February 2011 Archives

College basketball teeters between funny and maddening this time of year. This year, in particular, the funny are Charlie Sheen interview level funny and the maddening are U.S. Government level maddening.

The line that comes to my mind (and gives you an unfortunate glimpse into the way my brain works) is from that old MTV show Diary: You think you know, but you have no idea...this is the diary of the 2010-11 college basketball season.

Look no further than the top of the college basketball rankings where of the teams in last week's AP Top 10, each team except BYU and Purdue lost at least once in the last two weeks. No. 4 Pittsburgh, No. 5 Texas and No. 10 Arizona have all lost twice.

Can anybody make sense of this?

The Bearcats are not immune. Over the past 10 games their result has been the opposite of the for-entertainment-use-only Vegas favorite/underdog prediction five times (winning twice @St.John's, @Georgetown and losing three times vs UConn, vs St. John's, vs WVU).

For the record, Vegas doesn't miss often. They have a city full of high-rise casinos to prove it. For what would be considered a surprising result by public opinion to happen half the time is pretty surreal.

While we want to sit here analyze, complain and blame any number of factors inside Fifth Third Arena, perhaps "don't hate the player, hate the game" should be brought out of the archives. (Just this once, please, it's covered in dust in the storage room under "You go girl" where it belongs) 

Before we go turning on the Bearcats, know these disappointing results are happening all over the college basketball landscape. It's a big reason why despite the Bearcats ups and downs they are still in the tournament by all bracket projections on the Internet. (Tip: That's a lot) And, according to the Bracket Matrix, only one slotted them lower than a 10 seed.

Also, by almost all sources, one win in the last two games or a few in the Big East tourney and you can lock it up. Sunday's loss was tough to swallow, but nobody will care anymore with a win at Marquette on Wednesday.

--- The final attendance number on Sunday was 11,246. The Bearcats probably would have been happy with 11,245 if one fan didn't rile up Kemba Walker. He was making comments about Chris Paul makes those jumpers and taunting with D-League references.

Kemba heard it and got angry. He reeled off UConn's next seven points during the decisive run that put the Bearcats away.

The AP's Joe Kay documented the storyline.

--- The undeniable story to come out of Sunday's loss was Mick Cronin's disappointment in guards Cashmere Wright and Dion Dixon. Wright in particular was enjoying his finest run of games as a Bearcat and Dixon seemed to be rebounding from a slump as well. Both chose a bad time to take a game off.

Paul Daugherty wrote a column about it.

---  Dan Hoard talked about effort and Cronin says he told his team in the locker room he would be talking to the media about the guards lack of effort because it was true.

Cronin also made an interesting point to Dan that he was disappointed in himself because he saw this effort coming in practice the last two days and couldn't figure out a way to stop it.

"It's my fault.  I'm the coach so I've got to get these guys ready to play.  I went off in practice yesterday because I knew they weren't ready.  We were too laissez-faire and had too lax of an attitude.  As soon as you think that guys know how hard they have to compete, they come out like this today.  I failed because I did everything I could to try to send the message that we were in for a war."  

--- I put together this story about the disappointment in the effort as well and how dealing with success is the one hurdle in the rebuilding process the Bearcats are yet to leap over.  

--- Along the lines of Cronin not being happy with the practices this week, when asked about Ibrahima Thomas, who only played eight minutes, the coach inferred it was a direct result of the last few days.

"I play the guys that I think are ready to play," Cronin said. "Over the last two practices and prior game, basically off the last two practices."

--- Rashad Bishop went to the locker room early in the second half when he got kicked in the toe, according to Cronin.

Bishop returned to the game, but was hobbled and only played eight second-half minutes. It was a big blow to the Bearcats Sunday, but Cronin was concerned about how long it would affect them.

"He was the one guy bringing some toughness to us. My biggest concern right now is finding out how big his toe is."

--- UConn entered the game as the 13th-ranked 3-point shooting team in the league during conference play. Yet, they drained 55 percent Sunday.

Cronin said those numbers were in many ways self-imposed.

"It's not like they made tough ones. I give their guys credit. Dion Dixon just leaves Shabazz Napier. We are just sleeping on the weak side. No excuse at all." 


UC entered 12th in the Big East during conference play, but only made 23 percent, including a banked in Darnell Wilks triple at the buzzer.

It was UC's worst 3-point shooting performance since hitting 15 percent against Pitt six games ago and first time under 33 percent in that span.

--- Larry Davis' 3-point slump continued as he missed both 3-point shots. Over the first two months of the season he was the one consistent UC player from downtown. Unfortunately, he's 3 for his last 23 from 3-point range since the West Virginia game. The last made triple came against St. John's.

--- On the bright(er) side, Yancy Gates production over the past four games continued. Though, this was sort of the anti-Louisville game for me. He finishes with a nice line of 14 points, 8 rebounds, but sort of lucked into some numbers. Against U of L, his numbers were pedestrian, but he made a number of noticeable effort plays that made a difference.

Regardless, he's averaging 15 and 8 since the St. John's debacle which will be mighty fine with the coaching staff.

--- As for the future, Marquette turned the same corner UC did, it seems. In desperate need of wins to save their NCAA chances, they came through with a win at UConn and home pounding of Providence.

While both teams may have already done enough to get in, the winner will avoid any sweat on Selection Sunday and loser could have the unenviable task of needing wins at what has the makings to be the most absurd Big East tournament we've seen.

--- Cronin held a long meeting with the players after the game. They didn't show up for postgame interviews until about an hour and half after Cronin walked off the stage.

Yancy Gates said this about the meeting:

"Coach was talking about a lot of different things. Everybody is kind of disappointed in our overall play. It's not how we've been playing."

--- Stat of the day: UC's 17 turnovers. The number tied a season high set in the first meeting against St. John's. About half of those came within three feet of the rim with players slapping at the basketball.

--- Quote of the day: Mick Cronin on UC struggling all season in noon games and how he can fix that.

"I don't think it's legal to pass out Ambien." 

Cincinnati's 67-59 loss to Connecticut shows the process of rebuilding the program still needs to overcome the complacency of dealing with success. 


CINCINNATI - Cashmere Wright spent the last three games diving on the floor for steals, draining 3-pointers and running the Bearcats offense with the precision of a Peyton Manning two-minute drill.


Dion Dixon spent the last three games rediscovering his offense, attacking the hoop with renewed confidence and providing a much needed perimeter presence.


Justin Jackson spent the last three games making the Bearcats base forget last year he was attending prom and grinding through the Florida state playoffs.


To see them combine for 14 points and 10 turnovers Sunday could certainly be called surprising. Mick Cronin chose a different word.


"Disappointing," he said during the postgame press conference in between shaking his head and rubbing his hand across his forehead.


This Cincinnati team whose NCAA hopes were rebuilt on the foundation of 40 relentless minutes of pressure pulled the foot off the gas Sunday. Consequently, their drive to the Big Dance hit a speed bump.


Every game teaches a lesson. Sunday, the Bearcats taught us a lesson we already knew, a lesson they already knew: They aren't good enough to win in this league with less than full effort.


Sloppy passes, lazy outlets and failing to fall back in transition after a bucket doesn't cut it in Big East play. That's where the disappointment comes from for Cronin.


"We did not come with the mentality of fighting and scrapping today," Cronin said. "We had some guys that looked like they would rather be at the Kenwood Towne Centre."


Waiting in the back of a snaking line at FYE would probably have been less frustrating for the coach.


The Bearcats came a long way over the past few years. Learning to deal with success represents the final stage of a program rebuild. It's no secret how this team plays with its back against the wall. Two wins against Top 25 teams in the last two weeks tell that story. They looked like one of the elite teams in the country's elite conference.


Sunday answered a popular question making the rounds since the Georgetown victory: Is Cincinnati rebuilt?


Not yet.


"Much is talked about Mick Cronin has he built the program, let's talk about the kids, the effort of what they have fought through," Cronin said. "What they have dealt with all the surrounding stuff around Cincinnati basketball...to get this program back to the point we are 22-7 and in position we are in on February 27. Why would you relax now?"


Cronin didn't know the answer to his own question. Sometimes dealing with 20-year-olds can be confounding. Battling human nature can be as difficult as battling Kemba Walker. UC provided breathing room for itself by winning in D.C. Only one problem, that doesn't mean they can breathe. In this conference, it will expose you.


And in the Bearcats current situation, it exposes their resume. Now a game awaits at a Marquette team already playing with its tournament hopes in the balance and rematch with a Georgetown team sure to take Cincinnati more seriously the second time around.


An inability to scrap and claw for those contests and the Bearcats become a topic of bubble discussion inside the board room in Indianapolis.


Sunday was an opportunity to keep their name out of conversation. Instead, they learned another tough lesson.


"I've been saying that all year, some of our guys, in particular Cash Wright and Dion Dixon, they are great kids, they are not easy to coach," Cronin said. "They can really at times dial it down."


Some days shots won't fall. UC made 4 of 17 from 3-point range Sunday.


Some days opponents' role players will contribute above their standard. Freshmen Jeremy Lamb and Roscoe Smith combined for 28 points, they average 15.


Some days, injuries will occur. Rashad Bishop hurt his toe at the beginning of the second half and it limited him to eight minutes after the break.


On those days, toughness and urgency most make up the difference. Finding that on a consistent basis continues to be most confounding obstacle for this group. Cronin inferred a vocal, undeniable leader might be lacking right now.


Bishop has been providing that more than any other Bearcats player. In Cronin's mind, he was the only one providing it Sunday. When he went down, nobody was available to take his place.


"Coaches talk about having a Kenyon Martin, a leader," Cronin said. "When you have that kind of guy, they may not win the game but that kind of guy that will make sure you are ready. No doubt, any chance we had to win went out the window when (Bishop) went to the locker room with the injury."


The good news is the Bearcats back is again placed firmly against the wall. The bad news is the Bearcats back is again placed firmly against the wall.


Following Sunday's missed opportunity, the margin for error is that much smaller.


The loss was not fatal for their postseason expectations. It was just disappointing.

In This Case, The Cliché Rings True

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It's my fault.  I'm the coach so I've got to get these guys ready to play.  I went off in practice yesterday because I knew they weren't ready.  We were too laissez-faire and had too lax of an attitude.  As soon as you think that guys know how hard they have to compete, they come out like this today.  I failed because I did everything I could to try to send the message that we were in for a war.

--Mick Cronin following Sunday's 67-59 loss to Connecticut.


I'll be honest with you.  Normally when a player or coach says "we didn't play hard enough" or "we didn't want it enough" in a post-game interview, I don't put too much stock in it.


For one thing, that's what the players almost always say - especially when they are in high school or college.  At that age, they often aren't capable of articulating why they failed in the immediate aftermath of a loss.


Additionally, if you think back to your own athletic career (which takes a really good memory in my case), when you lost it probably wasn't because you lacked desire, it was because the other guy - or girl - was either more talented or simply performed better than you did.


But I think Coach Cronin's comments were on the mark after the UConn loss because the mistakes that cost Cincinnati the game showed a lack of physical and mental toughness.


Let's start with the Bearcats' 17 turnovers.  It's not like they came against a team that forced them with a frenetic full-court press.  UC's big men were responsible for nine of the turnovers as they frequently allowed smaller and scrappier Connecticut players to slap the ball out of their hands.


"Our turnovers were ridiculous," Cronin said.  "We had at least eight turnovers that came three feet from the basket.  You can't win that way.  You've got to go up and score or get fouled.  We did a horrendous job offensively in this game.  Their slap-downs killed us.  We had the ball point-blank in front of the rim where they took the ball away from us."


Cincinnati's guards committed the other eight turnovers, and the quartet of Cashmere Wright, Larry Davis, Dion Dixon, and Sean Kilpatrick shot a combined 8-for-27 (30%) from the floor and 2-for-12 (17%) from outside the arc.


"Our guard play was as bad as I've ever seen," Coach Cronin said.  "You cannot win when your guards were as bad as our guards were today and I told them in the locker room that I was going to say it out here because there is no excuse for it.  That's how they were in practice and you're not going to win that way.  You can talk X's and O's all you want - UConn's guards totally outplayed our guards."


Certainly Connecticut deserves some credit.  Especially when you consider that a team that entered the game ranked 12th in the Big East in three-point shooting at 34% was able to knock down 10-of-19 shots (53%) from outside the arc.  But even that was partly due to sloppy play on defense.    


"We left guys for no reason," Coach Cronin told me.  "Our game plan was to pressure their freshman and they hit eight threes.  Their freshmen were on the road and we were supposed to be getting into those guys.  We just didn't do it."


With the loss, Cincinnati fell to 22-7 overall, 9-7 in the Big East, and into a five-way tie for 7th place in the league standings.  The Bearcats final two regular season games are at Marquette on Wednesday and at home against Georgetown on Saturday.  The Hoyas will not have injured point guard Chris Wright, but will have a full week to prepare.


Each of those games will be tough to win - and "tough" is exactly what the Bearcats need to be.


"We've got some guys that didn't display a whole lot of toughness today which is why I'm so upset," Coach Cronin said.  "There has to be a point where you go forward as a group and seize the moment.  As a college coach, it's part of your job to get your guys to show up every day.  You can't take days off.  We're obviously not there yet."


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've finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.


Hope to see you at the Mick Cronin radio show on Monday night from 8-9 pm at the Original Montgomery Inn. 

Thanks for the Memories

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Wow, where did the season go? Seems like it was just last week when we were watching UC and NKU in a tough exhibition contest, and now we're closing the home schedule Monday night.


The end of the home season also means that we say goodbye to the team's seniors, Shareese Ulis and Shelly Bellman. These two have experienced just about everything during their time in the program, and while on Senior Night we honor their accomplishments by rattling off their career stats and highlights, these players are much more than the numbers they've amassed.


Shareese has been in Clifton only two seasons but in that time has certainly made an impact. Playing on what Coach Jamelle Elliott calls "70 year old knees," Shareese has fought through surgeries and chronic pain to play just about every minute of every game she's been here. Along the way she, more often than not, is the leading scorer in Bearcat games and has an impressive three-point percentage to boot. She has overcome more than her share to be a Bearcat, and she'll graduate this spring to what she hopes will be a career in coaching. She stepped in to be the floor leader that Coach Elliott needed when Coach took over the Bearcat job, and Shareese has proven that the decision was a correct one.


Shelly, on the other hand, is the rarest of players-the sixth year student-athlete. (And yes, rarer still, this is her second senior night.) But her story goes beyond one evening of acknowledgements. Full disclosure here, Shelly was an intern for us at Game Day Communications last year, but I first saw Shelly play as a freshman for the Bearcats. I was immediately impressed with her passion for the game and her hustle on the court. Even as a first-year player she didn't hesitate to get in the huddle and challenge her teammates.


Injuries cut her time on the floor, but at the same time extended her years with the Bearcats. And yes, she thought she was done last season but was granted the sixth year injury exemption because, as she put it, she wanted the chance to play for Coach Elliott, her third head coach in her six seasons here. You couldn't blame her if she had just packed up her things after five years and drove away. Instead, she stayed for another season and, in the process, became a mentor for this tremendous crop of Bearcat freshmen. She shows by example and hard work how to do it the Bearcat way.


So we have one last chance to show these seniors how much we appreciate their contributions to the University of Cincinnati. Whether you're a season ticket holder, a UC alum, a fan, friend or classmate, come out Monday night to Fifth Third Arena and give them the standing ovation they deserve. It's the least we can do to say "Thanks."

Cats fight through losses

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Despite a current 12-game losing streak, Cincinnati isn't calling it quits with two games remaining before its conference tournament.


After winning at South Florida in its second game of league play, UC is in the cellar of the league with one win.


The Big East is arguably the best league in the nation with five teams in the AP top-25. 


This hasn't kept the Bearcats from fighting, on Tuesday they played with poise and an offensive spark that had been missing in conference action.


In the first half freshman Kayla Cook used a pump fake to lose her defender. Bjonee Reaves' man then switched to Cook leaving Reaves with an open 3-pointer that she nailed providing UC with its largest lead of the game 30-11.


They took Syracuse (20-7, Big East 8-6) to the wire before falling by two. 


"At the end of the day, I'm proud of my team," said Cincinnati head coach Jamelle Elliott. "My team showed me that we are capable of being a good team today. We executed our game plan to a T."


This came after Elliott said her team didn't have the talent to compete in the league in a press conference following a loss to Providence on Saturday.


The Bearcats shot 47.8 percent from the field and 60 percent from distance in the opening half, in a season littered with poor shooting nights.


"I feel like this is a game we're going to build off," Cook said.


Shareese Ulis reinforced that this effort could serve as a second wind for her team.


"It definitely [gives] us confidence moving forward because this is the team we started off being," Shareese Ulis said. "The games that we played earlier in the season we came out and competed for 40 minutes and we stayed around with teams that were ranked top-5 in the nation."


Ulis was referring to the 8-point defeat against No. 4 Xavier on December 12, 2010, as they showed their potential. The Bearcats hit 41.5 percent of their field goals.


Ulis also scored at least 20 points on both occasions.


This contest marked the second time in six games that UC's leading scorer has hit double digits.


"[Ulis] had a little bit of a bounce in her step today," Elliott. "One of the things I told her after the game was 'look it doesn't matter how you play from here on out. The way you played today that's how I'm going to remember you.' That's the image in my head that I'm going to remember the kid by. If she has three or four more games like that in her then that'd be great too. It was great for her at least as her career is closing to have one more of these games in her."


It is evident that Ulis hasn't been 100 percent healthy this season. She hasn't participated in practice recently due to sore knees, but clearly UC can match up with quality teams when Ulis develops a rhythm and her team shoots well.


One thing that the Bearcats have consistently done this year is fight for every loose ball and maximized their effort.   


In one instance Tuesday, Jeanise Randolph hustled for a ball heading out of bounds by diving over the team bench. This squad hardly has the resemblance of team in the midst of a slew of losses.  


"At the end of the day I'm proud of my team," Elliott said.


The most positive emergence for Cincinnati this year has been freshman Randolph. The rookie netted a combined 31 points in two games prior to Syracuse.


The forward is second on the team in rebounding at 5.5 a game and has recorded two double-doubles this campaign. She had a team-high seven rebounds in her last outing versus all-league caliber Kayla Alexander at 14.5 points per game and 7.5 boards. 


"I told [Randolph] she was right there," Elliott said indicating she was nearly as good as Alexander. "She's right here. A little better balance, a little more explosiveness, a little better footwork, better extension on her layups. If nothing else she should build off this game. She was able to get shots off against a kid that was four inches taller than her. She's this close. It's just a matter of her going this much further in order to be as good of a player as [Alexander]. And she can be. She has all the potential in the world."


Randolph has started the last nine Big East games gaining valuable experience as she strives to be a presence on the low block for the next three years.      


UC faces No. 8 Notre Dame tomorrow in South Bend, Ind., at 2 p.m.





Bearcats Breakfast 2.25.11

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With no media availability with Mick Cronin and players until 3 p.m. today and most of the fodder from the Georgetown win exhausted, I'm turning to some number crunching for today's Breakfast.

Before you run to pick up your picket signs that say "Death to KenPom" or "No shame hating offensive rating," give this a chance.

A few numbers have been running through my head lately. After seeing the UC defense befuddle Georgetown, I know it isn't the only time this year we've seen the Cats hold Big East teams far below their standard output.

So the question is this, which Big East team has shown the capability to most consistently dominate on the defensive end? Which team, when at its best, holds the most high end defensive potential? Is it the Bearcats?

According to Ken Pomeroy's numbers, UC has the best adjusted defensive rating in the Big East and No. 8 in the country. That includes the non-conference schedule. I won't get into that debate here, but obviously that creates an imbalance.

Just in conference play, UC's defense rating is third in the Big East.

We could go through and find individual PPP ratings for each team in each Big East game, but you would probably find me blacked out on the ground uncontrollably reciting the pythagorean theorem in math shock if I did that.

So, in more simpler terms, I took a look at who was responsible for the three worst offensive outputs of the season of each team in Big East play.  

My completely unscientific formula of calculating it was as such: I awarded three points for holding a team to its worst output of the season, two points for the second worst and one point for the third worst. (Ties were split into halves)  

This brings tempo and style into play, but also shows an ability to slow teams out of their game and rythym, exactly what the Bearcats did against Georgetown.

Here were the results:

Team              Times in top 3    Times w worst    Total points

UC                          5                         3                    11

UConn                     5                         1                    8 1/2

DePaul                    0                          0                    0

Seton Hall                2                         0                    1 1/2

Louisville                  4                         1                     7 1/2

Nova                        3                         1                     5 1/2

USF                        0                          1                    3

Syracuse                 5                          1                   10 

Notre Dame              2                         1                    5

St. John's                7                          1                     10

Rutgers                   2                          0                     2 1/2 

WVU                       6                          2                     11

Pitt                         5                           2                     10 1/2

Providence               0                          0                      0

Georgetown              3                         1                      7

Marquette                 1                         0                      2

So, what did we learn outside of the fact DePaul and Providence might want to brush up on sliding their feet side to side?

We learned UC is the leader on the course right now for dominant potential. They've held opponents to their worst output of the season three times. Only WVU and Pitt have two. 

As for consistency, the Bearcats fall behind St. John's and WVU. (Particularly in West Virginia's case this is a reflection of the slow tempo they create limiting possessions, again, using PPP would be more precise, but I value my sanity too much)

Combining the two, though, the Bearcats and Mountaineers grind teams out of their flow better than any two in the conference, both with 11 total points.

Bottom line, shots go in and out, but defense can show up every night. It's the philosophy that's worked at UC for years and is the principle rising it back to those levels this season.

I'm not sure the statistics prove anything really tangible beyond that, but there are also studies that say having guns increase the risk of being shot, so I've seen worse.

Let's eat....

--- Real quick, before we get into basketball. The Big East football schedules were released. Here's the link. UC plays its BE opener and closer at home. In the middle, four of five on the road.

Two appearances on the ESPN family.  

--- Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News talked to BearcatLair about UC and what the Georgetown win meant for the program, also tweaking something Mick Cronin said in the process.

--- Friend of the blog George Vogel at Channel 5 stepped into the blogosphere to talk about Yancy Gates as the symbol of the Bearcats turnaround.

--- Bill Koch's follow story touches on Gates getting his "head back on straight," as the junior said. Gates is averaging 15.3 points and 8.3 rebounds the last three games.

It also gets into UC's handling of the lead against Georgetown. They showed they learned from DePaul and Providence and kept attacking the basket even with 3-6 minutes left and a double-digit lead. They never played tentative.

--- Our guy Mo Egger took to the YouTubes to address the question, "Has UC been rebuilt." Unlike the bench of his beloved New York Knicks, his argument has depth and brings a lot to the table.

--- Not only is UC still fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament over the next three games, they are playing for positioning in the Big East tournament. If it started today, they would hold the No. 8 seed and play the winner of Marquette/DePaul on Wednesday, March 9.

However, they are only one game out of third place. Those currently in a tie for third place: Louisville, St. John's and Georgetown, all teams UC has beat this year (multiple-team tiebreakers create a mini-conference and judge by records among those teams; head to head comes first in two-way ties).

--- Cronin spoke on the Big East teleconference yesterday. Here were some highlights:

On game against Georgetown:
"Obviously it was a big win for us last night. Georgetown was number one in our conference in RPI, I believe, going into last night. So it was a big win for our team. We played excellent defense and did a great job of taking some things away from Georgetown. We've got to continue to try to improve. We're playing pretty well right now. We're excited about the way we're playing. We've won three in a row heading into UConn on Sunday. They have a big game tonight against Marquette. Sunday is going to be a big one for us. There's a lot of teams in the middle of the pack, trying to fight to get a bye in the BIG EAST tournament. We need to continue to win games if we don't want to play on Tuesday. We'd like to be in a situation where we don't have to play Tuesday."
Difference on Cashmere Wright the second half of the season:
"It was just confidence. He played sporadically last year coming off the ACL injury. Just knowing he's going to have the ball in his hands, he's going to play 30 minutes a game at the point guard position for us, and knowing what I expect from him as a player, and trying to figure out how to be a point guard and knowing when to score and when to pass. Every game he gains more experience and he improves. The responsibility of being the quarterback of a good team is something that has been a learning experience for him. He's really starting to be aggressive here lately."
On the BIG EAST Player of the Year race:
"I haven't really thought about it. I'm trying to get Rashad Bishop publicity for Defensive Player of the Year, so there was my plug. [You didn't mention Ashton Gibbs either and I think you always have to look at the team in first place and look at their best player.] I know Brad Wanamaker has had a heck of a year, but I believe Ashton Gibbs is the best player on Pittsburgh's team and that's no disrespect to any of their other guys. I think other guys definitely merit consideration. If you look at scoring I think you go with Marshon Brooks or Kemba Walker. If you slate it toward production and winning in conference play I think you have to go towards [Ben] Hansbrough and Ashton Gibbs."

