Turning The Page...Again

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The last time that Bob Huggins and the West Virginia Mountaineers came to town, I thought that Bearcat fans were ready to turn the page and fully get behind Mick Cronin.


If you think back to that night, it could not have gone more perfectly from the UC perspective.  Huggs was moved to tears by a pre-game video tribute and lengthy standing ovation, and every fan in attendance was given a sign that said, "Thanks Huggs."  Best of all, Cincinnati won the game 65-61, to improve to 18-10 overall and 8-7 in the Big East.  With five wins at that point over RPI Top 50 opponents, the Bearcats appeared to be in solid shape for making it to the NCAA tourney in Coach Cronin's third season.


That night on the radio post-game show, I asked Mick if he thought the game brought closure to the entire Huggins vs. Zimpher saga.


"No I don't, and I don't worry about it," Mick said that night.  "I think the answer to the whole situation is to just keep building our program.  The story will gradually be focused more and more around our team if we continue to recruit better players and become a better team."


I still think that night was a potential turning point, but we'll never know because of what transpired over the next two weeks.  With Mike Williams out with a knee injury, the Bearcats lost at Syracuse before blowing a five point halftime lead in a loss at USF.  Then with Williams back in the lineup for the regular season finale, UC squandered a 14-point lead at home and lost in overtime to Seton Hall.


It got worse.  With their confidence reeling, the Bearcats then lost in the Big East Tournament to a DePaul team that had gone 0-18 in league play during the regular season.


In just 12 days, Cincinnati had gone from the excitement generated from the West Virginia win to the lowest point of the Cronin era.


It was terrible four game stretch for his program, but Mick has done exactly what he said he would do that night:  Recruit better players and become a better team.


Wednesday's win over Rutgers lifted Cincinnati's record to 18-3 with a minimum of 11 games to go.  The Bearcats have climbed to 36th in the RPI ratings, 17th in the Sagarin ratings, and are currently projected to go to the NCAA tournament by every credible bracketologist including Joe Lunardi, Jerry Palm, and Sports Illustrated's Andy Glockner.


Seven of their remaining 10 regular season games are against RPI Top 35 teams, so nothing can be taken for granted, but the Bearcats have put themselves in a solid position to be dancing again in March.


A win over West Virginia (RPI #19) on Saturday would enhance UC's tournament resume, put the 'Cats a game-and-a-half ahead of the Mountaineers in the Big East standings, and Fifth Third Arena is officially sold out for the game.  I think a Cincinnati victory would have Bearcat fans feeling even more excited about the state of the program than they did the last time Huggs and the Mountaineers came to town.


This time, I hope that feeling will last.


I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com


If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard


And I have finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad. 


Speaking of young Sam, he'll be in attendance on Saturday night.  Enjoy this week's photo.

Sam with sled.jpg

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