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ROAD RAGE

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   Perhaps Mick Cronin should have one of the guys measure the foul line and the rim at some Big East venues, much like Coach Norman Dale did with Hickory High when they made to historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in "Hoosiers".

hinkle.jpg
(Courtesy "Hoosiers"/cleveland.com)


  Or, maybe he should come up with a "picket fence" play that worked so well for Dennis Hopper's character in the movie.

  Or, maybe he should keep some of his players in the locker room until halftime and let them out after that (as they seem to have more "giddy-up" after intermission).

  Rest assured, if I had the answers I'd be phoning Coach Cronin directly.

  What this season shows (as have other seasons) is the reason you need to "pad" your schedule with wins by New Year's Eve.  Big East road games are brutal and the likelihood of winning them is less than UC's shooting percentage on a bad night.

  As of this writing, the Bearcats historically have won just 10 of the 48 Big East road games they've played. (Andy Kennedy won two in his one year, with Mick's men taking the other eight).

  The most successful road seasons were '07-'08 and '08-'09 when the Bearcats were victorious in three of their nine each time.

  To no one's surprise, the road wins are tough to come by, just as the games after Jan. 1 get more intense.  Last year's team finished 19-16, but recorded just two Big East road wins (at Rutgers and at UConn).

  This year's squad (again, as this is written) is just three wins away from last year's total, but has had a rough 0-3 start in the league. The reasons are simple, and complex.

  "It's hard to beat these teams," said Cronin after the Notre Dame loss in South Bend. "When you get the ball within two feet, you've got to get the basket. At the end of the day, you've got to get some points if you're going to win in this game."

  Translation?

  The big guys aren't delivering on the road.

  Yancy Gates can have awesome, all-world games at times but still doesn't "power up" like a Big East big man typically does. At 6-9, 260, you shouldn't "fade away" from anything.

  On the bright side, I did see a glimmer of a hook shot the other night. Not that anyone will ever ask, but the hook shot is a lost art. I suppose it's too "old school" to be in vogue, but even for smaller players it can be effective because it's much tougher to block. (Heck, the late Pete Maravich even used it as a guard and he finished his college career with over 3600 points.)

  Then there's Ibrahima Thomas. Yet another would-be shooting guard trapped in a 6-11 frame. Plus, he collects fouls faster than Jim Burr (or your despised referee of choice) can tweet them up.

  Perhaps the future solution is Kelvin Gaines (who I'm told has the quick-twitch muscles much like Kenyon Martin used to have). At any rate, it's tough for the Bearcats to score if they're not more forceful in the paint.

  That area was not meant for finesse.

  "We've got to get to the foul line," said Cronin. "We have guys that are better players at times than what they're showing."

  I couldn't agree more.

  This team prided itself early on by sharing the ball and playing a lot of guys. However, not all of those guys are now pulling their weight and some tough decisions need to be made on who plays and who observes.

  From an offensive point of view, as I've stated in a previous column, Sean Kilpatrick tends to produce more often than not. Points per minute, it's tough to keep him on the bench. Not only can he get hot from the outside, he WILL take it to the hole and draw fouls.

  Rashad Bishop needs to assert himself as a senior. Sure, it might not be his personality, but he has just a handful of more times out of the gate in this rodeo. He's another guy that can draw fouls if he doesn't overthink the offense by passing up shots, or underthink it by chucking up random threes.

  Justin Jackson might as well play. If you're afraid of him fouling out, check the Ibrahima Thomas line the last few games. I think the others feed off Jackson's intensity too as he'd probably be "in your shorts" in a simple game of "HORSE".

  For Cashmere Wright, Dion Dixon and Larry Davis, I wish for short memories.  They all can hit shots and carry a team, but they often pull back after a few misses.  A conscience is a good thing, but not in basketball. The law of averages says the more shots on goal you have, the better chance you have of scoring.

  Finally, and Paul Dehner Jr. and Dan Hoard have covered this in their blogs, but it IS NOT a Big East road requirement that you get down 15 points before you realize, "Hey, these guys ain't bad here!"

  Mick used the quote and it applies to anything in life that you do.  "Cruise control" can kill you. Ask any highway patrolman. You push that button and you let down your guard and don't pay attention as much until you're about to crash.

  Ditto on the basketball floor.

  Although it was the first time this year that they didn't respond, putting on the '61 throwbacks does NOT make them a championship team.  And, there are no trophies for "First Half Of The Season Champions".

  Road games remain at St. John's, Pittsburgh, DePaul, Providence, Georgetown and Marquette. Based on empirical evidence you may say there's a couple of road wins in that mix. Based on realistic evidence, if they take any of those games for granted, they'll get another "L" hung on the record.

  "These are top 20 teams and we're on the road," said Cronin of UC's predicament. "They're hard games to win. You're going to have to play 40 minutes of great basketball."

  That's 20 minutes and then another 20 minutes. There's a 20 minute rest at halftime, not on periodic offensive sets and defensive lapses.

  There's not time for that. Those that aren't aware of their surroundings and aren't alert wind up roadkill.

  Ask that raccoon that darted out in the road. Timing is everything.

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