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Bearcats Breakfast 1.26.11

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Earlier this season Mick Cronin talked about how teams struggle so much to win on the road in the Big East, particularly early in the conference season. Then, as the season progresses, teams begin to figure it out and the numbers aren't quite so lopsided in favor of home teams.

It appears the worm is turning in the conference.

After the top 10 teams in the league opened the year 29-2 on their home court, over the last four days there have been five wins by road teams against the top 10. Those numbers include three in a row after Tuesday night's surprising scores.

Seton Hall dropped 90 points in the Dome to beat Syracuse and UConn only got 14 points from Kemba Walker but won at Marquette. (Sidenote: UConn's Jeremy Lamb -- 24 points last night -- becoming a player is the scariest thought for Big East teams right now)

Teams are figuring it out.  

This should raise an eyebrow with a Rutgers team coming to Fifth Third playing with a ton of confidence and coming off a road win of their own at Seton Hall.

The last midweek sandwich game between hostile contests was USF. UC won that one, but it was hardly a display of effort and beauty.

The Bearcats should win tonight. They will be favored. They have more talent. But Rutgers has all the ability in the world to pull off the upset if the Bearcats snooze. I'm not predicting defeat in the least, I'm only saying this game is much more dangerous than anyone thought it would be even a few weeks ago.

Let's eat....

--- Here's my story on Biggie McClain that posted yesterday afternoon. Of couse, I'll have a postgame column tonight and you can always follow me for constant UC updates, especially during the game, on Twitter. (@pauldehnerjr) Feel free to send any UC questions, comments or just point out my grammatical errors at pauldehnerjr@gmail.com.

--- One of the great aspects of journalism is how two people can write the same story, but tell two completely different ones. Bill Koch also had a Biggie story in today's Enquirer and took a different angle. Good stuff.

--- Bill also mentions in his blog that this will be the first game for new assistant Darren Savino against the Rutgers squad he left. Although, with the coaching change it isn't as big an advantage as you would hope.

--- Not surprisingly, Cronin has been very complementary of Rutgers this week. He said he goes back to watching them play at Villanova to see when the Scarlet Knights first appeared dangerous. They led 37-33 at halftime. They would eventually be outscored by 20 after the break, but Rutgers showed then they can compete with the best. And their win against Jeremy Hazell and the Hall sure looks better after the Pirates just slammed Syracuse.

"Probably if you were to ask me what team have I seen that is the most committed to details, little things, hustle, defensive position, screening, scrapping, everything a team with no ego at all would do, it is Rutgers," Cronin said. "After watching them all day today and this morning, they play with absolutely no ego. They may not have the most talent in the league, but of the teams I have seen they play with as big of heart as anybody in the league."

--- The No. 1 improvment Cronin and the fan base would like to see is from the offense. The numbers over the past five games are concerning. UC topped 61 points only once (scoring 74 vs. USF). Granted, the competition has been the most difficult of the season in that stretch, but the Cats need to learn how to create open looks against defenses geared to take them out of what they want to do.

Just running the offense won't cut it anymore. People know what UC wants to do and are planning accordingly. (See St. John's ball pressure in the passing lanes leading to 17 turnovers) Cronin believes his team needs to start creating more open shots for teammates by attacking off the dribble.

"Offensively, we have to improve and improve in a hurry," Cronin said. "You get away with certain things against lesser competition. You got to prepare to beat the best team on your schedule. Some of that stuff you don't figure out until you play a great team on the road like a Villanova or a Syracuse or Notre Dame."  

For Cashmere Wright, learning to run this offense against the best team on the schedule reverts back to confidence.

"If you can shoot, shoot the ball," Wright said. "Believe that you can hit the shot, don't question yourself on offense."

 

--- Look for Justin Jackson to soak up more of the minutes Ibrahima Thomas has left behind. Cronin praised Jackson's ability to finish in the lane, a trait the Bearcats have sorely needed and the reason Thomas moved to the bench at the start against St. John's.

--- Chad Brendel with an outlook of the Bearcats return home.

--- Brendan Prunty, a must-follow on Twitter for Big East hoops fans, has a UC-Rutgers outlook from the Bon Jovi perspective.

--- The media conglomerate that is The Daily Targum finds the parallels between Rutgers and what UC coach Mick Cronin took over in 2006. I think Cronin would probably debate a few of the comparisons. Namely, the presence of scholarship players.

--- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel broaches the possiblity USF might be keeping UCF from the Big East.

--- North Carolina and Michigan State are finalizing a deal to play on an aircraft carrier, outdoors in the San Diego Harbor next Veterans Day. Can we do more things like this, please?

--- Ohio State is pretty clearly the best team in college basketball. What a show last night. (Dana O'Neil alert)    

--- If you don't know the story of Kansas' Thomas Robinson, in particular his younger sister Jayla, you should read Gary Parrish's story. Heartbreaking.  

How about some randomness...

--- It's never an easy moment to handle when your stack of buttermilk pancakes arrive without syrup.

--- Fellow Seinfeld junkies: Enjoy this Jerry the Great mock movie trailer.  

--- Back when I was doing Ink of the Week, I think my ideal scenario would have been for one of the players to unveil a Back to the Future tattoo. Personally, I probably would have gone with 1.21 jigawatts.

--- If famous presidential quotes were about sports, from Sports Pickle. I think Teddy Roosevelt said it best. "Walk softly and carry a big stick. If that doesn't work, talking trash and taking steroids is a good option, too."

--- In honor of Rutgers coming to Fifth Third, The Boss, ladies and gentlemen:     

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