--- The game vs. UConn is not sold out, but getting close according to the fine folks in ticketing/marketing. The $12 uppers are still available. It may not be the best seat in the building, but being there to yell and scream sure feels like something this team deserves right now.

--- Not sure how good or bad the result of Marquette-UConn was last night for UC. The Golden Eagles pulled off some late heroics thanks to Kemba Walker turning the ball over in the final seconds of regulation and Marquette winning in overtime. The Huskies will likely come to Fifth Third refocused, but they have really been struggling of late.  

They've lost two in a row, three of five and two consecutive road games.

The UConn Blog has moved to Defcon 5 frustration.    

--- As for Marquette, they are viewing the win over UConn the same way UC viewed the win at Georgetown. The game vs. UC on Wednesday is still setting up to be a monster game for the Eagles. Could be huge for both teams should UC slip up Sunday.

--- In case you are worried about being hosed by the selection committee here's a look inside at just how tedious and detailed the selection process is with the media mock selection session.

For some randomness...

--- This half-court heave landed this 11-year-old free Papa John's pizza for a year. I'd imagine the conversation with his parents after went something like this: Son, first of all, great shot. Second of all, let's talk about what cheese does to the body.

--- I've always said Chickens=ratings. My theory will apparently be put to the ultimate test.  

--- Sports Pickle ranks the Top 10 Worst Sports Movies. Really quality cinema here.

Though, I think I'll always have a soft spot for No Holds Barred.

"Get ready for the battle no ropes can hold!" 

Bearcats Breakfast 2.24.11

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Originally, I started rambling at the top of the Breakfast about what was accomplished last night and it turned into something much bigger, I broke it out to its own post.

You can read that here in case you haven't already.

Now that you've done that, I won't bore with more ramblings, let's eat...

--- Here are the highlights of last night's game, in case you missed it.

--- Dan Hoard talks about how the world of Bearcats Nation has flipped upside down in 11 days. Quite remarkable.

--- On Monday, when asked about his NCAA chances, Mick Cronin said "a win Wednesday would probably cap it."

Well, with not only a win, but a convincing one in the pocket, the national conversation switched from will they get in, to a team playing for seeding in March.

Only five teams own more than UC's four Top 25 RPI victories. They are 22-6 and 9-6 in the Big East. They suffered zero bad losses.

The folks at The Dagger put them in and mark them down as Wednesday night's big winner.

Ballin is a Habit says Book It, for now, and doles out the proper credit. As Rob Dauster points out, only Pitt and UC own more than one win on the road over a Top 25 RPI team. That's it.

CBS talks about UC adding the missing piece of its NCAA profile.

--- Is UC in? The magic number all season has been 10. One more win definitely locks it up. Even three straight losses and UC may have done enough.

This from Cronin last night on the Gtown win being the clincher:

"You're probably right, but I'm not interested in losing the next three. Sunday's a big game for us. You win games in February, they are all big. They get bigger as you get close to March."

--- That's the first time in seven years UC beat a ranked team on the road.

--- Still trying to wrap my head around two statistics from last night.

1) UC held Georgetown without a field goal for the first 10:27 of the second half.

2) Only Austin Freeman contributed more than one field goal last night for the Hoyas.


--- The team that leads the Big East in FG percentage shot 25 percent. Georgetown's lowest scoring total of the season prior to Wednesday was 55 against Notre Dame.

--- Mick Cronin mentioned in postgame a coach told him it was the worst shooting performance Georgetown turned in there in 10 years.

--- Bearcats Blog lets Kenyon Martin illustrate how UC fans feel today.    

--- The view from the other side at Casual Hoya was not so cheery.

--- By the time Justin Jackson leaves UC he may be one of the most beloved in the history of the fan base. He plays harder than anybody and shows more fire than anybody.

When he delivers the occasional points in the lane and plays with offensive confidence as he did last night (and in many other games in BE play) he provides the perfect punch at the 4-spot. His defense, hustle and ability at the top of the press make UC a complete five out there.

--- On that note, this tweet came from College Insider Jon Rothstein last night:

"I'd put Sean Kilpatrick + Justin Jackson against any other 1st yr Big East tandem. Both not highly rated out of HS"

--- We've heard that with the selection committe its not about avoiding bad losses but showing you can beat great teams.

Here's a look at teams with wins against Top 25 RPI foes. (H/t Lance McAlister/Jerry Palm)

Top 25 RPI wins
6: St John's, Notre Dame, Louisville
5: BYU, Pitt
4: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Syracuse, West Virginia,
3: UConn, Florida, Tenn, Villanova, Minnesota, Marquette
2: Kentucky, Ohio State, SD St, Purdue, Texas
Others of note
1: Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Dayton, Miami Redhawks

--- When thinking about a play that defined last night's game, I shift from the 3-point bank shot to any number of steals out of the press, then settle in on a sure winner.

What did all of you think when you watched Yancy Gates battle, tip, fight and scratch for a rebound with multiple Hoyas and end up on the ground with it then eventually yanking it away and back out to the guards?

I thought: No way UC loses this game. Not with that attitude. Just incredible effort.

Gates finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks (felt like more) and a fierce determination.

"Yancy was unbelievable tonight," Cronin said on 700WLW postgame. "He and Justin Jackson did a great job of bottling up the paint." 

--- When Dan Hoard asked Cronin what he said to his team after the win, he painted the picture of a fitting scene.

"They were all dancing around in there. By time I got in there, there was so much dancing going on. I just told them their defensive effort was off the chart."

--- Mo Egger is giddy. I'll be on 1530ESPN with him at 3:33 p.m. today if you care to listen.   

--- As for some randomness, not much can top the excitement of the Georgetown win. Though, Bell Biv Devoe reuniting and singing Poison last night comes close.

(The Breakfast will be up in a bit, but this needed a seperate post)

Watching the second half of the Bearcats signature regular season win of the year -- and the last five years really -- I couldn't help but feel happy for so many people who are on the brink of making the NCAA tournament.

For Yancy Gates, who endured being publicly lambasted and booed to deafening levels by his home crowd to respond by producing three of his most inspired games with the Bearcats. Few have spun adversity into such a positive as he has.  

For Dion Dixon, who put in more hours than anyone in Fifth Third Arena's gym this summer in hopes of erasing the memory of a ball dribbling off his foot at Madison Square Garden. For him to break out of his shooting slump to drive the offensive surge with 17 points must be incredibly gratifying.

For Rashad Bishop, who struggled through brutal shooting slumps this year, but never quit work and never quit providing blanket defense. To see him knock down all four 3-pointers attempted was a deserved moment.  

For every UC player who endured last year's DeSean Butler bank shot to feel the other side of lady luck's effect when Bishop's final 3-pointer found net off the board to pump a wilting lead back to 11 points.

They deserve every bit of praise bestowed upon them today in the wake of the 58-46 win at No. 11 Georgetown on Wednesday. They deserved to enjoy every dance move performed in the Georgetown visitors locker room.

But, more than anybody, I felt happy for Mick Cronin.  

No, his team didn't hear its name called on Selection Sunday yet. But, the win over Georgetown makes the committee start writing the name in pen.

Talk about gratification.

At some point over the past five years, everyone took shots at Cronin, myself included. Some were valid. Most weren't.

Rebuilding UC was a job nobody wanted. Picking up the pieces without players to do so in the most difficult conference in the country required time and probably a trip to the neurologist.

What happened? He assured players graduated. They do.

He did his best to assure they stayed out of trouble. Knock on wood, so far so good.

He tried to build a winner. He increased the win total each year for five seasons.

What did he receive? A constant comparison to Bob Huggins and criticism to go with it.

Even this season, people questioned the strength of the out of conference schedule. Do you think that had anything to do with UC avoiding the late-season problems of the past two seasons? You think the extra energy is part of the reason they've won four of five while half the league sputters?

People questioned the rotation. Why play so many players? Why Larry Davis? Why play Bishop over Kilpatrick? Depth and defense just beat a team who won 9 of its last 10 in the Big East conference.

People questioned his relationship with Yancy Gates. He found a connection with Gates and his entire team that inspired the junior to battle for rebounds, dive of the floor for loose balls and play to his potential during the most critical stretch of the season.

People question his ability to propel this team over the hump. Even while giving credit for doing what coaches at USF, Seton Hall, Providence, Rutgers and DePaul haven't been able to do and move UC from the bottom to the middle of the pack, it almost always was followed with, "yeah, but..." Now, UC will finish at least .500 in the Big East, a conference at unprecedented levels of depth in regards to possible NCAA tournament bids. He's knocked off four Top 25 RPI teams, including the No. 5 RPI team in the country in DC. By double figures.

In the world of sports media and constant search for clicks or rating points, we're so quick to criticize. We're so quick to tear down. We're so quick to point out what's been done wrong.

It's time to take a minute and applaud what's been done right.  

Mick Cronin maneuvered through his best player declaring for the NBA Draft, losing his top two scorers, dealing with critics allowing little credit after every win, surviving attitude lulls in the grind of the Big East which swallows so many whole and has them selling out unselfishly and playing their best basketball as the season comes to a close.

Now, after Wednesday's win against Georgetown, they are 9-6, a half game out of fifth in the Big East conference. And so close to returning this program to the NCAA tournament they can taste it.

Please stand back and give credit to a coach whose rarely received any for the progress of the program. He more than deserves it.

Of course, he'll never ask for it. Like any good coach, he reflected any praise to his players saying to 700WLW last night, "when you got guys bought in defensively the way we are right now, it's easy to coach."

He's certainly making it look easy right now, but everyone knows it's been far from it.

It Only Seemed Like The End Of The World

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It's hard to believe it's only been 11 days.


On February 13th after the home loss to St. John's, the most frustrated Bearcat fans were on the verge of giving up on this year's team.  Even the most loyal diehards - me included - would have to admit to being worried about the 'Cats chances of going to the NCAA tournament.


Not anymore.


Consecutive wins over Louisville, Providence, and Georgetown not only quelled the public panic, but have given the Bearcats their swagger back.


"Winning does help," head coach Mick Cronin told me.  "Especially when you beat a team like Louisville and lead by double figures for most of the game.  I think that did a lot for our confidence - no doubt about it."


But the team started to regain its confidence before the Louisville game.  One day after that demoralizing loss to St. John's, the Bearcats did not practice even though it limited them to one day of preparation before facing Rick Pitino's Cardinals.  Instead, they held a team meeting where their coach tried to build them back up.


"You have to get a fresh mindset," Cronin said.  "It's a long year and you have to give your guys some perspective.  I wanted everybody to understand that we were 19-6 at the time - that's a pretty good year.  We had to get guys focused again and in a positive frame of mind."


Mission accomplished.


Wednesday's stunning 58-46 win at #11 Georgetown means the Bearcats are 22-6 overall and 9-6 in the Big East.  It was their fourth win over a Top 25 RPI opponent (only five teams have more), greatly enhancing UC's resume as the 'Cats look to go return to the NCAA Tourney for the first time in Mick Cronin's tenure. 


"People say, 'You need to get in for you.'  No I don't - I'll be OK no matter what happens," Cronin said.  "I just don't think that way.  I think along the lines of team improvement and program improvement.  Obviously I like the way we're playing right now.  We're playing extremely hard, unselfish basketball.  Every man that goes in is focused-in on the defensive end.  When you have guys that are bought-in defensively the way we are right now, it's easy to coach."


In the win over Louisville, the Bearcats held the Cardinals to a season-low 54 points.  They were even stingier against Georgetown, holding the Hoyas to a season-low 46 on 12-for-48 (25%) shooting.  A big key was giving the Hoyas different looks, as the Bearcats played more zone defense than in any other game this season.


"They're such a rhythm team that it's almost like a symphony the way they run their half-court offense," Coach Cronin said.  "I just think you're foolish if you're just going to play them half-court man-to-man and let them get into that rhythm.  If you continue to change, it eliminates any rhythm for them and that was our goal."


With a three game Big East winning streak, all is well in Bearcat nation.  As the players walk around campus on Thursday, they'll undoubtedly be showered with praise.  But just as Coach Cronin did not want them to listen to their doubters 11 days ago, he does not want them to crave compliments now.


"With all due respect to everybody, we don't seek approval outside of our locker room." Mick told me.  "That can't be why you play the game or coach the game.  You have to coach and play for the love of the game and know that you're trying to do your best.  At the end of the day, life is empty if you've living it for the approval of other people.  You can't play the game for other people because their opinion can change at a moment's notice.  You lose a game and it changes real quick."


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've finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.


Speaking of the handsome lad, enjoy this week's photo.


Sam grin 2011.jpg

Bearcats Breakfast 2.23.11

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Gameday is here. So, for a night we can all stop talking about publicity, respect, social stress and refocus on basketball. Don't get me wrong, I love off-the-court issues in sports. The stories behind the stories one of the best parts about this business, in my opinion.

In fact, phenomenal journalist Jeff Pearlman wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week about how talking about sports far exceeds actually watching them.

However, at this point in the season when the games mean so much and drama has been injected into each game, breaking down basketball becomes much more enjoyable.

So, what to make of the Hoyas? Do the Bearcats have a realistic chance?

If you don't know by now, two things are certain during every game in the Big East: 1) A referee with white hair and sluggish gait will blow a call and 2) every team has a realistic chance every night.

For entertainment only, the Hoyas opened as a seven-point favorite against the Bearcats. They've won nine of 10 and four in a row at home. The last time they lost at home nobody had seen an episode of Police Women of Cincinnati. (BTW, where are the city's PR people with this show? When did this get signed off on? Yeah, let's promote all the crime, riff-raff and street trash we have to offer. It's not like people don't already know us for Jerry Springer, Larry Flynt and the Bengals)

Some quick conference-games-only stats on Georgetown:

-- The Hoyas lead the BE in field goal percentage (47)

-- Third in 3-point FG percentage defense (30)

-- Third in blocked shots (4.53 per game)

-- Third in 3-pointers per game (6.4)

On the flip side...

-- 15th in turnover margin (-2.93). UC is 1st (+2.79)

-- 12th in defenisve rebound percentage (64). UC is 5th (67).

-- 10th in offensive rebound percentage (34). UC is 5th (36).

Moral of the story, UC needs to find some way to frustrate the efficient Hoyas offense, own the boards and dominate the turnover battle.

Sure, it's just that easy.

Let's eat....

--- Bill Koch's game preview offers some more perspective on some topics we've been discussing here the last few days.

--- Yesterday, I wrote a piece about Rashad Bishop's case for Defensive Player of the Year. While Mick Cronin makes great points and every team on the schedule should be aware of his defensive prowess, I just wonder if the coaches will be smart enough to give the award to a player nowhere near the top of the two major defensive statistical categories.

--- Bearcats Blog does a Q and A with Raphielle Johnson of HoopsTalkLive and Collegehoops.net.

It includes some Big East, Bearcats and tips for filling out your NCAA bracket.

--- Chad Brendel with Georgetown preview nuggets.

--- Chad and I were having this discussion while waiting for media availability to start on Monday: If you had to play a Big East game on the road tomororow, what would be the last place you'd want to go?

An argument could be made for Georgetown, strictly by how well they've been playing. Villanova's Pavillion is tough, but they've proven beatable lately. Chad went with Pitt and it's hard to disagree. The Panthers are clearly the class of the league and that gym provides a huge advantage.

Where the Bearcats will be tonight is at the least No. 2, though.

--- If there is any good news about playing GT, it's that leading scorer Austin Freeman struggled mightily shooting the ball of late. While he's hitting 40 percent from deep on the season, he's made 4 of his last 27 (15 percent, in case you were wondering).

He's hasn't reached his 17.7 ppg average in any of the last four games. He managed just four points in a win Saturday at USF.

--- Here's the TV information for tonight's game. Remember, 9 p.m. tip. Sorry HD TV owners, the only thing you'll be seeing in 1080p tonight is 20-somethings balancing cookies on their forehead in Minute to Win It.

--- Quote from Rick Pitino in the postgame following his win against Rutgers last night: Pitino on Cincinnati: "I don't think they're an NCAA Tournament team. I know they're an NCAA Tournament team." (h/t Jon Rothstein)

Realize he's great friends with Mick and just got lambasted by the Cats. It's an easy statement for him to make. Nonetheless, a fine compliment.  

--- Mike DeCourcy with a quick dissertation on how reasonable an 11-bid Big East would be, even if it boils the blood of every mid-major coach in the country.

--- UConn will show up here on Sunday with off-court distractions part of the conversation after Jim Calhoun's suspension was handed down by the NCAA.

Internet: React!  

--- UNC-Asheville's Matt Dickey with a steal and buzzer-beater on Coastal Carolina. Love that that you could audibly hear the crowd's collective heart sinking.

--- Quick football intermission: Brian Bennett writes about some offensive upkeep needed this spring in Cincinnati as well as a spring ball preview.

BTW, Spring Game is April 16.  

On to some randomness...

--- Rolling Stone ranked the Top 10 albums of the 90s. Pearl Jam's Ten owned a rightful place at No. 3, though, I could only wonder how "Make 'em Say Ugh!" was omitted. 

--- Hofstra really loves Charles Jenkins.

--- Bad news for Adam Wainwright. Great news for the Redlegs.   

--- The Big Lead with a fantastic headline/photo combo.  

--- I'm a little late on this, but Basketball Jones interviewed NBA players to see what they would call their scent, if they had one like Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian do. Funny stuff.  

IMO, it's best not to be smelled at all, good or bad. My scent would be called: Undetectable. (Sales prediction: less than brisk) 

--- It would be pretty incredible to see this type of student section organization vs. UConn on Sunday. Really, if the US military had the type of organization Northern Iowa does, we'd have Bin Laden in custody by sundown.

Orange deal UC crushing loss

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One year after Shareese Ulis knocked down a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome to send the game to overtime, Ulis hit another long-range shot with the same time remaining, but this time Cincinnati trailed by five.


The Orange defeated UC 55-53 Tuesday at Fifth Third Arena in the Bearcats' most complete contest in conference play.    


Down two with 3:15 remaining, Cincinnati had five-straight possessions with a chance to knot the game but was unsuccessful.


"We lost the game down the stretch," Ulis said. "A couple turnovers and a couple missed layups killed us."

Orange guard Elashier Hall split a pair from the charity stripe giving her team a three-point lead with 30 seconds remaining. 


Ulis had an opportunity to match her late-game heroics from last year, but opted to drive before passing to guard Bjonee Reaves, who dribbled off her foot with 11 seconds left.


"After the missed free throw we wanted to get a quick two," Ulis said. "I attempted to go to the basket but they doubled me so I kicked it out."


The contest was all but over when Ulis hit the final shot of the game.


The Bearcats led by as many as 19 in the first half while heating up with 6 3-pointers on 10 attempts and 47.8 percent shooting from the field.


Ulis scored a game-high 20 points and freshman Kayla Cook dropped 13. The pair combined for 5-5 shooting from long range from the outset.


"I think we were [due for a good shooting streak]," Cook said. "During this losing streak we haven't been shooting the ball very well. I think it just felt really well and kept us going. It brings everybody together. We fed from that and that's how we got our lead in the first half."


The Orange meanwhile started the contest 0-12 from the field.


Syracuse's first basket came at the 8:15 mark when Kayla Alexander put back her missed shot. Alexander led the Orange with 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds.  


The Bearcats had their best offensive half in the Big East with fluid ball movement and crisp passing in the paint leading to layups.


"We were getting every shot that we wanted," UC head coach Jamelle Elliott said. "We were making every three that we took. We were getting easy baskets around the bucket."


The 32 first-half points UC netted was it's most since 36 against South Florida Jan. 5.


UC stretched the Syracuse zone defense with deep 3-pointers.   


The Orange subsequently switched to a man-to-man defense to disrupt the Bearcats' rhythm.


"Syracuse is a team that plays 40 minutes of zone," Elliott said. "They have beaten the likes of Louisville, No. 22 St. Johns playing 40 minutes of zone. The Cincinnati Bearcats made them get out of their zone after 15 minutes of play."


SU Forward Carmen Tyson-Thomas came off the bench to knock down three triples during a 13-2 run to end the half.


The change in defense limited leading scorers Cook and Ulis' touches, as UC was unable to regain its momentum.


"We lost the game when they took our best players out of it," Elliott said. "They didn't allow [Ulis and Cook] to catch the ball."


Alexander scored on four-straight possessions on the low block in the midst of a 31-6 SU streak. Her second bucket at the 16:34 mark gave the Orange their first lead since the score was 2-0. 

Syracuse, No. 1 in the nation with 15.5 rebounding margin, was out rebounded by UC 35-34.


Syracuse's last basket came with 8:16 remaining but went 5-6 on free throws down the stretch.


UC dropped its first contest of the season when leading at halftime, it was previously 8-0.  


Cincinnati travels to South Bend, Ind., Saturday to face No. 8 Notre Dame at 2 p.m. 


Mick Cronin has been outspoken that senior Rashad Bishop is the best defensive player in the conference and the coach makes a convincing argument.


CINCINNATI - When Rashad Bishop arrived at the University of Cincinnati, playing defense didn't exactly excite him.


He averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds and 5.4 assists his senior season at St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey. Bishop created. He finished at the rim. He was a scorer.


Sure, he played defense, but more as a means to a fast break end. When he arrived at UC under Mick Cronin, the game changed.


Thumbnail image for Bishop.jpg"Cause he told us if we don't play defense we aren't going to play," Bishop said.


Suddenly, Bishop cared. Not only did he care, he excelled.


Four years later, he's doing it as well or better than every player in the Big East.  


"He's by far the best defensive player I've ever been around on the perimeter as a college player," Cronin said. "Rashad Bishop is the best defensive player in the Big East. Period. All you have to do is look at who he has guarded, look at the situations. It's not even close."


The art of playing defense often becomes lost in the tangled web of offensive ratings, possession percentages and assist rates.


No advanced metrics measure frustration caused. There are no tempo-free statistics for altered angles. As much as scouts mention basketball IQ, nobody ever filled out Scantron bubbles on that test.  


If any of those existed this season, Bishop would be in conversations with Kemba Walker and Ben Hansbrough - at least, if Cronin had any say in it.


The offensive player on UC's opponents this season wouldn't shy away from chiming into the debate, either. No matter if a point guard like lighting-quick, 6-foot-2 Dwight Hardy averaging just shy of 20 points a game or 6-foot-5 slashing forward like Marshon Brooks leading the Big East in scoring, Bishop draws the assignment. Every time.


Taking a look at UC's latest win streak epitomizes his defensive value. At DePaul he blocked two shots and the Blue Demons perimeter players shot just 34 percent from the field.


Against St. John's, Bishop hassled Hardy in one-on-one situations which the Johnnies went to during the final eight minutes of the game. The Storm didn't score a field goal as UC stormed back in the eventual loss.


Mick Cronin knew UC needed to keep Peyton Siva out of the lane to prohibit him from penetrating and kicking out. So, he placed Bishop on one of the premier dribble-drive guards in the conference. At halftime, Siva contributed zero points, zero assists and a turnover. UC owned a 36-24 lead it wouldn't relinquish.


Faced with the task of containing Brooks and his 25.6 points a game in Big East play on Sunday, Bishop played 44 of 45 possible minutes. He never played more than 34 in a game all season.


Sure, Brooks finished with 27 points, but he needed 26 shots to do it, had five turnovers and only shot two free throws. He shot 32 free throws the previous three games. 


"(Brooks) got all his points on other players or in transition," said Cronin, who will match Bishop up with Georgetown's leading scorer Austin Freeman on Wednesday. "Where Brooks gets everybody on a shot fake, he couldn't get Rashad Bishop on a shot fake. He does not score on Rashad Bishop. He never scores on Rashad Bishop one on one. The whole game."


