Springer talks about life on the road in the Big East. UC's numbers are pretty consistent with the rest of the league away from home. Very few teams win, however.....
--- No. 14 Notre Dame's 56-51 win at No. 2 Pitt may be the most surprising score I've seen all season. Going to the The Peterson Events Center is not a winning proposition. The Panthers captured 20 in a row there. And I'll say it again, they are 9-0 there against Top 5 teams, including 2-0 this season.
They just stuck it to Syracuse and Notre Dame has been undeniably horrid away from South Bend. Yet, the Irish and Ben Hansbrough handed the Panthers their first Big East loss. And they didn't even need 60 points to do it. Remarkable.
--- You can draw some serious parallels to UC in this debate over how Tom Crean is performing in the rebuilding project at Indiana.
--- Bad news for West Virginia, great news for the Bearcats. Bob Huggins indefinitely suspended the Mountaineers' leading scorer, Casey MItchell (16.6 ppg).
WVU comes to Fifth Third on Saturday with eight healthy scholarship players.
--- Bearcats Blog looks into the crystal ball at the rest of the season.
--- On to some randomness...
--- Does AAA have a blowtorch division?
--- This should really help our international image.
--- Fugitive monkey crisis averted!
--- Interviews with Patton Oswalt always receive two thumbs up from The Breakfast. If you haven't seen the documentary Comedians of Comedy, I highly recommend renting it.