Bishop always excelled defensively, but this year he's ascended to another level. Cronin attributes much of it to his knowledge of the game and attention to the details of how players will attempt to hurt him.


Oh, and being an elite athlete at 6-foot-6 with an even longer wingspan doesn't hurt, either.


"I just use my length," Bishop said. "I give them a step and if he takes a challenged shot, I am there because my arms are long enough to challenge."


In two weeks, the conference will hand out its Defensive Player of the Year award. While everyone knows how the Bearcats head coach will be voting, the question is if the rest of the conference will follow suit.


Over the past 10 years, the award went to a center seven times. Owning the paint and leading the conference in blocks almost always equals a DPOY. Three times it went to a guard. Jerel McNeal in 2007 set Marquette's all-time record for steals in a career. In 2001 and 2002 John Linehan went back-to-back nearly setting the NCAA single-season steals record in the process.


You won't find Bishop on leaderboards for blocks (16) or steals (28). In fact, he doesn't even lead the Bearcats in either category.


To not own one of those two statistics and win the award would be unprecedented in the recent history of the league. 


Siva owns 31 steals in 14 games, including seven in a win against St. John's. Rick Jackson's pulling down more than seven defensive rebounds a game and leads the league by far with 46 blocks.


Those two own the glamour statistics. Bishop guards the best non-center on every opponent for a Bearcats team that leads the conference in points allowed per game. His track record should speak for itself.


In Cronin's eyes, however, Bishop's prowess has been buried along with the rest of the team behind the Big East's big names.


"We don't exist, I don't know if you guys know that," Cronin said. "He's by far the best defensive player I've ever been around on the perimeter as a college player. It's not even close. But he doesn't exist. You'd think we were 6-21."


Jon Rothstein, college basketball Insider for MSG Network and CBS College Sports knows Cincinnati exists and believes the DPOY is clear cut.


"Rashad Bishop. No question," he said.


The coaches will make the final call and debate will be heard soon enough. Don't expect the senior to spend much time arguing his case.


"I don't' know," Bishop humbly said. "That is their opinion. I think I am pretty good at defense; I think I am pretty solid. I don't let my man get off too much. There are a lot of good defenders out there."


He's treating it the same way he does every frustrated offensive player left in his wake this season. 


"I don't really pay attention to it," Bishop said. "I just play defense."

Bearcats Breakfast 2.22.11

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Mick Cronin held an interesting media availability on Monday discussing openly some issues with Yancy Gates and even delving into the lack of publicity of his program from the Big East.

One of the traits I like about Cronin is you never feel like he's holding anything back. You never feel like he's trying to manipulate or hide from the media, the fans or anyone else. He puts the way he feels out there because he wants people to understand what's happening with his team, his players and the program.

So many coaches are caught up in worrying about how what they or their players say will effect perception or be portrayed by the media. Cronin puts the truth out there and has zero to hide.

Obviously, as a writer, it makes for great fodder. For him, as a leader of a program once maligned for conduct, it makes for great transparency.

Let's eat...

--- I'm putting together a story on Rashad Bishop and his development into what Mick Cronin called, "the best defender in the Big East and it's not even close."

Unfortunately for me, what was said about Bishop turned into a story before I could even write the Bishop story.

In the middle of that question, Cronin broke off on a tangent about how UC has been disregarded by the folks at the Big East publicity offices and forgotten despite their successful season.

"We don't exist. I don't know if you guys know that. We don't exist on the Big East commercial. I am not on it. You guys watch those games, that's for certain teams I am not on it. We beat Louisville, it's like it didn't happen. They recap the week. There's their win over UConn. (Rick Pitino) is my buddy, my mentor, but it didn't' happen. So we don't really exist, we talk about different teams. We have the same record as them, a better overall record. You'd think we were 6-21."

Does UC receive the proper ratio of publicity from the conference? Maybe not. But the Big East right now follows the trend of the leader who delivers the cash. My favorite national talk radio guy is Dan Patrick. He has a phrase when discussing the news judgment of the WorldWideLeader: "They play the hits."

Yankees. Red Sox. Lakers. Heat. Cowboys. T.O. Brady. 

In the Big East, that means: Syracuse. UConn. Georgetown. Villanova. Pitino. Dixon.

The conference follows suit. It pumps the big names. Many times great stories like the job being done at UC by Cronin or the successes of Buzz Williams at Marquette are lost underneath the marquee.

Time, consistency and a few NCAA tournaments will change that. Unfortunately, for UC right now, the landscape isn't changing.

--- In the same line of conversation, UC didn't receive a single vote in the AP Top 25 poll this week. Not one.

A team 21-6 and 8-6 in the toughest conference in basketball didn't recieve one vote.

For the record, UConn -- 20-6 overall and 8-6 in the same conference -- landed at No. 15. (Not claiming their OOC victories should keep them out of the Top 25, but to be 15 vs zero votes?)

West Virginia -- 17-9 overall and 8-6 in the conference -- received 42 votes. Yes, I'm aware WVU beat UC, but look at the overall resume and they're nearly identical.

As Gary Parrish points out every week, some pollsters could use some help.  

The great aspect of college basketball vs college football, perception means very little. Their fate will be determined on the field of play not the newsrooms.

--- I discussed the NCAA tournament outlook here yesterday and Cronin tiptoed around the subject a bit on Monday. 

He said he doesn't pay attention to much of it, but like the rest of the country, he turns to Joey Brackets.

"I don't have a password to Lundardi's thing, but he is usually right," Cronin said. "I sent him a shirt a couple years ago when I was messing with him. I don't know what his formula is, he's like 99 percent or something."


Lundardi's latest placed UC as a No. 8 seed playing Kansas State in the first round.


Prodded a little more, Cronin did offer this about how much work they have left to do:


"We are in good shape, but we got to win. We can't lose four in a row. We got to try to find a way to go win Wednesday night (at Georgetown). I think a win Wednesday night would cap it."


If UC were to beat Georgetown, currently a 3-seed in Lunardi's bracket and No. 11 in the country it would be hard to keep them out. It would secure at least a .500 record and deliver the coveted road win against a top-tier team. 


Should the Bearcats beat G'Town then lose the next three and whiff in the first round of the BE tourney, I wouldn't place them at a lock, but it would be difficult to keep them out.


--- Bill Koch worked up a story on Yancy Gates and Cronin put forth some new observations on the source of the struggles Gates experienced recently. I could recap all those here for you, but you can read Bill's story and understand the gist.


I did enjoy the line about the clerk at the Shell Station always telling Yancy what he needs to do. And doing the same to Mick.


I was hoping to see this headline in today' Enquirer:

"Cronin: Shell station clerk to blame for Bearcats struggles" 


In seriousness though, Cronin claimed stress was directly responsible for his problems on the court. Nobody knows the issues associated with being Yancy Gates other than Yancy Gates. He's a young man who for the longest time was expected to reach the NBA and bring millions to a growing horde of friends and family.


When the wonderkid with unlimited potential starts to discover limitations, I don't know what that's like. And neither do you. Nor do either of us know how we'd deal with it.


"The problem for a lot of the kids that play at our level and it is really not the kids, it's the others hoping they can make dollars," Cronin said. "That's all their focus is. That's where they put the kids focus there instead of letting the kids play and enjoy their team and have fun and do the best they can. There are too many other people trying to ride the coattails of college players to the NBA and make money off of them."


Cronin also showed displeasure words spoken about his team being insinuated to be about Gates. Being who Gates is and connection this city feels toward him, the junior constantly owns the headlines. Many times, people make their own story.


It sounded like Gates has done a better job blocking those outside agents and focusing on playing with effort on the floor the past two games. Of course, he did just open a Twitter account this week, so, there's that.


--- Jason Williams put together 10 things you didn't know about Mick Cronin. Did you know there are more than 3 million spots on the Amazon.com best seller list? You do now.    


--- I'm a huge fan of the water balloon toss. One of the great games from kids parties that translates to adult parties and can bring together all ages.


Apparently, the UC football team feels the same way I do.


--- Yesterday, I mentioned Mitch Stone's Playdate with the Bearcats and Tommy G has the inspirational recap of the event what Stone is doing for other kids like him now.


--- If St. John's resurgence leads to the return of Lou Carnesecca sweaters, then we are all winners.


--- At the top of the blog, I talked about the open honesty of Cronin's press conference's. Then there is the straight entertainment value of Jim Boeheim. Who went off again last night after beating Villanova. The rants jumps off on playing difficult schedules and if hurts you entering the NCAA tournament. It eventually goes to Boeheim ripping on a local sports talk show host. 


--- On to some randomness...


--- Can you retire someone's jersey before they are done playing? Does Charles Jenkins need a new number for the postseason?


--- Arolids Chapman got a tattoo with 105.1 mph next to a burning baseball on his forearm. If I threw 105.1 mph, I'd probably get it on my forehead.


--- The Knicks finally landed Carmelo. Now the bigger question -- Can Spike Lee play point guard? Because this team needs to fill out a roster.


--- My retired Aunt and Uncle would snowbird in Florida and talk about when they were down there they didn't do much. One day, somebody was having concrete poured, so a bunch of the residents took their lawn chairs down and watched it all the exciting action.


I can only imagine the excitement if this barenaked bandit had busted into their retirement community like he did this one.


Bearcats Breakfast 2.21.11

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Saturday night included teaching points for the Bearcats and likely some property damage for many fans. The win against Providence was wilder than a Tuesday night with Charlie Sheen. Otherwise known as status quo in the absurd Big East.

You can complain about the frustration of the final six minutes all you want. (BTW, yelling at the TV=ineffecitve coping mechanism) If you expected anything less than fighting and clawing for a road win by any means necessary in this conference you could use a trip to Dr. Phil.

Of seven BE games on Saturday, three went to OT, one ended on a Dwight Hardy game-winner and another with the No. 7 team in the country being run off the court at WVU.

The equivalent of an easy road win came from Georgetown, who survived by six points at USF.

One game seperates fourth and 10th place right now. One.  

At the end of the day, the impressive effort of the first 34 minutes and resolve in overtime far outweigh the evaporation of the 16-point lead.

All together now: A win is a win is a.... 

Let's eat...

--- The Bearcats (21-6, 8-6) tied their most wins in the Big East. They were 8-8 in 2005-06. Take a second to think about that accomplishment. What did you say about this team the day after Lance Stephenson declared for the NBA Draft? What was your prediction for how many Big East wins they would earn?  

I can tell you all the Big East coaches thought enough about the Bearcats to vote them 12th preseason.

Now they are 8-6 and in the mix for a bye in the BE tournament with four games to play. Think about that and give Mick Cronin the ovation he deserves.  

--- Cronin spoke in the postgame on 700WLW about being too tentative while holding onto the lead late in the game. Instead of attacking over the press, they were holding the ball and falling right into Providence's traps.

Unfortunately, this team is still learning how to salt away wins. All three wins over the last four game stretch have concluded with some issues down the stretch. Even against Louisville, Cronin wasn't happy with the amount of dribbling and execution over the final minutes.

If you take a look at the numbers, it's strictly a matter of inexperience in close games this season.

Team/Games decided by 0-5 or OT/Total







Notre Dame/6-0/6




St. John's/7-4/11

Seton Hall/2-6/8





So, 11 of the other 15 teams in the Big East have played in double the number of games decided by five points or less or in OT. To be 3-1 in those games is worth celebrating, but winning without the dramatics of DePaul or Providence -- and even the loss in the final minute against St. John's -- spotlight the next lesson that needs to be learned by this particular bunch.

--- SNY College Insider Jon Rothstein came away impressed by the urgency the Bearcats showed this week.

--- So, where do the NCAA tourney hopes sit? The magic number myself and many others connected to the UC program have been using all year is 10 wins in the Big East.

The rest of the schedule is as follows:

@ No. 9 Georgetown

vs No. 13 UConn

@ Marquette

vs No. 9 Georgetown

Find a way to win two of the final four and what happens in the Big East tournament will likely be inconsequential. Beating Georgetown the way they are playing right now will be tough. They've won 9 of 10 with three of those wins against teams that were ranked in the top 15 at the time.

Though, learning some lessons from the first game in DC then being able to bring them to Fifth Third two weeks later will allow a distinct advantage.  

UConn for all their national ranking and hype are 8-6 in the league and haven't played well on the road of late.

They were smoked by double figures at St. John's and @ Louisville -- both teams UC beat this year, in case you forgot.

Marquette has lost five of its last eight, but own home wins against Syracuse, Notre Dame and WVU. And they will be playing with their backs against the wall on the bubble.  

For what it's worth, if I'm ranking the winnability of the final four games, it goes like this:

1. UConn

2. @Marquette

3. Georgetown

4. @Georgetown

--- To the Bracket Matrix!   

--- Random thought: Being selected into the tournament would be a great accomplishment, but given the mediocrity throughout college basketball, it would be far from crazy to say UC could win some games there as well.  

--- Cronin talked after the game about being happy to see Dion Dixon regain some confidence in his shot against PC. He scored 16 on Saturday, Dixon's highest total since Jan. 15 against Syracuse (18).

Tommy G put together this feature on the Bearcats leading scorer for Bearcats Sports Weekly.  

--- Chad Brendel with a game recap of Providence and even more of what Cronin had to say postgame with Dan and Chuck.

--- Scott Springer wrote this piece on the building blocks of Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson last week, but I never did link to it. Here it is, great points from SS.

--- Speaking of Cash, Bill Koch wrote a story about his production. He scored 20 points against Louisville and recorded his first double-double (11 points, 11 assists) against Providence.  

Wright is the difference between this team being good and being great. No doubt about it.

--- Some quality off the field of play work from UC. Mitch's Mission had a playdate on Saturday and Mitch is looking great.  

--- On to some randomness...

--- Big win for the St. Veronica Vikings third-grade basketball team on Sunday over Seven Hills thanks to the intense defense and hustle from No. 33 Kaden Dehner. They only scored 16 points, but a lot of college hoops teams could learn something from their efficiency on the fast break.   

--- Chris Rock ate lunch with a reporter from Esquire and he posted the transcript. Still the best standup of our generation, IMO.

--- Best beards in college hoops? Yes, please.

--- One hundred years from now, people will look back at 2010 the same way we look at this video from San Francisco 1905, supposedly the earliest video recording. A crazy thought.

--- The irony of the Cincinnati Commandos taking shots at the Bengals is they were pushing Peter Warrick as their big name this season, who caught many passes much the same manner of that stuffed Tiger.    

--- Sneak peaks at The Hangover II make me happy.   

Providence prevails against Bearcats

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Trailing by four points with 18:20 remaining in the game, Cincinnati went a costly nine-minute drought without a field goal.


Providence College subsequently cruised to a 57-43 win on Saturday at Fifth Third Arena, handing the Bearcats their 11th consecutive loss.


"At the start of the second half we couldn't score, we got back into our scoring slump," UC head coach Jamelle Elliott said. "The difference in the first half, we were finding ways to score which we haven't been doing the last 10 games."


"We were feeling good about our offense, but we got knocked right back down to reality to start the second half."


The Friars took advantage of poor shooting from UC in a 12-0 run to extend their lead to 16, their first double-digit lead.


The Bearcats were unable to cut the deficient below 13 points the rest of the way.


PC capitalized on a 39-29 advantage on the glass. The catalyst was forward Teya Wright with 18 caroms in addition to leading all scorers with 14.


"Boxing out is effort," Elliott said. "[It's] what we can control. It's hard to win when you're giving up 20 2nd chance points."  


Fresh off a career-night on Tuesday against Villanova, freshman Jeanise Randolph posted her second double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds.


"Starting the game I felt good," Randolph said. "I just got to stay aggressive and box out. [My team] is looking for me. I just got to finish around the basket and if I'm not able to score, pass it back out."


Another first-year guard Kayla Cook, netted a team-high 13 points along with seven boards. With three games left in their first campaign, Cook and Randolph have garnered enough starts (35 combined) to no longer be labeled rookies.  


"[We] can't say we're freshman anymore because we're not," Cook said. "We just got to do the little things right. That's a big thing we have been focusing on all year."


The first half was a back-and-forth contest. The Cats led by five with 10:41 left and the Friars largest lead was seven. There were four lead changes and the score was tied four times. 


"That was actually refreshing going into the locker room at halftime being in the game for the first time in a long time," Elliott said. 


Providence College ended the opening period on a 17-7 run to regain the lead while Cincinnati shot 8-14 from the charity stripe and missed several contested shots in the lane.


"We got free throws and layups," guard Bjonee Reaves said. "Those are easy money which is what we call [them]."


"We were excited about getting to the free-throw line, but [it] doesn't mean anything if we don't capitalize. I think if we make those free throws we're up three at the half."


Cincinnati hosts Syracuse Tuesday at Fifth Third Arena at 7 p.m.




The Home Stretch

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This weekend's hint of spring-like weather reminds us that another basketball season is about to close. Only two more home games remain for Jamelle Elliott's second edition, next Tuesday against Syracuse, then the regular season finale February 28 against Marquette. So what have we learned?

One thing is very apparent, the Bearcats have not given up on the season, as difficult as it has been. This team plays with effort right to the very end. Coach Elliot, her staff and the players should be commended for that.

Second thing: The Cats no longer have fresmen on the floor. Yes, I know, academically they're still in their first year of school, but no group of freshmen have had this kind of initiation to the BIG EAST like this group. Experience is a terrific teacher, and when they come back as sophomores, they'll have a season's worth of lessons in the conference that will pay off big down the road.

Third thing: Jamelle Elliott has the plan in place. It will be an attractive proposition for skilled high school players to come into this program and play right away, and play for a proven winner.  

So if we could get a do-over for the season, what would you like to see? Well, I'd like to have two more years and two good knees for Shareese Ulis. When Coach Elliott came into the program she needed a point guard desperately, and Shareese has become the coach on the floor.

Speaking of, I'd like to see fewer crutches, fewer bandages and fewer players in street clothes. Injuries decimated this team almost from the start. You'd like to see what Coach Elliott could do with a healthy squad.

And, I'd like to see more fans. Sure, there were big crowds for UConn and Xavier, but there were some great games inbetween. Everyone's enthusiasm picks up with a bigger audience.

So come out for one (or both) of the remaining home games for the Cats. They've worked hard this year against very steep odds. They deserve your support.

Bearcats Breakfast 2.18.11

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So, I had this whole post planned today about how fantastic Providence has been at home.

There were numbers like how they are 13-2 at The Dunk, wins against Louisville and Villanova. Up four with a minute to play against Pittsburgh, hadn't lost there since that day, Jan. 4.

I was going to tell you about Marshon Brooks getting mentions for BE Player of the Year in the conversation with Kemba Walker and Ben Hansbrough.

I was going to tell you about Gerard Coleman, whose played like the legitimate second weapon Brooks desperately needs during their biggest wins this year, averaging 14.3 points in the first four BE home games.

I was going to tell you a number of concerning stats regarding the Providence Friars.

Then, last night, they lost at home to DePaul.

Here's the ProJo story.  

There's really no way to justify any concerning stats when followed by that sentence. Of course, we talked in this space one week ago about how it was only a matter of time until the Blue Demons get hot enough to steal a game against somebody. They'd been so close.

That said, you can't be the team that snaps a 29-game road losing streak, 24-game Big East losing streak and 12-game overall losing streak.

Not sure whether the loss will be good or bad for the Bearcats as far as the mentality of the Friars coming out 48 hours later on the same court. They'll probably be playing angry with a point to prove. Like most games in the Big East, it will probably be a dogfight.

All UC needs to do is follow DePaul's lead. (Let us never write that sentence again)

Let's eat....

--- ESPN's Eamonn Brennan talks UC's good night and expresses his love for Mick Cronin's comic book reference from Wednesday night's press conference (my quote of the night from The Morning After yesterday), though it leaves out the best line.  

--- Dan Hoard writes about the first time he met Yancy Gates, who was close to the size he is now in the ninth grade. Nice anecdote. Thought the anecdote I'd like to see is watching him one year earlier. I can only imagine sitting in the stands as he takes on the junior high team from Carson Elementary.

--- In the Breakfast Upset of the Week: Former Bearcat Alex Meachem will be mentioned in the blog for the second time this week. The first was in a quote from Mick Cronin in Tuesday's Breakfast about noteriety for former players and today from Paul Daugherty writing a story about the former walk-on inspiring the new Air Jordan shoe.

You reading this John Meeker?

--- Mick Cronin and Cashmere Wright met with the media yesterday. You can watch Mick here and Cash here.

--- Mick talked more about what happened between the St. John's and Louisville games.

"The St. John's game definitely made us soul search. From every coach to every player," he said.

Cashmere talked about players being excited about coming back to practice on Thursday and being ready to get back after it and get another win. Earlier this year we talked about UC maybe needing that one win to help them get over the hump and once they did it could open the floodgates.

This could be the game. Of course, in my eyes, the Providence game is almost a bigger test of that attitude than the Louisville game was. Going on the road against a bottom-tier team will test the intensity much more than backs against the wall against a fierce rival in front of 11,511 at home.

As has become the favorite phrase among Cincinnati sports coaches: We'll see.

--- Did you miss Bearcats Sports Weekly. Yes? First, you should be subjected to eight hours of Kurt Russell movies for punishment. Next, you can watch it here.

--- In one of the odder TV segments, Adam Zagoria, apparently fresh out of a wind tunnel and Jerry Palm, live from the Big Foot hunt, discuss the Big East teams tournament outlook with some mention of UC starting around the 3-minute mark.

--- More Bracketology with 11 Big East teams in.    

--- Some Big East Coach of the Year talk from Jason King. Friend of the blog Mo Egger had this link and mentioned if UC finishes .500 or better, Mick should be in the conversation. Realistically, I doubt that will happen, but it probably should. These awards are always dominated by those in the top quarter of the league. It'd be hard to sneak past Mike Brey, IMO.

Sidenote: King obviously not a big UC backer with them still 11th in the conference and Marquette with 6 losses in 8 games sitting 9th.

---  Larry Bird talked about Lance Stephenson (h/t Mo), yet to play a minute for the Pacers this season:

"Well, I'm pretty bullish on Lance Stephenson. If he's going to be what I think he's going to be - I already know Paul (George) is going to be there - maybe it's just two. I think the kid's got a chance to be very special. And I think Paul's going to be special. And we've got the money to go fill out this team and be very competitive in this league."

--- Congrats to Bearcats swimmer Liz Hansson for becoming the 2011 BIG EAST Champion in the 50-yard freestyle with a school record time of 22.93.

--- UC baseball opens its season today in Tampa. When they play at home, here's their sweet intro video for this season.  

On to some randomness...

--- Next time you make a Kardashian joke just remember, the joke is on you.

--- For my generation that remember Nada Surf and if you remember Nada Surf you remember their one hit video "Popular." A blog found the hot cheerleader from some where are they now.

--- Ray Fosse needs to let it go.  

--- Watson owns Jeopardy!, now Sports Pickle has him talking trash.  

--- In the wake of the sad passing of Len Lesser, better known as Uncle Leo from Seinfeld, one of the great side characters from the show, I only wonder who will get the watch?



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justin jackson.jpegcashmere wright.jpegThumbnail image for sean kilpatrick.jpeg
(L-R, Justin Jackson, Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick)

The most noticeable thing after UC's recent win over (then #16) Louisville at Fifth Third Arena was what happened afterward.

The game was not a sell-out, but the student section was full.  This coming off a highly disappointing home loss against St. John's.  When it was easy to walk away in disgust, the students returned loudly and were rewarded with an inspired performance.

While nine players participated, three were notable  for their contributions on the court during the game and on the press tables afterward.  Led by true freshman Justin Jackson who plays each contest with passion usually reserved for a Final Four game, some of the younger Bearcats exalted the crowd and acknowledged their enthusiasm.

Following Jackson (who is brilliantly establishing fans with his enthusiasm) Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright also jumped on the baseline press tables and waved to both student sections. 

Sure, it's part pro wrestling and it's "showmanship" but it also shows the audience that you need to grow that you care.  The students become alums and eventually have to pay.  If you give them no fond memories, you likely lose repeat customers.

What I saw in this game were the building blocks of this program.

Just as Nick Van Exel, Erik Martin, Terry Nelson, Kenyon Martin, Melvin Levett, Tony Bobbitt and others have done in the past, these three athletes "played to the crowd".    That's because they are "student-athletes".

Let's not kid ourselves and recognize these guys as "equals" to the student population, but by recognizing their classmates they at least try to establish a "bond" that can only serve them well in the future.

Mardy Gilyard realized as much in football and you'll be hard pressed to find another Bearcat gridiron great that had such a relationship with his fans.  Connor Barwin paraded the Big East trophy around Nippert in 2008--also connecting with core fans that'll never forget that scene.

Fans have to feel their players care and Jackson, Kilpatrick and Wright have demonstrated that with their approachability and their willingness to share the moment.

If they play like they did against the 'Ville, UC might have to invest in stronger, sturdier press tables.  Although the entire team's performance was admirable and gutty, Jackson, Kilpatrick and Wright showed why they could be the nucleus of the future.

Jackson's minutes have increased over the season and you're now seeing what I described here over the summer...a guy with a tremendous wingspan, ultra-high energy, that will begin as a ROLE player.  Against Louisville, Jackson fulfilled his role marvelously.

In 20 minutes, his hands were everywhere.  His numbers don't "wow" you, but he's a player that does his best work AWAY from the ball.  What he gave you playing half of the game though would net you six points, eight boards, six assists and a couple blocks if you extended those numbers out.

You can't always base a game's numbers on extrapolating numbers, but it always makes for interesting discussion.  As I've pointed out before, based on "points per minute", Sean Kilpatrick has been a more effective first-year player than Lance Stephenson was.

"SK" over 40 minutes (based on Louisville numbers) would have 31 points, and three to four steals and rebounds.  Cashmere Wright would've had 28 points, about five rebounds and three to four assists and steals.

Still, playing just 23 minutes (Kilpatrick) and 29 (Wright), UC's guards were quite productive.

"He (Cashmere Wright) probably had his best game since he's been here," coach Mick Cronin said. "SK banged in some shots that widened out their zone."

For Wright, the improvement was the result of fairly simple advice (and here's hoping it continues).

"Coach Cronin told me from the get-go to reduce the play calling and just attack, attack, attack." Wright said.

When he does, few can stop Cashmere Wright from finding the hole. Not everything goes in, but Wright can pretty much drive by anyone.

And, let's not forget, Wright has TWO more years to play. 

Justin Jackson has THREE years to go and already has had more of an impact than a lot of former Bearcat greats had as freshmen (go ahead, look it up.)

Sean Kilpatrick and his "old school" game also has THREE years remaining. (If "old school" means consistently making set shots, runners, floaters and taking it to the rack, perhaps "old school" should become "new school"?)

That means (hopefully) more post-game celebrations and an extended relationship with the students.  Without a student presence at games, it's tough to have any "advantage" at home.

Ask Duke, Pitt, Kansas or any other school you can think of that has students all fired up and filling up arenas with energy.  One source feeds the other.

"They support us all year," Kilpatrick said. "They deserve something like that."

Just like the Iowa cornfields, if you build it, they will come.

Big Win Bigger Turnaround

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Are we all relieved that UC beat Louisville and stayed in the NCAA tournament race? I would say so. Thank goodness Rick Pitino has always had trouble here and the way that UC team played everyone would have trouble winning here. It looked like a pack of vicious dogs or Bearcats were unleashed and U of L had no answer for either. It was a solid win, RPI booster, strength of schedule enhancer and a 20th win, giving UC an increase in wins for 5 consecutive years (if only my bank account did that).

I hope this team realizes in the Big East you have to play like this every night to have a chance at success. The loss to West Virginia and St. John has to be eating at the coaches because it could end up hurting in the end, if they don't keep playing like they do. With this team we have to wait; because it is somewhat a mystery as to which team will show up. I hope the momentum from this win will become a signature style of play down the stretch. 

But the bigger turnaround was the immature adult fans who chose to boo Yancy Gates during the end of the St. John's game. Don't get me wrong I am not happy with his effort night in and out and wasn't happy at that moment either. But to boo a young man as  if you at his age didn't mess up along the way was embarrassing. I could hear most of you telling your kids how to act and then display that kind of behavior. Thank you for rebounding with your emotions and giving the kid a nice ovation when he check in the game. The reality is Yancy is going to play as he always has; when he wants to and booing him won't increase the chances he will, and yes, cheering doesn't guarantee it either. But I like the chances of being positive and fair more than being immature and unfair. Yancy we want the best for you and the rest of the team; we adults sometimes can be hard on our youth, forgetting we didn't like it when adults were hard on us.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.

Yancy Gates and the Burden of High Expecations

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I'll never forget the first time that I met Yancy Gates.


It was at a Bengals home game when I was still working at Fox 19.  As I was walking toward the locker room after the game, I was approached by a gigantic young man who recognized me from TV and asked me about the Bengals performance.


After answering his question, I had a few questions of my own.


"What's your name and where do you go to school?"


"It's Yancy and I go to Hughes High School." 


"You must play basketball right?"


"Yes sir."


"Is UC recruiting you?"


"I'm only in 9th grade," Gates said with a smile.



That was seven years ago when Yancy was 14 years old and he was nearly as big then as he is now.  Imagine how many times he's been asked his future in basketball.


Perhaps we should all keep that in mind when judging his recent behavior and his evaluating his first three seasons as a Bearcat.


Yancy was born with NBA genetics.  But his God-given physique has created lofty expectations under a white-hot hometown spotlight.


Prior to Wednesday's win over Louisville, Coach Cronin said he never considered dismissing Gates for his behavior during the St. John's game.  Additionally, Mick disputed the notion that Yancy was disinterested on the bench during a great comeback by his teammates against the Red Storm.


"I can see where everybody thinks that, but I can assure you that he doesn't care about anything but us winning," Cronin told me.  "He's dealing with a lot of his life right now and I'm trying to help him get through it.  My biggest concern is him as a person.  But trust me when I tell you that he wants us to win." 


This season Yancy is averaging 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.  I'll admit that I was expecting more after seeing how he had gotten into tip-top shape in the off-season.  But Coach Cronin says, the junior's solid-but-not-great stats should not be the only way he's evaluated.


"The difference in our team this year when we've played at our best has been his defense," Mick said.  "His numbers have not changed and that might not please some, but my message to Yancy has been, 'You've changed our team with your commitment to defense.'  When his defense is excellent and he fortifies the paint, it's made us a winning basketball team.  He just has to stay focused on that and block out everything else that may be pulling on him.  It's a hard fight for someone his age with the weight of the world on his shoulders.  I'm just trying to be there for him right now.  Trust me when I tell you that if he wasn't a good kid and didn't care about this program, he would not be with us."


Mick's pre-game description of Yancy's value to the team proved true in Wednesday's key win over #16 Louisville.  While his stats were modest - 8 points and 6 rebounds in 30 minutes - Yancy's ability to patrol the paint and cut off drives to the hoop was one of the biggest reasons why the 'Cats held the Cardinals to 54 points.


"He had a great game," Cronin said on the radio post-game show.  "Stats don't matter when you're a big guy.  He was active, he guarded the rim, he did an unbelievable job against multiple pick-and-rolls, he gave us inside presence, he broke down their defense by getting fouled and passing out of the double-teams, and he had zero turnovers.  He was playing great this year until everybody started sending the kid text messages and put pressure on him.  It's not his parents - his father knows more about basketball than most of us and was a great player.  But too many people are always in this kid's ear saying, 'You've got to score.'  No, you don't when you're a big guy.  You've just got to play hard - that's all you've gotta do.  Play hard and assert yourself physically.  If I could sequester him where he couldn't speak to anybody outside of his immediate family or our coaching staff, he'd be fine.  There's just too much pressure on him.  I'm just happy for him because he's the happiest kid in that locker room - I guarantee it."


If Gates was in fact the happiest, Cashmere Wright could not have been far behind.  The sophomore scored 20 points in 29 minutes and outplayed emerging Louisville star Peyton Siva.


"Cashmere Wright was a big-time player tonight," Cronin said.  "Sometimes your guys have to be better than their guys - it's pretty simple - and tonight, our point guard was better than their point guard.  He was diving on the floor, he was all over the place, and he was playing with his heart and playing with tremendous passion.  When he plays like that we're going to be tough to beat - I don't care who we play."


A bold statement after a confidence-restoring performance.


"I told them after the game that I was proud to be their coach," Cronin said.  "If I stand for anything, it's to never give up and fight to the finish."


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've finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.

What a difference a game makes.

With one impressive showing such as the one last night against No. 16 Louisville, the outlook can change on a Cashmere Wright dime. The NCAA selection committee and the rest of the public looked to Fifth Third Arena for another eye test of the Bearcats.

They saw what an NCAA tournament team looks like.

Anybody who followed the Bearcats all year knew they were capable of this. Many non-believers and fair-weather followers jumped ship, but those who watched closely knew it could happen.

Whatever this team found between Sunday and Wednesday they sure need to bottle it. One game does not make a streak, but playing 40 minutes with that kind of intensity is the water that makes them grow.

Loved this line last night from Mick Cronin, however, when asked if he thought this win helped his NCAA tournament chances. It beautifully reflected the need to stay even keel. Not too low after the St. John's loss and not too high after the Louisville win.

"Every win helps," he said. "But Saturday, if we get beat, you will ask me how much that hurts your NCAA chances."

--- I wrote my postgame column on what sparked that 40-minute intense effort the Cats have been waiting for all season long.

They took the "nobody believes in us" mentality and really played with a chip on their shoulder for the first time in a long time.

Cronin talked about keeping his kids insulated from all the negativity and how hard it's been to do that.

He delivered a line I wasn't able to sneak in, but was pretty humourous. 

"It is hard to insulate your team from negativity. Probably a lot harder than I anticipated because I am totally insulated. I coach basketball, try to get a work out in and play with a 4-year-old. With princess dolls. Sometimes I'm the king, sometimes I'm the guard of the castle. Other than that I don't really know what's going on in the world."

--- As for Cronin, Wednesday provided his first 20-win season with the Bearcats. It also assured that for the fifth consecutive season his win total rose from the previous.

His pride in what has been accomplished here continues to be abundantly clear. In fact, pride was a large part of the message he delivered to his team as they regrouped this week.

"I told guys in the meeting Monday: Nobody is raining on my parade," Cronin said. "I don't need to rehash what my situation looked like when I took this job. Tough loss against St. John's, trust me, I was sick for two days. It's a brutal existence when something like that happens, but nobody is raining on my parade. I don't care who it is. I used to have to coach games in this league with kids that I loved, but Marcus Sikes playing center against Aaron Gray and Hasheem Thabeet.

"I got a good team that plays hard, we are banging it out in the hardest league in America. Fourth and 11th place are separated by two games. We are having a good year whether anybody wants to recognize it or not. We are. I am going to do everything I can to make sure they enjoy it and nobody is going to stop me from enjoying it."

Nobody ever wants to give Cronin credit, but everything he said was 100 percent correct. And it took a phenomenal coaching job to turnaround what happened against St. John's and extract the effort put forth Wednesday.

Right now, his team is 20-6, 7-6 in the Big East with three wins against teams ranked in the Top 25 of the RPI. What were the predictions saying in the preseason? To claim he hasn't done a great job of coaching this year would be an absolute falsehood.  

--- Hard not to feel great for the Bearcats watching them celebrate after the game. Justin Jackson, Sean Kilpatrick and others were standing on the baseline media table in front of the student section cheering and high-5ing fans all around the arena.

Never to be upstaged in taking it to the next level, Justin Jackson jumped into the student section and ran to the middle of it.

I asked Kilpatrick why he didn't follow Jackson in there.

"Nah, I would have probably gotten mugged or something," he said.

--- Cashmere Wright looked like one of the top three point guards in the Big East last night. His final stat line was 20 points on 7 of 15 shooting, 2 of 6 from 3-point range. He had two assists, two turnovers and two steals.

Wright rarely has a problem driving to the rim, one of his major bugaboos has been finishing there. He didn't just finish there Wednesday, but finished with flair. His drive and wraparound, reverse layin as the shot clock expired was one of the most professional moves I've seen at Fifth Third all year.

Bill Koch touched on Cash quite a bit in his gamer, but the message to him was to attack the Cards and not worry so much about the play-calling. It clearly worked.

When asked if he thought he could do whatever he wanted on the floor, Cash had one of the great non-responses I've seen lately. He just nodded his head over and over again.

Last year, Cash had what amounted to a breakout offensive game at Louisville. He hadn't been playing much prior to that game (only double digit minutes twice in the previous seven) but scored 12 points as UC made a late run in an eventual loss.

The next game? Against Providence. How did he do? He poured in a career high 24 points.

---  Rich Bozich of the Louisville Courier-Journal wrote about this being a mid-February burp for the Cardinals and how they were outhustled and out-toughed in about every capacity imaginable.

--- Rashad Bishop takes some heat from fans for some of his uneven offensive showings. But he continues to prove his defensive prowess far overshadows any missed 3-pointers.

Last night, the plan was to put him on Cardinals point guard Peyton Siva, because Cronin thought a key for Louisville would be Siva penetrating the lane. So much of their offensive bases off his dribble-drive and kick or finish.

Then Bishop did what Bishop does. He shut him down.

Chad Brendel wrote about Bishop playing the role of unsung hero.

In the first half as UC built what turned out to be an insurmountable lead Siva contributed 0 points, 0 assists and 1 turnover.

Siva would finish with eight points and two assists in 22 minutes, but Bishop clamping down on a quick point guard like Siva should be recognized.

"This kid is the best defensive player in our conference," Cronin said."You guys that watch us know that. He can guard 1-4. He's unbelievable, his defense. We made a decision to put him on Siva to keep Siva out of the lane. We have our guys that can chase Knowles, but when Siva came out we put him on Knowles. That is a luxury to have as a coach. We are going to miss that big time next year."

Contributing 8 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals, including a monster 3-pointer late, with that type of defense makes about a perfect contribution from Bishop.

"That's his job, though," Yancy Gates said. "He's the best defender on the team and he accepts that. He locks into it and goes out there and guards everybody. He really sets the tone for us on defense in games like this."

--- Next home game, Sunday the 27th against UConn. Watching Bishop vs Kemba Walker (who went for 31 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds last night vs Georgetown) will be one of the matchups of the year in the Big East.

--- The Courier-Journal's C.L. Brown wrote about the officiating in his postgame report. In particular, he wrote about how despite a 24-7 advantage in free throws attempted for UC, Pitino thought it was well-officiated.

The key was when the Cardinals did drive the lane, the Bearcats were disciplined enough not to foul.

That provided another underrated aspect of Yancy Gates' big comeback game last night.

"Hard to describe, but that doesn't show up in the stat sheet," Cronin said. "When you got guys driving at you and you're able to make them take tough shots without fouling."

--- Larry Davis started in place of Dion Dixon on Wednesday night in an attempt to bring more energy from the opening tip on. That, along with 20 frighteningly intense minutes from Justin Jackson (who started the second half), provided the necessary jolt.

--- How focused were the Bearcats on the Louisville game? When asked a question about playing the next two games on the road, Wright didn't even know who they play in two games. (@Georgetown) 

--- Ballin' is a Habit asks who was that team that played Louisville last night and places UC back in the NCAA tournament picture.

--- As an aside to all the strength of schedule haters out there -- did you know that in the last eight years (since OOC strength was calculated) only Duke posted a non-conference strength of schedule higher than 93? Did you know that half of the national champions the past eight years posted an OOC strength lower than 150?

Seth Davis did and wrote a mailbag about it.  

--- Reason No. 4,438 I hold a love/hate relationship with Twitter. Moments after the game concluded last night I received a tweet stating that the only reason UC won last night was because Rick Pitino played terrible lineups, throwing the game for his friend Mick Cronin who really needed a win.


--- Stat of the night: Louisville goes 4 of 17 from 3-point range. Kyle Kuric 1 of 4. Kuric was 17 of 28 from behind the arc in his last five games.

The four 3-point field goals tied for a low in Big East play for the Cardinals who lead the conference in 3-pointers by an average of two per game (8.4).

--- Quote of the night: Mick Cronin on Louisville living off of steals and 3-pointers:

"Like I told our team, they're like Batman with his armor and Superman with his cape. Steals and the 3-point shot. If you don't let them steal the ball and get on runs and you don't let them bang on 3s and get on runs you really take away what makes them who they are. They are just Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne.


"My guys had no idea who either of those guys were."

Cincinnati's 63-54 victory against No. 16 Louisville on Wednesday showcased a renewed vigor that was the product of turning all allegiance to the people inside the home locker room.


CINCINNATI - For the past three days the college basketball public buried the Cincinnati Bearcats. Talk shows and Twitterverse, bloggers and broadcasters, friends and fans, the eulogy on the 2010-11 UC team blanketed every corner of the country a media outlet covered.


The team's in disarray. The locker room fractured. They're cracking under the pressure.


Yet, during those three days, while the outside world claimed basketball Armageddon in Clifton, the Bearcats regrouped.


Check that, they recoiled.


The team nobody outside Fifth Third Arena was buying looked around the locker room and liked what it saw: A contingent of young men who believed in each other.


Too often over the past few weeks, these players caught themselves listening to the damning outside rhetoric. So often, a piece of them began to believe it.


A string of Monday meetings allowed grievances to be aired and air to be cleared. The conversation turned to those outside influences. The team that bulldozed its way to 15-0 riding the mantra nobody believed in them rediscovered a chip amid the rubble of negative press clippings and placed it square on their shoulder.


A conclusion was met. They were done listening to the outsiders. They were done talking about signature wins. They were done playing for anybody except those filling that room.


"We have been telling each other we had to hold each other accountable," Sean Kilpatrick said. "Even though, say one of their other player scores, we are not looking at it like our coach is going to be mad, we look at it like one of our players is going to be mad. We can't let them down. If anything, we are playing for each other."


Mick Cronin called Tuesday the Bearcats best practice in two or three months. For the 24 hours after the practice, the Bearcats prepared to pounce, desperate to take the court.


From the moment the ball flew in the air Wednesday, the Bearcats delivered a new message. The salvo may have been the gameplan against the Louisville Cardinals, but could as easily been directed at every person doubting them recently.


"Attack and attack and attack," Cashmere Wright said.


Led by Wright, the Bearcats did. The team still searching for consistent intensity over 40 minutes never relented against the No. 16 team in the country. Wright dove to the floor for loose balls he had little business stealing. Others did the same. Seemingly every third pass was deflected. Players attacked the rim to create open looks rather than waiting for shots to develop.


"I wanted to do anything I could do to keep my team on the attack," Cronin said.  


Louisville would cut a lead of 15 down to five, but the run that's defined so many of their close wins this season never came. The Bearcats responded with more hustle, more energy, more grit.


"We played as hard as we've played all year for 40 minutes," Cronin said. "Our defense was great to the end."


They forced Louisville's lowest point total in Big East play.


"They were the tougher team tonight," Louisville's Terrence Jennings said.


The Bearcats wouldn't allow a loss Wednesday. They weren't about to let each other down.


"Kids can get distracted," Cronin said. "They are under a lot of pressure, a lot of stress. It is hard to insulate your team from negativity. We said we are 19-6 and we need to be proud of that. We need to act like it. We don't need to let anybody define us individually or as a group that is outside of our locker room."


Nobody fought more outside influences the past three days - or past three years, for that matter - than Yancy Gates. Controversy and opinions swirled on how he should be handled and what his role on the team should be going forward.


A negative spotlight that bright would crumble many 21-year-olds. Gates didn't.He played one of his most inspired games of the season. The numbers were light on points, but heavy on effort. Gates provided help defense, deflections and physicality en route to eight points, six rebounds, two assists, two blocks, a steal and zero turnovers.


"He had a great game," said Cronin, who played Gates 30 minutes. "The stat line doesn't do justice to how big an effect he had on the game by getting fouled. He had zero turnovers against a team that was trying to trap him a lot. It allowed us to run our offense through him in the second half."


By the time he left the floor for the first time, the boos that cascaded down on Sunday were replaced by roaring cheers. Gates said the response felt good, but for him, the performance wasn't some heroic endeavor. In fact, dealing with criticism the last few days hasn't been a problem at all.


For his view, as well as the rest of the Bearcats, there was no criticism.


"I've got great teammates," Gates said. "My teammates never complain about nothing. My teammates know. I talk to my teammates about everything. Nothing has really been hard because as long as my teammates were not upset with me nothing else really mattered."


Where many predicted Sunday's loss and the residual aftermath would split the Bearcats apart, they came out Wednesday and proved it accomplished the opposite.


Just when they stopped worrying about the knock of lacking a signature win, one was earned.  

So, the eulogists were wrong, at least for one night. They'll likely resurface again. Just don't expect the Bearcats to be listening.


"No," Gates said when asked if they proved anything Wednesday. "Everybody doubts us. We don't care. It doesn't matter to us."

Bearcats Breakfast 2.16.11

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Plenty of breakdown, stats and quotes to look at regarding Louisville tonight at Fifth Third. By the way, a few tickets still remain, but the game is close to selling out.

Yet, the topic everyone continues to talk about on TV, talk shows and other media outlets is Yancy Gates. I posed the question to some of you in yesterday's Breakfast if booing a college athlete is OK?

I appreciate those of you that took the time to respond.

Donn has this to say:

"I was there and didn't boo but understood why it happened at the time,end of game,emotions high, and the frustration level for everyone was at its peak. We know that if Yancy plays well we can beat anyone. He is the one advantage we have over other Beast teams. It's rare a man that big has those offensive skills. Everyone wants him to reach his potential and be the home town hero but we are seeing an underachieving guy right now. If he would just play harder, longer those boos would go away quickly as soon as Wednesday night. We probably crossed the line a bit on the booing but I give us a pass on this one as it is not the typical fan behavior and presently the stakes are extremely high."

No doubt the stakes are high. Much like I wrote for CNati how Mick Cronin's tenure will always be linked to Deonta Vaughn, in the same respect, it will always be linked to Yancy Gates. The success of both and consequently, the basketball program start with those two. As you said, he's the one advantage UC owns over other Big East teams. The only area where I would disagree is the alarming aspect of Sunday wasn't the way he played -- we've seen inaffective games before -- it was strictly his reaction to sitting on the bench. Cronin reiterated as much on Monday.  

Here's another response to the question from Lee:

"I was at the game Sunday and I have to say I was encouraged by what I saw transpire. Sunday was not the first time Mr. Gates has been disinterested, he has consistently shown this behavior, especially during timeouts, all year.  However, it is the first time I have seen the senior leadership this team needs. The booing was a little much, I just hope Mr Gates turns this into a position of strength by reacting positively, even if he doesn't UC will be fine."

Great point, Lee. Despite all the talk about Gates, all this came while UC mounted one of its most impressive comebacks of the year with Ibrahima Thomas, Rashad Bishop and Larry Davis leading the way. Other players on this team can and have led this team to victories. People forget they were up three with little over a minute left almost entirely due to the gritty effort of the rest of the team. The dialouge would dramatically change had a free or two bounced the other way.

--- Scott Springer wrote about the juvenile nature of booing anybody, college or otherwise.

--- Dan Hoard poses an important question: When Gates walks to the scorer's table tonight, what will you do?

I couldn't agree more. For the sake of Gates and this team, it's time to move on.

--- Louisville represents the latest opportunity for a signature win, as Tom Groeschen talks about in his Enquirer preview.

Think about how the conversation will change about the Bearcats should they pull off the victory tonight?

They would have 20 wins. They would own three victories against the RPI Top 25. They would be above .500 in the toughest conference in basketball and without a loss against a team outside the RPI Top 25.

Of course, easier said than done to beat the Cards, but with a win this team's resume stacks up with those on the bubble.

Take a look at Kansas St., who everyone wants to put back in the tournament after their win against Kansas. Prior to that game they were 0-7 against the RPI top 50 and 5-6 in their conference. They have two losses against No. 93 Colorado.  

Beating Louisville wouldn't be on the same page with No. 1 Kansas, but it's amazing what a quality win can do for perception.

--- OK, so there's no secret what a win would do for UC's tournament profile, now how do you do it. Well, that's not quite as easy to figure out.

Here are some conference play numbers to consider on the Cards:

- U of L leads the league in steals

- The Cardinals are third in the country in assists per game (18.0).

- Louisville leads the league in 3-pointers made (104). They average nearly two 3-pointers more a game (8.4) than second-place Notre Dame (6.5).  

- Kyle Kuric caught fire of late. He's averaging 18.8 points over the last five games. Over that span, he's connected on 17 of 28 3-pointers. That's 60.7 percent for my non-math majors out there.

- Oh, and he did this.

- UC has allowed fewer 3-pointers than any team in the Big East, but is last in the league in percentage made by opponents (38.3).

--- The combination of those numbers make it easy to see how the Cards win games. Steal-outlet-assist-3-pointer. Repeat.

Taking those numbers into consideration, the key to watch will be UC's transition 3-point defense. The Cards love to run fast breaks with Kuric and leading scorer Preston Knowles running to the wings to fire 3-pointers.

Cronin talked about their transition on Monday.

"They have two great shooters running the wings at all times. They never run the wings with guys that can't shoot. That is unconventional. You teach guys to run to the paint and get inside defensively. You can't run to the paint. You literally have to have one guy run to one wing and another guy run to another wing. It's imperative your big guys run the floor defensively to fortify the paint because your wings, if they stay in there, they are banging in 3s. And they bang them in in a hurry when they get on rolls, especially Knowles and Kuric, they are shooting lights out lately."

--- The numbers flip in UC's favor when looking at rebounding. Remember, last year UC grabbed 28 offensive rebounds against U of L at Madison Square Garden in the BE tournament.

The Louisville Courier-Journal talks about the Cards working at becoming a better rebounding team. Rick Pitino thought his team made strides against Syracuse.

The Cards rank 13th in the BE in defensive rebound percentage (63 percent).

On the flip side, UC ranks fifth in offensive rebound percentage (37 percent).

The last three games, UC pounded the offensive glass with more authority than all season. In games against Pitt, WVU, DePaul and St. John's they grabbed 67 of 141 possible offensive rebounds. That's good for a 47.5 percent clip.

That number will need to be over 40 percent tonight for UC to pull the upset.

--- BearcatsBlog conducted an interview with Mike from the quality Louisville blog Card Chronicle. There's plenty of great inside info on the Cardinals. More importantly, Scott poses this question: Pirates or Ninjas?

Pirates are the most unathletic of all the villans in the world. What's their big draw? Swords? Peg legs? Scurvy? 

Give me a stealth ninja and he'll steal more booty than Johnny Depp made on any of those movies.      

--- Caution: Referee Tim Higgins will be on duty tonight.   

--- The game will be at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

--- On to some randomness...

--- Dwight Howard's NBA All-Star party on Friday night should be pretty tame.   

--- Every year I say I am going to go to Bonnaroo. Every year I don't.

But seriously, this year, I'm going.

--- Moral of the Story: Propose outside the Panda Express in the Food Court, don't expect positive results.

--- The worst aspect of Spring Training is the "Best shape of his life" story. DJ Gallo wrote the story I really want to see.

--- The weakness in Watson the Jeopardy computer was finally unveiled: It freezes up under pressure. However, the best part is watching all the computer science folks applaud in amazement over Watson's conquest.  

--- McDonald's really connecting with the hip-hop generation with my new favorite rap line: Big Mac. Large Fries. Really big drink. Super size.  


Villanova superior in battle of Cats

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For the second-straight contest Cincinnati was dealt a defeat from a winless Big East team.

The Bearcats (8-16, 1-11 Big East) lost their 10th-consectuive game 64-44 to Villanova on Tuesday at the Pavilion.


Wildcat guard Lindsay Kimmel nailed three-consecutive 3-pointers in a crucial three-minute stretch at the beginning of the second half to extend the 12-point lead at the break to 19.


Following the barrage from Kimmel, UC couldn't trim the lead below 18.


Kimmel notched a career-best 23 points and went 7-14 from distance. Freshman Devon Kane also netted a career-high 13.


Cincinnati freshman Jeanise Randolph scored a career-best 20 points on near perfect shooting 10-11 while leading all rebounders with seven. Randolph became the first rookie to drop 20 since Jan. 17, 2009.


Guard Shareese Ulis contributed 11 points with 3-5 shooting from beyond the arc.


The five-minute mark of the first half was the last time Cincinnati would be behind by single digits, 24-15.


The Wildcats (9-16, 1-11) turned 14 UC miscues into 14 points. Villanova forward Laura Sweeney was the catalyst with a game-high five steals. 


UC had a short bench once again with seven-healthy bodies. Villanova outscored UC's reserves by a 21-0 margin.


With the exception of Kimmel's hot shooting the rest of team went 3-18 from behind the arc. Taking away clean looks for Villanova was a main focus for UC head coach Jamelle Elliot prior to the game. 


"Disrupt Villanova's offense as much as possible," Elliott said. "Crowd them and make them put the ball on the floor, something that they don't want to do a whole lot of."


Villanova No. 7 in the Big East in 3-point field goal percentage defense limited UC to 33 percent shooting.


Cincinnati tips off with Providence College Saturday at 2 p.m. at Fifth Third Arena. 

Lesson Learned For Yancy?

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At some point in the first half on Wednesday night, Yancy Gates is going to rise from the bench and move toward the scorer's table to check into UC's crucial game against Louisville.


If you have a ticket, do you plan to boo?


Give it some thought first.


While I felt badly for Yancy when he got booed near the end of the St. John's game, I can't blame anyone for doing so.  There's no excuse for failing to support your teammates, and Gates appeared disinterested as he sat on the end of the bench during a great Bearcat comeback.  His behavior was immature and indefensible.


The fans sent a loud message that I'm certain Yancy heard.  Does it really need to be sent again?


I'm not suggesting that people should cheer wildly when he enters the game and pretend that nothing happened, but I do think that Gates deserves another chance.  Additionally, do we really want the image of Cincinnati fans jeering a hometown kid to be the storyline on national television?


Until 11 days ago when an incident at practice before the Pittsburgh game led to his one-game suspension, Gates was having an OK-but-not-great season, averaging 11 points and 7 rebounds.  He had enjoyed moments of brilliance including a 22 point, 14 rebound effort in the win over Xavier, and delivered the game-winning three-point play with eight seconds to go at St. John's.


Unfortunately, there have also been dismal performances where he grows visibly frustrated over not getting the ball and doesn't compete with maximum effort.  Until that ceases, Yancy will never be the player he is capable of being.


But his effort - particularly at practice - has been improved this year and I have no doubt that he regrets how he behaved in the St. John's game.  I attended practice on Tuesday, and Yancy hustled throughout and paid attention to the coaching staff.  Can he keep it up when things aren't going his way?  That's the question.


Feel free to remain skeptical.  Yancy has yet to earn the benefit of the doubt.


But can we give him an opportunity to turn those boos back into cheers?


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've finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.


Rondo shirt.jpg 

Speaking of young Sam, enjoy this week's photo of him proudly rocking some Celtics gear (yes, I know Rajon Rondo played at UK.  As soon as a former Bearcat joins Boston, he'll have a new favorite player).


anniversary signage.jpg 

And look for new signage at Wednesday's Louisville game celebrating the 50th anniversary of Cincinnati's back-to-back NCAA titles in 1961 and 1962.




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I didn't like what I saw in the UC/St. John's game at Fifth Third Arena.

I didn't like the lack of inside scoring, I didn't like gaining the lead and refusing to seize the momentum, and I thought UC got hosed down the stretch (as it's seemingly impossible to get a call on their home floor when facing "original" Big East opponents).

All that aside, one thing really bothered me. With 1:18 remaining (and despite being all but invisible for the previous 38:42) Yancy Gates ran to the scorer's table to check in.

And he was booed.

Mysteriously, he didn't check in after the timeout and returned to his position at the end of the bench where the pouters and sulkers typically sit.

Coach Cronin say it as a mix-up.

"I have no idea who told him to do that," Cronin said. "I didn't. We are winning and they were pressing. Even if we are playing well with him in, we can't play him with his free throw percentage."

OK. Not really a ringing endorsement.

I totally understand.  There's some issues there and there have been some issues there. We all know that when Yancy decides to play, UC's a tough opponent.  When he goes on "mental vacation", he's as useless as earrings on a pig.


Let's not forget that Gates actually WON the previous St. John's game in Carnesseca Arena with a key late bucket. He IS capable of making a big shot and pulling down a crucial rebound.

My feeling is if the guy was coming in to help UC win in the final minute (and we may never know if he was or not) why would you boo  him?  What kind of confidence does that give him to go in and make a play?

Would you have booed him if he were on the line with a chance to sink two to win it?

Furthermore, I've never understood the notion of booing anyway.  Maybe I'm getting soft as two of my oldest are around the same age as these guys. If it were your son or daughter out there, would you appreciate them getting booed?

If not, maybe you need to check your "catcalls".

Trust me on this one, I'm not saying watch the game spineless and clap for both teams here. I have NO PROBLEM with heckling the other team, the other coach or the referees (and Foot Locker's going to go out of business if the Big East keeps assigning their shoe salesmen here).

I just don't get "the boo".

I can honestly say I've yelled, I've taunted, I've begged to differ and I've expressed my displeasure a number of ways at numerous sporting events. 

But, I've never booed.  Just don't get it.

My frustrations are usually not monosyllabic.

Plus, it just seems juvenile. Why don't you stick your tongue out and add a little, "Na-na-na-na-na?"

There's a time to be disgusted and a time to zip your pie-hole and hope for the best. If Yancy was being sent in to help, I don't expect you to cheer as if he were Kenyon Martin, but don't destroy him psychologically before he even gets his warm-up off.

Heck, even Donald Little once hit a game-winning shot here.

Again, I note your aggravation.  I don't like the concept of a big guy shooting fadeaways either.

Every now and then they go in though.

And, if you were making an all-time "boo list" (at least in the last 15 years) you would have a  number of guys that have never contributed anything close to what Yancy Gates has.

From my personal list, I give you:
  • Charles Williams ('96-'97). Brought in to play point guard, dribbled off his foot, shot gang signs on TV and  couldn't shoot.
  • Michael Horton ('97-'99). Shot no gang signs , but was a chunkier Charles Williams.
  • B.J. Grove ('00-'02). And you rip on Yancy?
  • Antwan Jones (2001). JUCO hero to the rescue. Had the "take games off" disease. Actually went AWOL in San Diego after a first round NCAA tournament win.
  • Rod Flowers ('01-'03). Proof why you should never buy into Deveroes League statistics.
  • Robert Whaley (2004). Same attention issue that snarls Gates at times. Continually let down his coach, teammates and everyone around him and still fumbled briefly into the NBA.
  • Ronald Allen (2006). Came to the gym post-Hurricane Katrina and looked like Tarzan.  Played like Jane.
  • Adam Hrycaniuk (2008). A wonderful interview and another guy that looked awesome during the summer at Woodward High School. Turns out, the way to beat him at "Horse" was to continually go to the lay-up. Secretly, I think missed lay-ins are now referred to as "Hrycaniuk's" by numerous NCAA statisticians.

These gentlemen were all "boo-worthy" if I were inclined to do so, but I never did. There was no shortage of, "Oh come on!", or, "You've got to be kidding me!?" references during their tenures, but nary a boo.

The point is, Yancy Gates has overall been much more productive than any of the guys I've mentioned. You may not like his style of play, but he's a member of the team you pull for.

If you've ever cheered for him wildly, you really need to stay reasonably consistent. Grumble amongst yourself if you must (and I do) but leave the negative reinforcement up to the coach.

Or, you could always move to Philly where booing's much more acceptable.

Plenty to get to, so we'll skip the chatter and make this happen...

--- Well, two days after the St. John's loss and the sky still hasn't fallen. Waking up today, I fully expected to be blanketed by clouds and unformed precipitation particles. Alas, no.

Yesterday's media availability with Mick Cronin and Larry Davis proved the same. There was no press release announcing any suspensions. There was no public railing of any players. There was no panic. There was another Monday of practice preparing for another big game in two days. There's really little time for much else.

With two days until the No. 15 team in the country comes into your building, talk about impressing the selection committee or how far or close they are from the magic number of wins needed doesn't appear to be overtaking this team's mind.

"We are just trying to focus on what we need to do so we can win so we can finish off these games,' Davis said. "We talk about (how many wins we might need to get in the tournament) but we really focus on what we need to fix as a team."

I'm not in the film sessions. I don't see every minute of practice. I'm not in their dorm rooms (thankfully, that would be creepy). So, I can't tell you the mental mindset of this team, but from the outsider perspective the team seems pretty undeterred by Sunday's disappointment and understanding how quickly perspective can change with a win Wednesday.

--- When I asked if Yancy Gates would play against Louisville, Cronin said, "We'll see. I don't think it's safe to say anybody will play Wednesday."

Cronin said he hadn't talked individually with Gates, at least as of the media session before practice, but did talk with the entire team and the understanding of the expectations of behavior and play are as clear as ever.

"He was unhappy with his playing time," Cronin said. "That is part of life. He is not going to be able to have that attitude and be part of our team. He's been told that."

The record was also set straight regarding Gates checking in at the scorers table in the final minutes which resulted in an onslaught of boos.

"That was a miscommunication. Ibrahima called him to the huddle. I think he thought Ibrahima told him to go to the table. Ibrahima was calling him to the huddle, in fairness to Yancy."

Cronin finalized the Gates talk by saying this as a general overview of the situation.

"People get confused. We were struggling guarding their guys. People took four shots against him while he was playing defense and all four went in. I needed to get some stops when you are down. You are tyring to get your fastest lineup in there and your best lineup against the zone. It's really not more complicated than that.


"Some players obviously struggle dealing with that. He being one of them, moreso than other guys and it is disappointing. It reflects poorly on him. He's not a bad kid, it reflects poorly on him. It reflects poorly on us. It's unacceptable and it's not going to happen or he's not going to be with us. It would be no different with any other guy in our team."

--- As for the booing, I couldn't help but start thinking more about that incident Monday. At the time, in the moment and frustration of the game, it blended in.

Players were upset, coaches were upset, the fans were upset. The game was intense and highly emotional.

Backing away from it, however, I couldn't help but pose the question: Is it OK to boo a college player?

These kids are going to class, practicing 20 hours a week, traveling to games, seeing tutors and not being paid a dime (not counting scholarship money, of course).

Yet, they are treated -- particularly at this level -- as professionals. And Gates has been so much a part of the city's public figure landscape for so long we almost assume he is a pro.

Passion of a fan base belongs in college basketball. And frustration over the conduct of one of the players is understandable.

But did our fan base go to far Sunday?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on that question. If you have time, place it in the comments section or send me an email (pauldehnerjr@gmail.com) and I'll publish the good ones in the next few days.  

Here was Cronin's response to my question:

"This day and age, I personally feel that amateurs are amateurs, professionals are different," Cronin said. "But at the big-time level there is trade off. You get to play on ESPN. You get name recognition that would help you theoretically get a job, whether you are Alex Meachem or Ryan Fletcher working for Edward Jones now, whatever the case. There is some trade off. I had a real problem with anybody getting on a kid at Murray State because he's riding buses all over the Ohio Valley Conference. That I have a problem with. Our guys, at our level, it's definitely different. There are residual benefits. It goes with it a little bit. It's not easy for them. It's life's lessons. It's definitely not easy but there is a trade off for the big-time college athlete."

--- Every conceivable bracket on the Internet has UC in the tournament still, except for Rivals. Here's the Bracket Matrix.

--- Joey Brackets at ESPN has UC as an 11 seed and not among the last four in.  

--- Scott at BearcatsBlog with a Q and A from the Twitterverse. In a shocking development, some people on Twitter are pretty cynical.

He also asked Andy Glockner of Sports Illustrated if 3-3 the rest of the way beating Prov, Marquette and Louisville would be enough to make the Dance, to which AG responded, "my gut says no."

That's probably right. It would take another mini-run in the BE tournament at that point. Of course, it depends on who the wins are against. If UC beats Gtown, UConn and U of L, well, that changes the game a little bit.

--- Chad Brendel turned the eyes forward toward Louisville and what to expect Wednesday.

--- Matt Norlander would like people to stop complaining about how weak the bubble will be this year. Guarantee none of those will be UC fans.

--- Quick football note, UC-NC State at Nippert will be played on ESPN on Thursday night Sept. 22.  

Some randomness...

--- Jim Boeheim showed up in his postgame presser last night with an ax to grind with the Cuse media. For a guy whose sat through hundreds of boring pressers, I find this more than mildly entertaining.

--- If I was on TV and somebody fonted me as "Random Dude" it would be my new Avatar. Though, I'm sure Wally Szczerbiak doesn't fell the same.

--- Is there a weight limit with which a taser is deemed ineffective?

--- Ugh.

--- Ladies and Gentlemen, Ashton Kutcher's dad, Bruce Willis. (Such a great line from Ricky Gervais) 

We've heard so much this season about the maturity of this group. Finally, these young recruiting classes are mature enough to handle adversity, to endure the Big East grind.

We're about to find out if that was just talk or reality.

Home losses to West Virginia and St. John's backed UC squarely into the corner and coming out swinging against some of the Big East heavys is the only way out. That starts with a home game against Louisville on Wednesday.  

Last season, we saw UC come out fighting when backed into a corner. Only, they waited until the Big East tournament to do so. Too little, too late. 

Exactly one month before Selection Sunday, the sweat of that day started to run down the Bearcats brow.

There was as much urgency and frustration from Mick Cronin as I've seen this year on Sunday. Whether it be with effort, his rotation or not coddling his biggest name. Against Louisville, the players need to feel it, too. 

The Yancy Gates issue dominated the storylines on Sunday. I'm sure we'll hear plenty more on the fallout at media availability today. Taking Sunday and whatever criticism or controversy stems from it and putting it behind UC may be the key to their season. It will take a serious amount of focus and maturity.

Those are characteristics this Bearcats team possess. Starting on Wednesday, we'll find out just how much of it.

--- Let's start with the Gates situation and get it out of the way. Cronin hoped the suspension of Gates little more than a week ago would spark him into a strong finish to the season this team sorely needed. Obviously, that hasn't happened.

As far as where you go now with Gates. I don't know. I'm not the coach and, thankfully, that's far from my job.

Cronin talked about emptying the motivational playbook the Monday after the suspension and when asked if there was any other moves he could make he mentioned kicking him off the team.

I don't see that happening, but he's deep in the doghouse. Cronin was understandably frustrated with Gates after the game.

Here was a dialouge between Cronin and Bill Koch regarding the situation that I thought provided a sense of the frustration and attitude right now:

BK: You had Yancy Gates and Dion Dixon on the bench for most of the second half, I guess  Yancy in particular, you want to talk about why he didn't play more?

MC: I play the guys that I think give the Cincinnati Bearcats the best chance to win. That's the best answer I can give you. And that is always the best answer to who plays and why they play.

BK: After Ibrahima Thomas fouled out he jumped to the scorers table did you intend to put him in the game?

MC: I have no idea who told him to do that. I have no idea.

BK: You don't know who told him?

MC: Absolutely not. We are winning and they are pressing. Even if he's playing well with his free throw percentage you are not going to play him at that point.

(It continued later...)

BK: Did you notice Yancy got booed when he got up to go in the game?

MC: No I did not.

BK: Did you notice him on the bench kind of sulking?

MC: Oh yeah.

BK: What did you think of that?

MC: He didn't play did he?

BK: Is that why he didn't play?

MC: To be honest, no. I was playing guys I thought gave us the best chance to win.

BK: Why wasn't he one of those guys?

MC: Give me a reason why you would play him?

BK: I'm not saying whether I would or not, I'm just asking what did he not do or think he woudlnt' do to give yout hte best chance to win, because usually he is?

MC: Not lately. You got to produce. You can't just stand on the low block and wait for people to throw you the ball, you got to produce. Teams play the matchup zone, you got to move the ball and move people. If you are not going to move and you are just going to stand there -- whoever you are -- and not run our zone offense against the matchup zone, how can I play you? It doesn't matter who you are. We had some perimeter guys got taken out to because they woudln't run the baseline...Justin (Jackson) and Thomas were doing the best job of moving actively against their matchup zone.

BK: I don't know if you can answer this question, but where do you stand with Yancy Gates right now in terms of his status on this team?

MC: I'll evaluate that after. I'm not really in the mood to talk about that right now. I am sure you wish I would, but I'm really not.

--- If you want to watch the entire Cronin postgame presser, you can view it here.

--- Dan Hoard touched on the Yancy Gates situation and the Bearcats bubble with his postgame blogPaul Daugherty wrote a column on Gates as well. Fox19's Brian Giesenschlag put together a great package on Gates and Cronin.

--- Let's move on, shall we?

Dion Dixon also didn't play many minutes, but Cronin said that was more a product of how well Rashad Bishop and Sean Kilpatrick were playing than anything Dixon did.

"I have no qualms with Dion Dixon's effort," Cronin said.

Dixon scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half. He looked for his shot and was more aggressive offensively. It was a nice rebound for a guy who was averaging 5.4 points over his last five games.

--- I wrote yesterday about the search for a complete game. It seems we've seen these 5-10 minute flashes of brilliance come and go throughout the Big East season, particularly late in games where the Cats are behind. 

That's where much of the frustration comes from for Cronin, the fans and really everyone associated with the program right now. It's not a matter of can UC compete with these teams, they can. They just haven't been able to sustain the high level of play for entire games.

--- Here's some postgame comments from Anthony Buford regarding the game and the outlook going forward for both teams.

--- Chad Brendel talked about self-inflicted wounds dooming the Cats.  

--- One of the staples of the success of this team for the majority of this season was how well it took care of the basketball. It led the Big East in turnover margin much of the season (now second to Marquette) and starting with the first DePaul game produced more assists than turnovers in six of seven games. They've failed to do so in four of the last six.

They averaged 9.2 turnovers a game through the first seven games of the Big East season.

In the last six games the average rose to 13.7 turnovers including 14 on Sunday.

--- UC didn't shoot particularly well from the field against St. John's at 35.8 percent. However, the 3-point shooting appears to be coming around.

The Cats shot 37 percent from 3-point range in 30 attempts. It was the biggest reason they got back in the game. UC shot 37 percent as well from deep against DePaul, although on only eight attempts.

Forcing UC to shoot from the perimeter was Steve Lavin's gameplan.

"Our idea was to cluster the paint, jam the paint," he said. "Take our chances with them surviving on a steady diet of 3-point shots."

--- Stat of the night: Ibrahima Thomas is averaging 10 points and seven boards over the last three games. 

--- Larry Davis had three points, two assists and no turnovers. He went with the one spidey-tight look for the first time this year, if I'm correct. Really like Larry and what he's brought his season. Tommy G had this feature on him for Bearcats Weekly.      

--- Here comes Louisville and they are playing great basketball. They won their seventh consecutive game over Syracuse (what a wild stat) on Saturday and looked dominant in doing so.

The faithful in Louisville are starting to buy into the Cards, rightfully so.  

--- Of course, two games against Georgetown are on the horizon and they have now won eight consecutive Big East games. Rob Dauster talks about why they are so tough to beat.  

--- Tough loss for Bearcats fans yesterday, without doubt. Add onto that a Monday morning of work today, not a great morning.

So, here's some Arcarde Fire to lighten up the day. Big congrats to them on winning Album of the Year at the Grammy's last night.

And also congrats to Lady Gaga's shoulder horns for creeping me out.

My Take on "Yancygate" and Bubble Trouble

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The headline in the New York Daily News on Sunday morning read as follows:  "Red Storm Out To Burst Bearcats' Tourney Bubble."


After St. John's 59-57 win, the bubble hasn't burst, but Cincinnati's margin for error is rapidly shrinking.


Say what you want about UC's non-league schedule, but if Cincinnati had simply taken care of business when favored in home games against West Virginia and St. John's, the Bearcats would be 8-4 in the Big East and in great NCAA Tournament shape.  But in a pair of low-scoring games on their home floor, the 'Cats were not able to protect second half leads.


"We play in a league where we're not going to win if we can't just grind out games," head coach Mick Cronin said.  "Eight out of 10 Big East games are like this one.  We've been through this before - it's not our first time.  You've got to just keep playing defense, you've got to keep running your offense, and you can't panic and force things that aren't there."


It doesn't help when one of your best players is acting up.


I like Yancy Gates personally.  He's always been candid with me and generous with his time.  I appreciate the fact that he spurned high-profile offers and committed to UC when the program was in the rebuilding stage.  But right now he's hurting the team and his hopes of having a lucrative pro career with his woe-is-me behavior.


It's pretty simple:  Play as hard as you can when you're in the game and cheer for your teammates when you're not.  That's really all that's required.  To see Yancy sulking near the end of the bench when the season is on the line is hard to stomach.


"Why would I play him?" Mick Cronin responded when asked about Yancy's 13 minutes of playing time on the radio postgame show.  "Give me a reason.  Tell me why he should be in?"


When Gates returned from his one-game suspension last week, the hope was that he would display renewed focus and dedication.  Following the St. John's game, I asked Coach Cronin if the opposite had occurred.


"No - he's the same," Cronin said.  "It is what it is."


And yet, despite "Yancygate", the Bearcats were in position to beat St. John's.  After trailing by 12 with less than 9:00 to, Cincinnati rallied to take a 3-point lead with less than 2:00 remaining.  But a series of missed free throws by UC, fouls that sent St. John's to the line, and an inexplicable lane violation by Rashad Bishop, allowed the Red Storm to score the last five points of the game.


"I'm as frustrated as I've been all year because my one goal coming into this year was that we were going to play hard and we were going to play smart," Coach Cronin said.  "These guys have been better, but I want them to win because they've put in a lot of work and the majority of our guys are good guys.  But you can't beat yourself.  That's not to take anything away from St. John's, but when you add up all of the little things I'm talking about, you beat yourself."


If ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi is right, the Bearcats need to win at least three of their six remaining regular season games to be in position for an NCAA tournament bid going into the Big East Tourney.  Ironically, the thing that has loomed as a huge obstacle all year is now the very thing that could save them - their brutal schedule down the stretch.  There are still plenty of opportunities for resume-building wins.


Four of the remaining six games are against Top 20 teams, including three at home.  The 'Cats still control their own destiny, but they're going to have to beat some of the league's best teams at home (Louisville, UConn, Georgetown) or win road games against three schools (Providence, Georgetown, Marquette) that are a combined 12-5 in Big East home games.


"We do not have overwhelming talent for our league," Coach Cronin said.  "We have to win playing really smart, really hard, and focused on details or we're not going to win."


Their bubble didn't burst on Sunday, but a pin got closer to the surface.


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've finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.

Cincinnati showed glimpses of a team that belongs in the NCAA tournament Sunday, but continues hunt down the elusive complete game.


CINCINNATI -- For eight minutes the game looked so easy. Rashad Bishop drained 3-pointers. Passes found open cutters in the lane. Defense kept St. John's frustrated and without a field goal.


In one of the season's biggest games, the Bearcats looked up to task.


Unfortunately for the Bearcats, the effort came too late, as it has far too often during this Big East season.


With six regular season games left, the time to show off the first complete game in Big East play is running out of time.


"We made so many mistakes that I am so disappointed in its really hard for me to describe right now," Mick Cronin said. "You always give credit to team that won the game, but we sure get an assist."


In a two-point game, it's easy to pick plays here or there that would have changed the game. Cronin has 32 minutes of them: from Bishop's lane violation to any of the 15 turnovers to whatever happened to Yancy Gates.


Cronin searched under the couch cushions to find five players willing to play hard, be patient and get back on defense. The time spent figuring out the combination were valuable minutes the Bearcats couldn't afford to lose.


In the end, it's the reason they did.


"It's a miracle we had a chance to win the game," Cronin said.


Because of eight spectacular minutes down the stretch the Bearcats almost overcame the mistakes of the first 32.


Sean Kilpatrick thought the defensive stops fueled the run. Holding a team without a field the goal the final 8:57 is a good way to close a deficit. Much of that can be attributed to Bishop. Known for his defense, he continued to deliver in that area. Yet, when he hit two 3-pointers, attacked the lane to get to the line and dished a smooth assist he became the driving force behind the comeback.


"I saw people starting to get down so I thought I would pick up my energy," Bishop said.


Bishop's game, in many ways, served as a microcosm of UC's. For all the positive plays and energy lift he provided during the push to take the lead, the game will be more remembered for his slow start and critical mistake.


Bishop scored two points with two turnovers in the first half. He was busted jumping into the lane on Malik Boothe's missed front end of the one-and-one.


He's the perfect symbol of the latest "Yeah, but" game for the Bearcats.   


"He's one guy who will play hard for you," Cronin said, then jumping to the inevitable conclusion to Bishop's evaluation. "He made a huge mistake, obviously."


St. John's coach Steve Lavin knew the UC run was coming. In the middle of the second half, he stood in the middle of his timeout huddle and warned them as such. In retelling the moment and staying true to his broadcasting roots, he put a perfect analytical phrase on the Bearcats.


"I tried to give warnings of what they are capable of doing," Lavin said.


Indeed, UC is capable of doing so much. They've shown that. Doing it for 40 minutes against top competition continues to be the missing piece.


Antoher opportunity comes to Fifth Third Arena on Wednesday along with the Louisville Cardinals. Turning eight minutes into 40 then will go along way to erasing nightmares of Sunday's first 32.


"You still got more games," Bishop said. "We are in the Big East, every game in the Big East is tough. That loss will be eliminated with a couple more wins."

Pirates Punish Cats

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Cincinnati stormed back from a 24-point deficient to pull within three, before falling to Seton Hall.


The Pirates defeated UC 51-44 Saturday at Fifth Third Arena in the Bearcats' ninth-consecutive loss.  


With 18:14 remaining the Pirates stretched their largest lead of the game to 33-9. The Bearcats answered with a 30-9 run to make it a one-possession game after a 3-pointer from freshman Kayla Cook at the 2:20 mark.


"If you have enough heart, you never think the game is over in spite of the score," guard Shareese Ulis said. "Every team goes on a run, so we knew we were capable of going on a run."


Senior Shelly Bellman had a chance to knot the game but came up short on her shot from distance.   


A Bjonee Reaves' 3-ball with under 30 seconds remaining, bounced on the back and front of the rim before rolling off with UC trailing by five.


"When it left my hands, I really thought it was going in," Reaves said. "I had a really good look but it just didn't go down for me. It was pretty heartbreaking."


Seton Hall guard Jasmine Crew netted a game-best 17 points including 3-5 shooting from behind the arc. Guard Brittany Morris chipped in 11.


Reaves paced the Bearcats with 11 points in her third-straight start.


"[Being in the starting five] is definitely giving me more confidence to put up some points," Reaves said.


Cincinnati limited its miscues to six in the closing half and shot 40.6 percent from the field, the best by either squad.


"I wish we would have came out and played that type of basketball at the beginning of the game," head coach Jamelle Elliott said. "We had four of our best practices leading into this game."


UC shot a miserable 20 percent in the opening half and committed 12 turnovers. Both factored into the Bearcats' first half season-low nine points.


"The first half was kind of the nail in the coffin for this game," Elliott said.


With the loss Cincinnati is now 0-14 when trailing at halftime.


The Bearcats shot 29 3-pointers and attempted 23 2-point field goals. Elliott attributes this to her team's lack of penetrating guards and limited touches in the post. 


"I think [Reaves is] the only player on our team that has the ability to infiltrate defenses with the basketball on the dribble," Elliott said. "[Forward] Jeanise Randolph had a great week of practice. Our game plan coming in was to get her the ball."


While UC dug too deep of a hole to climb out of in the first half, free throws ultimately plagued the team.


Seton Hall knocked down 13-15 and Cincinnati went 4-13.


Seton Hall came strong out of the gate with a 14-0 lead six minutes into the contest.


A Shelly Bellman 3-pointer from the top of the key made it 42-34 with 3:26 to go, pulling UC within single digits for the first time since the score was 8-0.


Cincinnati faces Villanova Tuesday at Pavilion at 7 p.m.



 ---Junior guard Chanel Chisholm made her first appearance for the Bearcats since Jan. 18 when she injured her ankle against St. John's. She contributed four points and four rebounds in 15 minutes. She was the eighth player to dress for Elliott, who needs all the healthy bodies she can get. "She was another sub coming off the bench," Elliott said. "I was just wanting her to come in and give some of those guys a blow."


---UC dropped to 7-3 when holding opponents to 60 points or less. The Bearcats are 4-0 when limiting teams to less than 50 points. The team is 8-0 on the season when leading at halftime.

Kilpatrick.jpgSean Kilpatrick continued to show signs of his bright future during Wednesday's win against DePaul, his next obstacle is finding consistency to provide those more often.


CINCINNATI - Sean Kilpatrick finished at the rim with contact. He powered to the hoop with advanced, precise moves. He buried a 3-pointer. He attacked the lane, drew defenders and dished.


Against DePaul, Kilpatrick played the role of offensive leader.


That role went unfilled during many of the Bearcats' two-act plays this Big East season. Of course, this wasn't opening night for the redshirt freshman (that actually provided 21 points against Mount St. Mary's).


Just 24 games into his UC career, Kilpatrick displayed his offensive star potential. He showed he can be the most electric on the team. His 18 points willed a win against South Florida. His 14-point outburst made the difference against Seton Hall. Without 19 at DePaul, well, Jimmy Drew's last-second heave wouldn't have mattered for an entirely different reason.


Kilpatrick can provide the offensive spark this team ranked 14th in the conference in points per game (63.7) and tied for 11th in points per possession (1.01) needs.


Only, one problem exists. For all the smooth moves and offensive gems like the one produced Wednesday night at DePaul, a similar number of nights exist where his production lagged.


Kilpatrick owns six games of 16 or more points this season. He also owns eight games of six or less. As a player still developing defensive abilities, it places his coach between a rock and a hard place.


"It seems he's either had 17 or 20 or 0 or 2," Cronin said. "He's a streaky guy right now in his career. He's a freshman. When he struggles early in games he seems to lose his confidence a little bit. Or maybe presses too much. That's just a matter of maturity for him."


Each night, as the game evolves, Kilpatrick can't always tell what type of night it will be. If there was a consistent theme, he'd be replicating it by now.


"I don't always know, but I get some kind of heat towards it when I see sometimes we are struggling to score," Kilpatrick said. "Not only that, but if (Dion Dixon's) the only one out there scoring and he needs some type of help. That's when I figure I can help out a little bit."


Kilpatrick's not alone in the search for consistency. The same could be said for Dixon, Yancy Gates, Cashmere Wright or any number of UC's contributors.  


"He's a freshman," Cronin said. "I don't believe in putting too much on him. I would love for him to get on a run of double figure games. I would be all for it. I would be all for Dion Dixon to get on a run of double-figure consistency, too." 


Yet, numbers prove Kilpatrick's future shines bright.


In conference play, he ranks ninth in the Big East in points per minute value. The next closest Bearcats player is Yancy Gates at a tie for 40th. Kilpatrick's offensive rating of 111.8 tops the team.


A surface solution would be to give Kilpatrick more minutes, however, he already leads the team in percentage of possessions used on offense (24.1). When Kilpatrick shows it will be a night like DePaul, he plays (27 minutes). When his offense struggles, he sits.


The formula works for now, but Kilpatrick searches for a way to locate the offensive spark more often and make himself harder to pull out of the game.


"At first, I actually try to get my points off of steals," Kilpatrick said. "If you look at it, if you can get a couple steals and get going there that should be the key to scoring. It's always defense first."


His plan follows Cronin's blueprint. You can't force offense, especially on Sunday against a team like St. John's. When that happens, so do a rash of turnovers - 17 of them, to be exact, in the first meeting.


Trusting the offense has been the catchphrase of late around UC. Run the plays and the open looks will come to whoever the defense leaves open - whether that be Kilpatrick or anybody else.


"You try to coach guys to have a level of toughness to just play hard, play defense and on offense play against the defense," Cronin said. "If you are open, you shoot; if you are not you drive and create. You can't control whether the ball goes in the basket or not. All we can control is continue to execute, stay together and keep fighting."

Bearcats Breakfast 2.11.11

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There's a media availability with Mick Cronin and players this afternoon. Pretty good chance we talk about St. John's second-half thrashing of UConn.

I will do the same here in a bit. Expect something posted from the availability here either later today or sometime this weekend from what comes out of the session.

As always, if any major news comes out of it, I'll be posting it on Twitter. (Follow me here, or not, making demands is unbecoming)

Let's eat....

--- Quick story about St. John's 89-72 win against UConn last night. I watched most of the first half, but unfortuantely, the beginning of the second half was matched up against Community. And Community is the Green Bay Packers of my TV watching week, so it took a back seat. But with a 35-31 game at halftime, it was bound to be close, I figured it would work out perfect to watch the final 8-10 minutes.

Upon flipping back with 11 minutes left, St. John's was ahead 70-48.


I can't explain exactly what happened during those 10 minutes except apparently Dwight Hardy caught NBA Jam-style fire. He's heating up!  (I know, I know, two days in a row with NBA Jam references, but some are impossible to resist).

UConn is the No. 1 FG defense in the Big East and STJ popped 54 on them in the second half and 89 overall. Think about that.  

Most importantly, what does this mean for UC?

Well, the win at St. John's looks much better this morning. It may not have been the Garden, but was at their house. This list of teams have attempted and failed to beat STJ at their place (ranking at time): No. 9 UConn, Rutgers, No. 3 Duke, No. 11 Notre Dame, No. 13 Georgetown, then-undefeated Northwestern.

Who has won at STJ lately? Syracuse and Cincinnati.

That means something. 

A follower asked me what this means for Sunday's game against the Bearcats.

One, the Johnnies are rolling in with a ton of confidence. Overconfidence could play in, maybe?

Maybe not. Here's a quote from Hardy after last night's game (via MSG insider John Rothstein): "When we play like this, it's fun to watch us. We still have to prove this on the road."

St. John's, like many across the country, still struggle to put it together on the road. But, it's much more complicated than that even for those following the team. How can a team that only posted 51 points against UC and looked clueless on offense score that in one half against a team like UConn?

Great tweet from Brendan Prunty of the Newark Star-Ledger following the game: "Trying to figure out St. John's is like trying to figure out where Space ends. It's literally enough to make you pass out."

Two, this game doesn't mean quite as much for the Red Storm with more pad on their resume. It does, however, mean the same for the Bearcats. They still need this one badly and boasting two wins against a team it very well could be placed up against on the bubble Selection Sunday could go a long, long way.

--- Here's a column on St. John's being in the NCAA conversation. I only link because judging by the first graph the NY Daily News columnist thinks the NCAA tournament is April Madness.

--- Dan Hoard wrote about the end of the Villanova-Rutgers game making him feel better about the end of the UC-DePaul game. I missed this yesterday, but still deserves your attention.

--- Mick Cronin sits down with Tommy G and previews St. John's and Louisville.

--- Cronin spoke on the Big East teleconference yesterday. Here's the highlights of what he had to say:

On game vs. DePaul:
"Just like everybody else we're just trying to scrap and find a way to win in our conference. I'm happy with the win against DePaul. I think too many teams in a scenario when a team is expected to beat another team due to their records, a team like DePaul doesn't get credit for playing the way they played in the second half. Their team made a lot of shots. They played extremely well on the offensive end. They are to be commended for their play. Instead of people wondering why you didn't beat them by 'x' amount of points. So we're happy with the win."
On Yancy Gates:
"He's no different than any other guy on my team. Simple rules. I think Hubie Brown said it best: You're going to know when to pass, when to shoot; You're going to play hard on every play; You're going to play defense and rotate or you're not going to play for us and we don't care who you are. I don't ask him to do anything I don't ask the other guys to do. Just try to be the best player you can be every day. Make sure we're giving our best effort and giving ourselves the best chance to win. That being said, Yancy is a guy tha,t when he plays well and he gives us some inside presence on both ends of the floor, obviously it makes us a better team. But we have some other guys who have played well. Ibrahima Thomas has really played well in our last few games and really taken the pressure off some other people. He's getting the ball in the basket around the rim. I'm really happy for him."
On game vs. St. John's:
"Huge game for us on Sunday and obviously for St. John's as well. The bulk of the teams that are in the middle of pack right now, you're scrapping and crawling for every win you can get. Trying to find a way to make sure you have a winning record in the BIG EAST conference. It's a lot easier said than done."  

--- How vulnerable will UConn be when they come to Fifth Third Arena in two weeks? For more reasons than one

--- The Naismith midseason top 30 list was released. Five were from the Big East. Pitt's Ashton Gibbs wasn't one of them.  

--- The McDonald's All-Americans were announced for this year. No Bearcats. Kentucky (4), Duke (3), Louisville (3), Syracuse (2), UNC (2). The Usual Suspects.

--- Wait...Tim Higgins blew a huge call that cost a team a game!? Stop the presses! (Do we still have those?)

--- A piece of me wishes UC had a superfan like Wild Bill. The other 98 percent is absolutely thrilled they dont.

--- Luke Winn's fantastic power rankings, fresh from the nerdery.      

--- Kevin Youkilis has always been a proud former Bearcats player, now he's putting his money where his mouth is.

--- The Bearcats soccer team is giving back in the community as well.

--- John Goebel wasn't the only football player to recieve academic honors.  

--- Some Friday randomness keeps it simple...

--- Good to see Cavs fans have moved beyond denial and anger and appear to be entering acceptance.

And it's hilarious. I recommend listening to the whole song, it improves with time. 

Bearcats Set Sail With Pirates

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On Saturday the Cincinnati women's basketball team has a chance to earn its first Big East win since Jan. 5.


The Bearcats (8-14, 1-9 Big East) host Seton Hall at Fifth Third Arena at 2 p.m.


Both squads enter the game on significant losing streaks, the Cats have dropped eight in a row while the Pirates have dropped their last nine.


Cincinnati failed to put up 50 points in its last eight contests.


"We've had a real struggle scoring points and so has [Seton Hall]," said assistant coach Mark Ehlen. "If we hit shots like we have been the past couple of days [we'll be in great shape]. We're shooting with confidence [in practice]."


Seton Hall is last in the league in defense allowing 66.6 points.


The pair of teams have found the Big East to be unforgiving with Seton Hall still searching for its first league win at 0-10. The conference currently has six teams ranked in the AP Top-25 and three in the top 10.  


"It's hard to be on a long losing streak," Ehlen said. "This is a conference that is just unrelenting. You go from one great team to another. I think both teams are going to fight to stay out of the cellar. That's our motivation right now, we don't want to be last."


The toughest match up for UC will be junior forward Kandice Green who leads the team with 11.5 points per game and is third in the league in rebounding with 8.1. Green has six double-doubles this season.


Green played only four minutes on Tuesday against Notre Dame after hurting her ankle, her status for this game is unknown. If she does suit up, she will be a handful for the Bearcats in the frontcourt.    


"They have a strong inside presence in Kandice Green," Ehlen said. "She is somebody that is going to be a challenge for our young post players to contain, because she is so aggressive, offensively and defensive rebounds, you can't let her get second and third shot attempts."


"The other things she does very well is draw fouls. She's not just going to turn and shoot over you. She wants to go through you."


The Pirates are fifth in the Big East on the offensive glass with 15.8.


The catalyst in scoring behind Green for the Seton Hall is guard Jasmine Crew, who is averaging nearly 11 points a game. 


"Perimeter player Jasmine Crew is an outside threat, Ehlen said. "They have a strong inside and outside presence."


The Bearcats have been playing with seven healthy players following Jan. 18 when Chanel Chisholm went down with ankle injury. The junior transfer from Vanderbilt may see limited action.


"We're so short on numbers it's hard," Ehlen said. "Teams keep sending in players to wear us down, I think that's what happened against Georgetown [on Saturday]. Hopefully we'll get Chanel Chisholm back for a little time. She practiced today for the first time."


The Bearcats are last in the league in turnover margin at negative 3.59 a game, meanwhile the Pirates have nearly three more steals than UC per contest. This game could come down to execution on offense. 


"They're an athletic team," Ehlen said. "They will force turnovers, that isn't something we do a great job of. We're going to have to a do a great job of taking care of the basketball to keep this game close."

Upon Further Review . . .

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I don't know about you, but I feel considerably better about the last few minutes of UC's win over DePaul after seeing the wild finish of Wednesday's Villanova/Rutgers game.


In case you missed it, the 10th-ranked Wildcats had an 8-point lead with 1:55 to go.  But a team that might have the best guards in the country committed two turnovers and gave up 3-pointers after each one to cut the lead to two.  After 'Nova pushed its lead back to five with 16 seconds left, Rutgers nailed another three to pull back within a deuce.  Then after Corey Fisher - a 79% free throw shooter - missed one of two foul shots, he inexplicably committed a touch foul on a 3-point shooter with less than one second to go.  Rutgers' Jonathan Mitchell made the trey and the free throw for a game-winning FOUR point play.


(you can watch the highlights here)


As Shaun Simpson put it on Twitter, "Bishop's pass wasn't even the worst decision in 25 hours."


That's not to say that we shouldn't be concerned about how the Bearcats played down the stretch in Chicago, but it does underscore that you take Big East road wins however you can get them.


"We scored three points in the last six minutes of the game," head coach Mick Cronin said.  "We were 3-of-8 from the foul line including three front-ends of the bonus.  We were up anywhere from 8 to 17 when we started missing free throws."


"We think that we let down our guard," Cashmere Wright told me.  "We got lackadaisical and let things happen that usually don't happen.  We have to make better decisions at the end of the game."


But just as the Bearcats need to learn from what they did poorly in the last six minutes, they also need to repeat what they did well in the first 34.  Until the end of the game, Cincinnati was proficient on the offensive end, shooting 58% from the floor and scoring 38 of its 71 points in the paint. 


"I thought Cash and Dion both did a great job of running our offense and our big guys did a great job of setting screens," Coach Cronin told me.  "We were able to be highly efficient.  Our offensive execution was excellent, our ball movement was excellent, and our offensive rebounding continues to be excellent.  We got 13 offensive rebounds and only missed 20 shots - that's pretty strong."


Nothing was more encouraging than the play of Ibrahima Thomas who abandoned his jumper and took shots that were close to the basket.  Thomas hit 8 of 10 shots and finished with 16 points - his highest total in two years as a Bearcat.


"He has it in him," Dion Dixon said.  "It's all mental for him and he came in focused.  I knew he was going to play well because I saw his focus."


"Thomas is playing well and I'm really happy for him," Coach Cronin said.  "He's a great kid and he's fought through a lot of tough things.  He went to the bench for a few games and wasn't in the starting lineup and it's really been good to get him going over the last two games."


Yancy Gates, on the other hand, struggled in his first game back from a one-game suspension, finishing with 5 points and 3 rebounds before fouling out in 16 minutes of playing time.  Gates was among the foul shooting culprits as he went 1-for-4 from the line and saw his FT% drop to 44% in Big East games (14-for-32).


"It doesn't make sense for a guy to be such an effective 15-foot jump shooter and then struggle at the foul line when you're allowed to stand there with 10 seconds to shoot the ball," Cronin said.  "I think it's a mental thing with him.  There are some technical things where he leans to the left that we've tried to work hard on, but that's an area that has to be shored up for us.  If you're going to go inside to a guy, he's going to get fouled.  When you play close games, those are big, big points." 

Still, Yancy's teammates say they're happy to have him back for the critical final three weeks of the regular season.


"When (the suspension) happened and we left for Pittsburgh, I called Yancy to see if he was OK," Cashmere Wright said.  "We understood what was going on - people have bad days.  You have to understand where he was coming from, and I told him we were here for him and ready for him to come back."


Gates had 13 points, 8 rebounds, and made a game-winning 3-point play with 8 seconds to go in UC's win at St. John's last month.  The Bearcats go for a sweep over the Red Storm at Fifth Third Arena on Sunday at noon.    


"I look at this as a must-win," Dion Dixon said.  "They've got some good wins, but if we sweep them that would really help us because we're fighting with them to get to the tournament."


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.

Bearcats Breakfast 2.10.11

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"We've got no food, we've got no jobs...our pets' heads are falling off!"

That may be one of the great one-liners from Dumb and Dumber, but it more accurately portrays the level of crazy Big East basketball has escalated to.

Between UC's wild finish against DePaul and the four insane games of Wednesday night, you can officially start to taste the month of March.

First Georgetown overcomes a late deficit to pull off its seventh consecutive victory, this time in the Carrier Dome for its first win there since 2002. Next, Louisville and Notre Dame head to OT on the back of a remarkable Irish comeback at the Joyce Center with Carleton Scott and Ben Hansbrough torching the Cards. Third, Marquette overcomes a 16-point second half deficit to avoid what would have been a devastating upset at South Florida, 59-58.

Then, there was this. From the most unlikely source. Maybe the wildest finish of the season in the Big East. Rutgers, down 12 with three minutes left, has Johnathan Mitchell bury Nova on a four-point play at the buzzer, 77-76.

Across the college landscape, five ranked teams lost and, oh yeah, some rivalry game in Carolina saw Duke overcome a 14-point halftime deficit to win at Cameron Indoor.

The positioning and desperation modes have set in and this season is about to become very, very compelling. And, without doubt, the Bearcats will be right in the middle of it.

As discussed here yesterday, a very defining final seven games are ahead of the Cats and they have more left to prove than probably any other team still left in the tournament. 

Bill Koch spoke to Jerry Palm and Joe Lunardi yesterday, who made the same claims.

Let's eat...

--- The Bearcats need for a signature win is well-documented. They've shown a remarkable ability to beat the teams they should and lose as underdogs. They're a bit of a Vegas dream in that respect.

Consistency of effort every night explains the lack of a bad loss on the schedule, only they still search for that breakout game seemingly every other Big East team has been able to enjoy.

Here are some of the wins of the bottom nine against the elite teams across the Big East (counting the elite as the seven currently ranked in the top 15: Pitt, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Villanova, Louisville, UConn, Syracuse): 

Providence: vs. Villanova, vs Louisville

Seton Hall: @ Syracuse

Rutgers: vs. Villanova

St. John's: vs Georgetown, vs Notre Dame

Marquette: vs Syracuse, vs Notre Dame

West Virginia: @Georgetown

Cincinnati: None

USF: None (OT loss @UConn)

DePaul: None

The common thread is seven of the nine wins came at home. And WVU's win @Gtown came in the middle of the Hoyas early season freefall. And I'm still baffled by the Hall dropping 90 in the Carrier Dome.

Point being, the Cats are yet to face any of these teams in Fifth Third Arena this season.

Of course, they will have three of them coming here over the final three weeks of the season.

People can say the Bearcats still have plenty to prove, but how many other teams have proven anything discounting games against the top teams outside their own gym?

The answer: 2.

--- Sidenote for Feb. 19, that game at Providence (14-10, 3-8) is absolutely frightening. Here's their last eight games at Dunkin Donuts Center:

USF, W, 68-63; Villanova, W, 83-68; Louisville, W, 72-67; Pitt, L, 83-79; St. John's, L, 67-65; Sacred Heart, W, 84-76; Alabama (7-1 in SEC), W, 82-70.

Good luck there. You're going to need it. Everybody does.

--- Box Miller with his take on Yancy Gates.

--- The Bearcats game against Louisville on Feb. 16 will be on ESPN.

--- Dana O'Neil alert with a standard fantastic piece on Kenneth Faried from just down the road in Kentucky.  

--- The NCAA tournament will be staggering more tip times over more networks so you and I can see every game in its entirety. Just thinking about those first four days of the tournament makes me want to hug somebody.

--- On to some randomness...

--- Is the rest of the world really that much smarter than us? Are everybody's kids doing things like this? I need a nap.

--- The man who taught us that Germans love David Hasselhoff is getting a show on Comedy Central. I love Norm, but his humor never seems to translate to 30-minute TV.  

--- DidtheCavswinlastnight.com. A fantastic/efficient way to keep up with the record losing streak.

--- Louisville's Kyle Kuric went all NBA Jam on Scott Martin. Boomshackalacka, indeed.



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The Bearcats escaped DePaul last night with a much needed win but it was as ugly as ugly gets. Nonetheless in the Big East get what you can and don't look back; the posse might be gaining on you. UC is now 19-5 overall and 6-5 in the Big East, equally their league win total from last year.

And while the win and the record have its place in my column, so does Yancy Gates and his recent suspension. Word is he lost his cool in practice with one of the coaches and that cost him a complimentary trip to Pittsburgh where the Xavier Yancy may have showed up or the other one. We'll never know; but we do know he admitted his mistake and took responsibility for it. I can't say I am a fan of his because I would be stretching the truth, but I am a fan of his maturity. He was quick to admit his shortcomings and that he indeed deserved to be sanctioned. I don't know that I would have been that quick to admit it at that age but Coach Mick Cronin needed to remind not only Yancy, but the rest of the team that no one is bigger than the team. He didn't have to tell Rashad Bishop though; he already felt the wrath when UC went to New York last year without him costing him a trip back to his hood.

Yancy Gates needs to realize hard work pays dividends, not potential. He has a supportive family and I know they weren't happy to hear what happened. But they had to be happy to know that he is maturing as a person admitting his wrong publicly. I hope Yancy plays every game from here out as it he is playing against Xavier. That will ensure UC several more Big East wins and a trip to the NCAA tournament. He is big, strong and has broad enough shoulders to carry this team down the stretch. The question is whether he wants to or not. But after admitting his mistake we know he has matured off the court; but now can he mature on it? If they get to the dance it will be because Yancey Gates wanted to be there himself.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.

Bearcats Breakfast 2.9.11

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That's the only realistic reaction after the final four minutes Tuesday night at DePaul.

As Mick Cronin aptly put it to Bill Koch after the game: "The basketball gods should have got us. Usually when you do the dead opposite thing you're supposed to do, you pay the price." 

Instead, Jimmy Drew's shot rimmed out.


The pressure almost feels greater attempting to fend off DePaul than trying to earn a win at St. John's or even playing against Xavier. 

The knowledge that a loss to DePaul, snapping what grew to a 24-game Big East losing streak, would have been season-altering. Almost NCAA-ending.

Rashad Bishop's full-court heave would live in the ugly corner of the Mick Cronin era. Instead, it serves as a teaching point.


Everything DePaul threw up went in. At the end of the day, UC joins the list of teams to survive a scrappy DePaul team. West Virginia won by two and survived a last-second shot. Louisville had to come from behind in the second half at home to win by four. 

A road win in the Big East is a road win in the Big East regardless of opponent. Even DePaul. And at this point in the season, the W is all the matters. Bottom line.

Not sure if the W would have happened had the game went to overtime with DePaul owning all the momentum. Luckily, UC didn't have to find that out.


Let's eat....

--- Before Tuesday, the Bearcats did a great job making free throws in the final minutes of games this year. They shoot only 65 percent from the stripe on the season, but in the tight minutes of the few close games they have played in this season they have knocked down big free throws.

That, of course, did not happen against DePaul.

UC made 3 of 9 FTs in the final four minutes of the game. Worse than the 33 percent, they missed the front end of three 1-and-1 attempts.

With Dan Hoard and Chuck Machock on the postgame, Cronin rightly pointed out we wouldn't be talking about any of this, instead more than likely a double-digit win had UC hit any free throws.  

--- DePaul employed an intersting tactic last night and opted for the matador defense for the first 34 minutes.

UC shot a season high 58 percent from the field and most of those were on uncontested dunks or layups. How many times did Ibrahima Thomas slip through screens and stand all alone under the hoop?

How many times did Sean Kilpatrick curl around the screen on the low block and take the ball right to the bucket?

The Bearcats did a nice job for most of the night converting around the rim -- those layups and dunks haven't exactly been gimmies this season. Fifty-eight percent is 58 percent, regardless of opponent, though. And a nice change of pace with the way things have gone for this offense. They only shot better than 40 percent from the field twice in the last six games and never better than 46.

--- Ibrahima Thomas experienced a season of ups and downs, but he appears to be on an upswing right now. He certainly was Tuesday night. He came down with multiple huge offensive rebounds late in the game. They may not have resulted in points, but salted valuable seconds off the clock. And we saw how important that was.

He finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds.

Thomas also made maybe the best post move I have ever seen from him with a quick jump hook for a bank shot in the second half.

"Thomas is really, really improving," Cronin said to 700WLW. "Basic basketball, his rebounding, he's 8 for 10 from the field. He did a great job around the rim. Passing the ball, too, when he can't go back up under the basket."

--- This team looks so different when Kilpatrick is attacking and scoring. He broke out of a mini-slump Tuesday and finished with 19 points, 5 assists (career high), 4 rebounds and 2 steals.

SK had gone four consecutive games without scoring more than seven points. He was 7 for his previous 29 from the floor.

Without doubt, he can be the difference-maker for this team. If he can score points, the Bearcats own enough offensive punch to let their defense win games.

Luke Winn looked at scoring percentage trendlines for some of the top freshman in recent years. SK's not on this list, but his trendline would fall, but primarily because of high quantity of points he put up against some of the weaker teams on the non-conference schedule. 

--- Mick Cronin equaled his win total from last year and is one win away from increasing his win total for the fifth consecutive season.

He's proud of that fact and rightfully so. He expounded on that in Bill Koch's blog.

--- Tommy G with Cronin's mailbag.   

--- Yancy Gates didn't exactly look inspired after his suspension. He played and came off the bench for 5 points, 3 rebounds and 5 fouls in 16 minutes. He missed two free throws during DePaul's run and was 1 of 4 on the game from the line.

--- I'm positive 80 percent of the things Doug Gottlieb says are untrue, it's just a matter of if you can prove it.  

--- Moving beyond the DePaul game, the next three games contain the most important week of the season for this team and its goal of reaching the NCAA tournament.

Sun, St. John's (5-5)

Wed, vs. Louisville (7-3)

Sat., @ Providence (3-8) 

Winning at least two of out of three is imperative considering the rest of the schedule. To reach the 10 Big East win plateau, UC must win two of those then find a way to win two games against the combination of No. 9 UConn, No. 11 Georgetown twice and @ Marquette.

With only one win of those three, they would have to win three of those four games. That's probably asking a bit much. Impossible? No. But the odds begin to stack against and/or force another deep run in the Big East tournament.

--- Mick Cronin wasn't afraid to address the importance of the St. John's game when he finished his interview with Dan and Chuck on 700. As the interview came to an end, Dan said, something to the effect of on Sunday you'll try to beat St. John's at home.

Cronin replied: "We HAVE to beat St. John's at home."

No doubt about it. From my angle the home game against STJ is the easiest of the games remaining (obviously, relatively speaking in this conference). Both teams need this game in much the same way of the previous meeting, only this time the finish line is within much closer view.

--- A win for Xavier is a win for UC these days and the Musketeers earned a big one last night by winning at Georgia. They are up to No. 19 in the RPI and UC is 35. Also, Dayton is up to No. 58 in the RPI. If they could move into the Top 50 and give UC another Top 50 RPI win, that would be helpful, especially considering how badly the Cats beat them.  

BTW, in the KenPom ratings, UC is 30, Xavier 48 and Dayton 96. Personally, I think KPs rankings are more accurate than the RPI, but the RPI is obviously more popular with the committee, so that's all that matters.

--- OK, how about some randomness...

--- I love that Yo La Tengo randomly performed an entire Seinfeld episode during a show. Though, even I probably would have grown a little frustrated after about 15 minutes.

--- Great news for Mr. McGibblets.

--- Sad to say goodbye to one of the great shows of the past five years. Friday Night Lights final episode will take place on DirectTV. Hopefully it lives up to expectations, of course, it's rarely disappointed in five years so no reason to expect that now.  

Here's a list of 12 things TV can learn from FNL. (I would have included casting Minka Kelly in everything, but it's not my list)

And here's all you need to know about the show.

--- UConn's Johnny McEntee put together a trick shot football video. Impressive. He claims to be the best trick shot QB in the Big East. You hear this Zach Collaros?    

--- Zach Galifianakis' latest Between Two Ferns is among his best. Tila Tequilla and Jennifer Aniston join him, comedy ensues.

On National Signing Day I was manuevering my way through the football offices after conducting an interivew with assistant coach Jon Jancek. On my way out the front door I came across John Goebel.

It's a pleasure to run into Goebel because he's such a pleasant, funny guy. But this time I wanted to talk with him about how surprised I was when he called into the Andy Furman radio show I was on a week earlier...at 8 a.m. How very unlike a college student to be up doing anything at 8 a.m., much less calling in to talk UC with that crew.

All I did my senior year at 8 a.m. was roll over and make sure I still had all my credit cards and keys.

After talking with Goebel he was telling me about the internship work he was doing with the radio station and how he's already graduated and doing graduate work now.

The dream of playing football on the next level isn't gone, he said. Whether it be NFL, UFL or whatever comes along. But, clearly, Goebel had his plan lined up if that falls through.

So, it was no surprise to hear he won the American Eagle Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor.

Congrats, John. Well deserved. You're the perfect example of what the student athlete is supposed to be.  

Here's the full release from UC:

CINCINNATI - University of Cincinnati running back John Goebel (Milford, Mich./Brother Rice), a member of two BIG EAST championship teams and a key part of some of the most successful seasons in school history, has been chosen as the 2010 American Eagle Outfitters BIG EAST Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

The selection was made by the conference's Academic Affairs Committee and is presented on the basis of academic credentials and athletic performance.

Goebel, a graduate student, will receive a $2,000 scholarship, which may be applied to graduate or professional studies.

Goebel is a veteran of 46 career games, during which time Cincinnati enjoyed its most prosperous run in program history. Most recently, he appeared in 11 games in the 2010 season, serving as the Bearcats' short-yardage specialist. He rushed for 196 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

Goebel was limited to seven games in an injury-shortened 2009 season, which saw the Bearcats go undefeated in the regular season on their way to a second straight BIG EAST title and a No. 3 ranking in the final Bowl Championship Series standings of the season. He enjoyed his best year in 2008, when he rushed for 607 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns on 133 carries, helping the Bearcats to an 11-3 season that included Cincinnati's first BIG EAST championship.

In addition to his on-field accomplishments, Goebel carries a 4.00 grade-point average in Cincinnati's graduate-level educational leadership program. He is a member of Sigma Sigma, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the Committee for Athletics Tradition and Spirit and Athletes In Action.

Goebel has volunteered his time in a number of community service endeavors, including weekly participation in the Bearcats' Cats In The Community effort. He served as a unit leader at the Stepping Stones Center, assisting children with disabilities, and participated in the I Love Cincinnati cleanup effort. He is a regular visitor to the Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

Goebel is the first Cincinnati player to be chosen as the American Eagle Outfitters BIG EAST Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The honor is one of a number of scholarships presented by the BIG EAST Conference and American Eagle Outfitters during the 2010-11 academic year. Thirty-two student-athletes (one male and one female from each of the BIG EAST's 16 member institutions) will be named as the winners of the American Eagle Outfitters BIG EAST Institutional Scholar-Athlete Scholarships. The conference also names male and female American Eagle Outfitters BIG EAST Basketball Scholar-Athletes of the Year.

The winners of the institutional, football and basketball awards are then eligible for the American Eagle Outfitters BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, which provides an additional postgraduate scholarship to one male and one female student-athlete.

Bearcats Breakfast 2.8.11

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Today is gameday, but with all the other news surrounding the program right now, it hardly feels like it.

As Mick Cronin said yesterday staring out at a strong contigent of media for a 10:30 am session -- "All right, who wants to talk about DePaul?"

With icebreakers like that, I might actually be able to pick up women in the grocery store. Instead, I eat my free sample of gouda by myself.  

The latest news on Yancy Gates is that he was on the bus to Chicago and his status for the DePaul game remains unknown. (As of the this typing) Cronin said "we'll see," when asked if he would play today, but he had a good practice yesterday.

The first game against DePaul, Gates went for 15 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals. Having him in the lineup certainly wouldn't hurt.  

So, I guess "we'll see." Of course, you can follow me on Twitter for the latest on his situation as it develops.

Let's eat...

--- Yesterday's media session was one of the best insights into the coaching style of Mick Cronin. He spoke extensively on principles he's built this program on and an unwillingness to stray from them under any circumstance.

Hard not to respect what he's saying. The buzz of dissenters grows louder and louder by the day and Cronin never wavered on his principles no matter how disadvantageous the result.  

I posted the transcript of his comments here. Worth a read if you have a few minutes. I also wrote a story on the Gates situation and a glimpse inside Cronin's thinking on the matter.

--- Paul Daugherty put together a piece on Gates and Cronin needing each other now more than ever. He's right on the mark.

Gates needs to become a beast down the stretch for the Bearcats to reach the magic number of 10 conference wins and the NCAA tournament. Cronin himself admitted, that hasn't happened. Maybe this situation serves as a wake-up call for Gates. If so, the suspension may have saved the season.

--- Here's Gates speaking with Bill Koch about what happened.

--- Let's take a look at some Gates numbers this Big East season compared to the first two.

2011: 28.0 minutes, 10.1 points, 6.3 rebounds/1.4 offensive, 46 percent FT, 48 percent FG.

2010: 25.4 minutes, 10.7 points, 5.9 rebounds/2.5 offensive, 53 percent FT, 57 percent FG

2009: 24.5 minutes, 10.9 points, 6.0 rebounds/2.5 offensive, 60 percent FT, 45 percent FG

In a few weeks, it will be worth adding some post-suspension numbers to see how they change. Cronin really pushed Gates to see more of the progress that was made in the offseason. The coach talked about the effort level dipping in Big East play and these are the numbers he's referring to. Gates is a better player this year, only, his numbers don't reflect that. That's where the concern lies for Cronin.

--- All the Yancy talk aside, this DePaul game falls into the old must-win category for the Bearcats. With so many talented opponents ahead, losing to a team that hasn't won since 2010 (Dec. 22, to be exact) would be a devastating blow, to say the least.

The Blue Demons own some momentum after only losing by four points at Louisville.

That said, they are 0-10 in the Big East this year, 6-16 overall.

Oh, and they've lost 22 straight Big East games. So, there's that.

--- The Chicago basketball blog details how close the Blue Demons are to their breakthrough.

--- Tonight will be a homecoming of sorts for Chicago-native Dion Dixon. Hopefully the trip home will spark the shooting guard. He's still the Bearcats leading scorer but struggled recently with two scoreless outings in the last four games.

Mick Cronin took a quick reprieve from Gates talk Monday to address how Dixon can get back on track:

"Shot selection has been a issue. He's missed some layups. Two of his four misses were layups. He also missed an 8-footer wide open. He's got to work harder at it in practice. You got to address all your guys. Yancy because he didn't play is the story. Dion is getting addressed just as hard. The answer is not woe is me. The answer is not to turn your jersey backward for better luck. The answer is to play better in practice.The answer is to get out there and fight through it and get your rhythm back, your confidence back."  

--- Biggie McClain has become instant offense and energy for UC. Tommy G has this feature on the 7-footer.

--- Somehow this game against DePaul is on ESPN2, but UC hosting WVU found its way to FoxSportsOhio. Not my job to figure that one out, so I won't try.

--- SB Nation's Big East power rankings has the Bearcats 10th, just ahead of St. John's.

--- UC's still a part of everybody's NCAA bracket. Although, they are now one spot behind Xavier. It's amazing what competition level can do for public perception. (Which I know goes both ways, Xavier folks)   

--- Speaking of X, reason No. 1,384,444 why we shouldn't care about postseason award lists. I know showing Xavier love isn't popular, but how Tu Holloway doesn't make a list of the top 10 point guards in the country while averaging 20+ points and 5+ assists is beyond me.

--- Pitt and Kansas both with big wins last night without their best players. Both will be No. 1 seeds in March, barring a major collapse, per Gary Parrish.

--- The rivers will run red with Burgundy's blood

--- Brandon Underwood was inactive and Curtis Young was on the practice squad, but still a congratulations to two former Bearcats who were a part of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.

--- Another quick football note, Brian Bennett posted the Big East's biggest non-conference games for next season. Obviously, UC's game at Tennessee makes the list. I have a feeling we may talk to Kenbrell Thompkins some that week.

Speaking of the Vols, Lane Kiffin continues to make their life awful. They can get in line.

--- On to some randomness...

--- I love the Jimmer phenomenon as much as anybody, but you leave Bon Jovi out of this!

--- If this rumor was circulating about my city, I would address it in sarcastic fashion also.  

--- Love The Onion.    

--- The weekly edition of: Only in Florida.  

--- Being a security camera salesman sure paid off. Sometimes, somebody's car deserves to be buried under six feet in of snow.

--- This will be the only time I ever link to The View on this show, but trust me, this is worth it. It's great to see athletes using their status to help others. It happens all the time, but rarely gets the publicity it deserves.

The handling of Yancy Gates

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Mick Cronin's suspension of Yancy Gates wasn't a personal attack, rather the latest tactic to return the junior to the dedicated, focused form he carried into the season. 


Click here for a full transcript of Cronin's revealing discussion of the Yancy Gates situation. 


CINCINNATI - A theme resonated through the dozens of press conferences Mick Cronin held over the first two months of the season.


With an older, more mature group this year, he no longer was forced to coach attitude. The number of times this was said could fill pages and pages of print. And Yancy Gates' face would be plastered on the cover of that book.


The enigmatic Gates looked to have turned the corner in both actions and words. From running sand dunes in California and improving stamina to stepping into a more vocal leadership role on and off the court, the storyline was set. The player who long struggled with consistently playing hard finally dedicated himself.


For Mick Cronin, however, somewhere around the flip of the calendar to 2011, Gates reverted to 2009.


"I think his effort has dipped since Big East play," said Cronin, who spoke with Gates on Monday and allowed him back to practice. "No, I'm not happy with his effort. I wasn't happy with his effort. He was told that (last) Monday and all week."


When news broke of Gates' suspension for the Pittsburgh game, everyone searched for what happened. What incident caused Cronin to drop the hammer on his star forward.


There may or may not have been an incident that occurred late last week. Regardless, that wasn't the reason Cronin held Gates out. The suspension served as the tipping point of what Cronin viewed as a festering issue.


Numbers support his conviction. Gates owns 13 offensive rebounds in nine Big East games. That's tied for third on the team. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound manchild owns fewer offensive boards than guard Dion Dixon (14).


In the ultimate effort stat for a power forward, Gates is significantly underachieving.


"The worst thing you can say for something that is untrue to a player is you don't play hard," Cronin said. "No, that's not the case (with Gates). You don't play hard all the time is the case. You play hard at certain times of the game not at other times of the game - when a shot goes up, for instance. Your job as a coach is to get your players better. All means necessary."     


The principles of avoiding Cronin's doghouse are simple: "Play hard, be coachable, be committed to your team," he said.


Cronin made the decision after a week of hounding Gates that the junior violated the code. Making the call to leave the building block of the program in Cincinnati for a trip to play No. 4 Pittsburgh wasn't difficult. For Cronin, it was simple.


This decision wasn't about Pitt. In many respects, it wasn't about Yancy Gates. This was about the standards of the program. 


"Your talent level is only going to get you so far," Cronin said. "For me your program has to stand for certain things. And they are not complicated things - basic things. The minute you begin to sacrifice that you compromise your credibility as a coach. You'll pay the price in the long run as a coach."


The suspension didn't represent a personal attack on Gates' character. Far from it. Four times during the 12 minutes of Gates discussion on Monday Cronin reminded everyone "he's a good kid."


Players across the country are suspended or miss practices on a daily basis. Cronin even admitted other players on his team have been forced to miss practices this season.


It became clear to Cronin Gates needed a reminder his best effort is not only expected, but demanded every day.


"He's far from the only guy on our team or other teams that deal with the issue of looking in the mirror and being accountable for themselves and their own effort and taking responsibility for their own actions," Cronin said. "It just so happens in this case it cost him a game so it's a big deal."


This move was the latest piece in the development process. Maybe it works, maybe not. But the fifth-year coach had to make the decision he did. If he didn't, he wouldn't be doing right by the program, his principles or a player who he dedicated himself to extracting the most production out of his unlimited potential.


For 21 year olds who've been told far too often how outstanding they are, that reality check often comes with a negative backlash.   


"Some young people really struggle with people that try to make them better and hold them accountable...and they won't let anybody help them," Cronin said. "They won't let anybody set standards for them and they become bull-headed, for whatever reason. It can be their demise."


What it will be for Gates is yet to be determined. As for the suspension, Cronin hopes it will one day be viewed as a turning point.


"That should be your chief want in life is somebody to force you to give your best every day and be the best you can be," Cronin said. "A lot of young people struggle with that. Yancy is definitely one of them. He knows everything I am telling you. He knows."

Mick Cronin held a very open, intresting discussion of Yancy Gates, motivation and all the factors regarding the junior's suspension against Pittsburgh. I have a story posted on the site about it now, but thought the entire dialouge deserved its own post.

The basic news of the presser was Gates spoke with Cronin this morning after seeking him out all weekend. He returned to practice today and Cronin hasn't made up his mind on whether or not he will play against DePaul. Stating, "we'll see."


Here's the transcript:


On what he will base the decision of whether or not to play Gates against DePaul:


"When I think he deserves to. How much I think he deserves to. When I think he deserves to."


On the reason for the suspension:


"I love Yancy. He's a good kid. Just play hard be coachable, be committed to your team. It doesn't matter who you are. That is stuff that I believe in. He's not the only one. Far from the only one. Obviously, it cost him a game."


On if it took courage to make the call to suspend Gates against Pitt:


"I think the fact you have to ask that question is a sad indictment on our society and what winning has become in amateur sports and the price tag of winning in amateur sports. Although college coaches are well paid I like to think I am still part of amateur athletics and life lessons are a big part of it. This isn't that complicated whether you are Mick Cronin or Carl Kremer or Dan Fleming. Guys should be committed to the team, be coachable, have a good attitude or they shouldn't be on your team, shouldn't get to play."


On if it was a simple decision:


"I think we complicate it. I think coaching gets complicated when you start to complicate it yourself as a coach. I am still in the process of trying to get our program to a certain place. For me, it's always been a long-term process. I have always been realistic about the process. Our reality is you got to win against Top 10 teams on the road. Your talent level is only going to get you so far. For me your program has to stand for certain things. And they are not complicated things - basic things. The minute you begin to sacrifice that you compromise your credibility as a coach. You'll pay the price in the long run as a coach."


On the issue with Gates:


"He's not the only one. Look around athletics today. He's a good kid, for him in particular, his athletic career has been a process of dealing with people telling him how great he is. When I say that, I don't mean his immediate family, because they don't. I'm talking about others. He's a microcosm of today's athlete. He is a wonderful, warm-hearted kid.


"He's far from the only guy on our team or other teams that deal with the issue of looking in the mirror and being accountable for themselves and their own effort and taking responsibility for their own actions. It just so happens in this case it cost him a game so it's a big deal. He's not the only guy that's ever been chastised or out of practice on our team. That is this year and some of his teammates. Unfortunately it's a part of athletics today."


On if he exhausted all motivational options with Gates:


"There's still things to go. Like not being on the team.


"Hubie Brown said it best. You have certain rules. You are going to take good shots, going to play defense and rotate, you are going to be committed to the team or you are not going to be on our team and I don't care who you are. For a team to win everybody has to have the same rules. Everybody has to abide by the same principles. I am a son of a high school coach and it has always been about principles and things like that."


On if he's surprised because he wasn't having to coach attitude all year:


"I think his effort has dipped since Big East play. He and I have talked extensively about this. He is going to talk to you guys about it. He's got 13 offensive rebounds in nine Big East games. That put him tied for third on our team going into Pitt game. Dion Dixon having more than him. No, I'm not happy with his effort. I wasn't happy with his effort. He was told that Monday and all week.


"Those are areas that have always been a challenge for him. He in particular takes a bad rap. The worst thing you can say for something that is untrue to a player is you don't play hard. No, that's not the case. You don't play hard all the time is the case. You play hard at certain times of the game not at other times of the game- when a shot goes up, for instance. Your job as a coach is to get your players better. All means necessary."


On if Cronin thinks Gates is testing him:


"He's not testing. He knows the answer to that test. He's a good kid. One thing I told him. Somebody else I deeply care for is Kenny Satterfield. Some young people really struggle with people that try to make them better and hold them accountable, for whatever reason. In my time as a coach and they won't let anybody help them. They won't let anybody set standards for them and they become bull-headed, for whatever reason. It can be their demise. Kenny and I are extremely close to this day. I would love for him to one day be my assistant coach. He made poor decisions, he will tell you all this. He should have never left school when he did. He made some poor decisions when he was with the Denver Nuggets. He made a poor decision when he left the team in France. He's never been able to have a father figure, whether it was his father or coach Huggins or myself or Mo Hicks his high school coach, help him get out of his own way. The problem with that is you only get one shot at this. Your window as an athlete is going to close in your early 30s and you got to let people help you. It's part of it. You got to let people stop your from self-inflicting wounds. Some athletes and some kids in general with their parents really, really struggle with that. They end up doing things and creating habits that end up costing them a lot of opportunities in life.


"Skip Prosser used to quote a guy, he was obviously a history teacher much more educated than me: your chief want in life should be somebody that makes you the best you can be. That should be your chief want in life somebody to force you to give your best every day and be the best you can be. A lot of young people struggle with that. Yancy is definitely one of them. He knows everything I am telling you. He knows."  

Bearcats Breakfast 2.7.11

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Don't worry, this blog won't turn into Advertising Criticis Weekly like so many will today. Actually, it will be brief this morning because we have media availability with Mick Cronin at 10:30.

But, I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the biggest storyline to come out of the Super Bowl. I've heard approximately 3,000 National Anthems. As a sports writer it comes with the territory. Sung by young children, the elderly, Rod Stewart look-alikes. All walks of life.

Never once, before last night, did I hear somebody mess up the words. For it to be a five-time Grammy-award winner, supposedly a heavy-hitter in the Antheming business, was jaw-dropping. (Here's Time Magazine's list of the 10 Worst National Anthems for those of you with a death wish) 

I had to watch it twice just to make sure I heard it correctly the first time.

Then I had to back away from my computer because I was positive Twitter was going to explode. (BTW, there are few better ways to watch the Super Bowl than with Twitter scrolling in front of you. It's like watching the party with hundreds of your funniest friends, instead of the unfunny, overfed friends of friends invading your house)

Not sure why people take so much pleasure in seeing Christina Aguilera's flub, but I definitely do.

Yet, I digress.

Let's eat....

--- Yancy Gates. Yeah, he's the story everyone wants to talk about, except for Mick Cronin. For the record, I don't know what Gates did other than what is being reported. Bill Koch had the latest today. But what I do know is, whatever happened Cronin did what was right.

For him to take these measures at this point in such a critical season, Gates must have crossed over the line. Likely far over it.

Here's what Cronin said on the postgame show on 700WLW: "I'm not concerned with that. I'm concerned with our basketball team right now and he's not part of it."

At the end of the day you need people whose heads and hearts are in the right place to win in this league. This team won't out-talent many teams in the BE. They won't be out-talented all that often, either. Point being, they will win games through effort, scratching and clawing.

If somebody isn't willing to do those three, you probably are better off without them, even if it is Gates.

--- Dan Hoard had much more from Cronin about Gates. He says the squeaky wheel shouldn't get the oil.

--- If you look at the game, I don't know how much the absence of Gates really affected the outcome. What are the areas he would have had the most affect over? Rebounding and an inside offensive presence. UC owned the offensive glass in this one. They grabbed 23 of 47 possible offensive boards against one of the best rebounding teams in the conference.

With inside scoring, Biggie McClain contributed 10 points and even made some nice post moves playing 23 minutes. Ibrahima Thomas had 7 points and 6 rebounds soaking up a few of Yancy's minutes as well.

The game wasn't lost on the inside. The game was lost by UC's perimeter players missing so many open looks driving to the bucket. Plus, turning the ball over to lead to easy fast break points at the conclusion of the first half.

As I mentioned here on Friday, Pitt doesn't create a ton of turnovers. They are content to sit back and let the ball funnel to their big guys. In fact, more than half of their BE opponents didn't turn the ball over double-digit times. UC had 11 at the half. They finished with the most turnovers against Pitt by a Big East team (16) this season. That was a stat they couldn't afford.

--- The combination of Cashmere Wright, Dion Dixon and Sean Kilpatrick didn't score their first point until four minutes were left in the game.

Cronin said he talked with Dixon after the game about getting down on himself, a problem he's had in games this year.

"He let it affect him, he's too self-conscious. That's just his personality. He lets that linger and it affects his defense. That's something he's fought his whole career. He's a great kid, he puts too much pressure on himself."

--- Ashton Gibbs is good. He was allowed too many open looks, but he hit some tough shots as well. Turns out he sprained his MCL in the game and will be out 10-14 days. That opens up the door for the next few Panthers opponents.  

--- OK, need to head out to the press conference and should be posting something from there this afternoon, but I'll leave you with one bit of randomness...

--- A-Rod, who apparently is above using his hands for fear of salt collecting on his mulit-million dollar fingers, has to be regretting the timing of this. I personally believe there is a Fox Sports producer who was waiting for that perfect moment. He's probably from Boston. Regardless, we all owe him a hug.

Hoyas Outlast Bearcats

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For 33 minutes Cincinnati looked like it might pull off its biggest upset of the season.


The Bearcats trailed No. 17 Georgetown by three with 7:05 to play, before slumping to four turnovers and 1-7 shooting down the stretch as the Hoyas went on a 17-3 run.


Georgetown (19-5, 7-3 Big East) defeated UC 55-38 Saturday at McDonough Arena in a contest that was much tighter than the final score indicated.


"Absolutely it was a lot closer," head coach Jamelle Elliott said. 


Cincinnati trailed the Hoyas by 11 with less than three minutes to play in the first half when it closed the period on a 6-0 streak.


"That's our best half of basketball in a long time," assistant coach Mark Ehlen said.


Senior Shelly Bellman drilled a 3-pointer to open the second half to trim the deficient to 27-25.


The Bearcats then had four subsequent possessions to either knot the score or take their first lead of the contest, but were unable to convert while giving the ball away three times.


"The reason why they are a top-20 team is their defense," Elliott said. "They live and die by their defense. They want to get turnovers. They accomplished their job defensively."  


Georgetown forced 20 miscues and its defense down the stretch put Cincinnati away. The Hoyas came into the game No. 5 in the Big East in scoring defense at 55 points per game.


Freshman substitute Tiffany Turner led the Bearcats with a career-high 12 points. 


"Tiffany Turner came and gave us a lot of really, really good minutes in the post," Elliott said. "We just weren't able to put up enough points to hang with this really good Georgetown team." 


Georgetown guard Rubylee Wright netted a game-high 14 points and on 4-8 shooting from behind the arc while tallying eight assists.


The Bearcats were held under 40 points for the second time this season. Senior leading scoring Shareese Ulis and guard Bjonee Reaves, fresh off a 22-point effort, combined for 4-18 shooting.  


"That's kind of been the story of our season," Elliott said. "We got wide-open looks today. We're doing something right offensively. Sometimes you can't control whether or not your shots are falling."


Cincinnati refused to go away mounting one final 7-0 run to get within three before the Hoyas stretched their lead.


Both teams shot a shade above 33 percent, but the Hoyas had 25 more field goal attempts while gaining an 18-8 advantage on the offensive glass.


"It came down to offensive rebounds," Elliott said. "We gave up way too many."


The Hoyas earned their third-straight win in the season series between the two squads.


The Bearcats will look to earn their second league win Saturday at 2 p.m. in Fifth Third Arena against Seton Hall. 


"We got a week off now we need to fine tune some things in practice over the next week," Elliott said. 






"The Squeaky Wheel Should Not Get The Oil"

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Let's start with the obvious:  Mick Cronin did not want to play the #4 team in the country on its home floor without his best interior player.


For Yancy Gates to be suspended for a violation of team rules, you can safely assume that the Bearcat junior gave his head coach little choice.


"We don't have a lot of rules," Coach Cronin told me after the game.  "Play hard, be a good guy, be committed to the team, and be coachable.  It's really non-negotiable.  I'm a big believer that in life, the squeaky wheel should not get the oil.  So my energy and my efforts do not go to the squeaky wheel.  They go to the guys that are doing the right things; that showed up and wanted to compete, and want to play hard for our fans, our university, and our city.  If you're not one of those guys, you get no oil from me.  I don't believe in the squeaky wheel gets the oil.  I believe in the guys in that locker room and I'm proud to coach 'em and I'm looking forward to our next game."


That would be on Tuesday night at DePaul, and Coach Cronin would not discuss the likelihood of Gates being reinstated in time for the game.  When I asked if he had plans to meet with Yancy in the next 24 to 48 hours, Cronin said, "I haven't thought about it."


The Bearcats lost at Pitt 71-59 on Saturday, and it's impossible to say if the outcome would have been much different if Gates had been there.  Yancy averages roughly 11 points and 7 rebounds, and Biggie McClain nearly matched that production with 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 block in 23 minutes.


"Biggie did a great job and I thought we changed a lot of shots around the basket where we didn't get credit for blocks," Coach Cronin said.  "He played probably as well as he can play." 


The same can't be said of Cincinnati's starting backcourt.  Dion Dixon began the game by missing a breakaway layup and failed to score for the first time all season.


"You've got to use the glass or dunk the ball and he got indecisive on that play," Cronin said.  "The problem is that he missed another layup and he let that affect him.  He's too self-conscious.  That's just his personality.  He lets that linger and then it affects his defense and his mannerisms.  That's something that he's fought his whole career - he puts too much pressure on himself at times.  He lets mistakes linger and he's got to show more fortitude."


Cashmere Wright was also scoreless until he made a layup in the last four minutes, but Coach Cronin was more concerned with how he ran UC's halfcourt offense.   


"It's no different than football, when your quarterback takes care of the ball and distributes it to the right people, you're going to have good offense," Cronin said.  "When your quarterback is forcing things that are not there, you're going to struggle.  It's a process.  We have to continue to coach him because he's got a lot of talent."


Wright finished with four turnovers and two of them came in the last 3:13 of the first half when Pitt went on an 11-3 run to take a 40-23 lead at intermission. 


"When you're down, young people tend to panic," Coach Cronin said.  "We had to have a talk in a timeout where I told them that, 'We don't need heroes, we need soliders.'  That's the first thing they teach you in the military.  Do what you're told and don't break rank and try to be a hero.  Guys were doing it because they were trying to help the team.  Cashmere Wright for example tried to force some plays that weren't there, but he was trying to help the team because we were struggling.  He's got to believe in his teammates and believe in his offense.  When we get good point guard play we're a good offense team - we really are." 


A pair of 3-pointers by Pitt to begin the second half put the Bearcats in a 23-point hole, but they battled back to pull within 10 points and had the ball with 3:00 to go.  Unfortunately, Cincinnati missed three straight shots and never got closer than eight points down the stretch.


"What I'm most proud of tonight was the competitiveness of the guys," Cronin said.  "They never gave up, they stayed together, and they continued to compete.  We learned a great lesson tonight that I think is going to help us going forward - you have to trust your offense.  When we executed, we were getting good shots and layups.  But when Pitt went on a run, we started to play too much one-on-one and didn't believe in our offense.  When we ran our offense and moved people and moved the basketball, we scored."


He hopes that lesson was learned by the players that made the trip to Pittsburgh.  But what about the guy that didn't - what happens next with Yancy Gates?


"I'm not concerned with that," Cronin told me.  "I'm concerned with our basketball team right now and he's not part of it.  I thought that the second half was great for us.  Our program is at a point where for us to get over the hump and beat able to beat the Top 5 teams in the league, we've got to eliminate mistakes and our mental game has got to be better."


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.


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In a story forthcoming in the Community Press papers (a/k/a my day job) Withrow's Brandon Mitchell described his recruitment to UC and his wrestling talents.  UC associate head coach Kerry Coombs commented further on Mitchell and the other area gridiron talent the Bearcats were able to snag.

"I consider him the sleeper of this class," said University of Cincinnati head football coach Butch Jones.

Those remarks were about Brandon Mitchell of Withrow High School on Feb.2 (National Signing Day).

For those that had any reservations about Mitchell (and not many did since he was listed as a 'three-star recruit' by ESPN.com, Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247Sports.com) that should be enough ammunition for you.

In Mitchell's case, a summer verbal commitment stood. Prior to that, his services were sought by Ball State, Western Kentucky, Akron, Western Michigan, Kent State and Bowling Green. That list might not floor you, but most college coaches don't define their recruits by "stars" or by who else has recruited them.

The staff at UC believes they have a special "find" in Mitchell and the 6-2, 290 pound lineman is enthusiastic about staying in town. The decision was for his current family and for his "new family".

"It took a lot of thought," said Mitchell. "I had to go to the campus a couple of times to get a feel for it. I got real, real comfortable with the coaches, the players. I talked with my family about it and they felt good about it. They've got a really good family environment. It was the family atmosphere they gave me up there that really convinced me."

Provided Withrow's Brandon Mitchell signed to play defensive line for the UC Bearcats. He's also a highly-skilled wrestler in the 285-pound class.

"Even though I'm coming here, I'm not just a football player, I'm part of that team, part of that family," said Mitchell. "Even after I leave, I'll have people there to back me if I need it."

Of course, switching to a field no more than 10 minutes away from Withrow has its advantages, for Mitchell and his fans.

"They can come right down the street and watch me play football," said a smiling Mitchell. "D-tackle, causing wreckage."

The talk sounds arrogant, but it's really just confidence oozing from a guy that appears to be the "gentle giant". However, several area offensive linemen and quarterbacks can attest to the fact that Mitchell wasn't so gentle on the field.

As the only two-way starter for the Withrow Tigers, Mitchell has a clear preference...he'd rather chase the quarterback than block.

"It's definitely more fun to sack a quarterback," said Mitchell. "Blocking's OK but, knowing you've got the QB and that's the top man on the other side of the ball, it feels better."

A lot of Mitchell's technique comes from the sheer strength of being a 300-pound (during football season) man. What some might not know is that Mitchell has some extra agility and balance from another sports he's participated in for some time.

He's one of the area's best wrestlers in the 285-pound class.

Mitchell's been wrestling since he was in seventh grade and is listed with just two defeats at press time (including one to Elder's Nick Nusekabal in overtime-he's hoping to get that one back before the season's up).

"It helps with my balance and my lateral movement," said Mitchell of his mat skills. "It helps me get inside and move people out of the way more often than usual. I feel like when you wrestle, you have an advantage over people with those skills that you have."

Among those that have seen Mitchell wrestle is UC associate head coach Kerry Coombs. Coombs is also in charge of rounding up local recruits like Mitchell and knows the local football scene like the back of his hand.

"Before he ever gets on the mat, he does an hour of study table," said Coombs. "Then, he moves all the tables out of the cafeteria. Then, he puts the mats down on the floor. He spends two hours just getting ready to practice wrestling."

"Then, he practices for four hours," said Coombs. "He doesn't complain. He doesn't have any 'star complex'. He just gets up and does his work each day."

Not that Kerry Coombs is ever at a shortage for words, but he raved more about Mitchell than any of the other local products.

"He's the same kid day after day after day," said Coombs. "His Mom's done a tremendous job raising him. He is going to be the guy that everybody talks about a couple years from now in this class. He's going to be a dominant force in the middle of our defense."

Mitchell has already met a number of current Bearcats and has his hopes set on joining them on the field this fall. That's on the field, not just the sidelines.

"I feel if I work hard enough and show what I can to do in practice and off-season training, I'll probably have a good chance of starting this season," said a confident Mitchell.

He has seen up close and personal how the Bearcats practice. In fact, one preseason practice in particular sold him on the team before he had even played a down for Withrow his senior season.

"What really sold me was probably one practice I went to at Higher Ground," said Mitchell. "I saw them playing football and I saw how much family atmosphere was up there, how good they treated one another and the intensity."

Some see structure and discipline and run, others like Brandon, embrace it. Those attributes have served Mitchell well and (again) Coach Coombs credits Mitchell's wrestling background for his external and internal toughness.

"I find the area that it helps most in is that you are all alone on that mat," said Coombs. "You've got to stand tall and have tremendous courage to wrestle in any class. If you're like Brandon at 285 and you're working to make that weight each week--the discipline involved--I think he's just going to be a phenomenal player for us." For other area high school tidbits, please click here (and frequent often).

Women's Hoops Nuggets

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---The Bearcats travel to the nation's capital tomorrow to face No. 17/19 Georgetown at 3 p.m. The Hoyas will be the fourth ranked opponent Cincinnati has faced in the past six games. The Cats lead the all-time series 5-2.

---Senior guard Shareese Ulis is making the most of her final year in the Queen City. Her 14.6 games per contest ranks in the top ten of the Big East. Ulis has drilled at least one 3-pointer in 23 consecutive games dating back to last March. She also dishes out a team-high 3 assists a game and is averaging a league-high 34.9 minutes.

---Freshman Kayla Cook has been reliable in her rookie year. The ESPN Top 100 recruit has started every contest and is second on the team in minutes. She is scoring a steady eight points a game. Cook had arguably her best half of the season when she scored 10 in the opening period against UConn last Saturday, showing no fear against the No. 2 team in the nation.

---When senior guard Shelly Bellman was granted her sixth year of eligibility after two severe knee injuries, it made for a compelling story. The News Record wrote a feature on her. CBS Sports has a clip on her. What is even more remarkable about her comeback; she has started the last 17 games, pulled down her 500th rebound against Dayton Dec. 3, 2010 and is on pace to hit 1,000-career points, needing 68 more.

---Head coach Jamelle Elliott has to be feeling a lot of nostalgia lately. She faced her former coach and Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma last Saturday and tomorrow will be her first homecoming as a head coach in Washington, D.C. The East Coast native graduated from H.D. Woodson High School. I included the rest Elliott's quotes from my feature from last week instead of letting them go to waste.
Elliott's comments on being in the visitor's locker room for the first time at UConn. 

"Last year was the biggest emotional moment -- the first time I had to compete against them at UConn," Elliott said. "Now, they're going to come in here and try to kick our butt."


Elliott on the opportunity that arose after earning her degree.

"Back when I graduated there wasn't a WNBA there was an ABL. That was a league we weren't sure if it was going to last. "I took advantage of my opportunity to go to grad school. Right after grad school he asked me to be a part of his staff."


Elliot's humility about suiting up for every UConn game and practice.

"I was blessed, I was fortunate. God willing I didn't have any knee surgeries or types of injuries that would keep me out. How that happened, I just think that was God. I was fortunate enough to go to practice every day healthy. You always had aches and pains. You always felt tired but it never stopped me from going to practice or playing in games."


Elliot on what it was like playing for a Hall of Fame coach.

"I took my lumps my freshman year. I had to learn how to work, learn how to get into to shape and achieve a certain level all the time. He didn't take anything less than that. Once I became a junior I knew what he wanted and expected from me. I was able to communicate that to the freshman and sophomores. That's kind of how it works [at UConn]. He sets a standard everybody tries to meet that standard. Some people get it sooner than others. I was fortunate as a junior and senior to relay it to the younger guys."


Elliott shares the words of wisdom from her former coach upon getting the Cincinnati job.

"[Auriemma] knows the type of person I am. I want to be great all the time. I want to be great today. I have very little patience. [His advice of doing one thing right every day] really put things into perspective for me, as far as what I'm inheriting and the rebuilding process."


Elliott on her apprenticeship working under Auriemma.

"I was there for 12 years as an assistant. Probably the first seven or eight years I was still learning. I started to get the buzz after year eight or nine trying to test the waters. Every year he gave me more and more responsibilities, which was great."

---Check back tomorrow night for a recap of the Bearcats' contest against the Hoyas. 

---You can reach me at tickelhm@mail.uc.edu


Bearcats Breakfast 2.4.11

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UC at No. 4 Pitt at 6 p.m. on Saturday. This will be among the toughest games UC plays all year, if not the toughest.

The Panthers rarely lose at home despite Notre Dame pulling out a win there last week. They are 9-0 at the Peterson Events Center against Top 5 opponents.

What will it take for UC to shake the Big East landscape? Let's eat...

--- Before media availability yesterday, I thought about writing the story Bill Koch did on needing a signature win.

I decided not to because I knew the response I was going to receive from Mick Cronin. (Which he did give at one point, "You win games in our league they are all signature wins.") Last season, I asked him about postseason resume and other factors affecting their NCAA status and all were quickly discarded. If you take Cronin at his word -- which we have no reason not to based on track record -- he doesn't concern himself at all with his NCAA resume.

He lives by the one-game-at-a-time mantra, at least in the media.

"I worry about winning the next game and getting my team to improve. I'm not on the selection committee so why worry about it? We need to win games." 

Yancy Gates wasn't quite so guarded when asked about the need for a signature win. In fact, he snapped off his answer before the question about signature wins was even finished. 

"Yeah," he interjected. "We all feel that way. We got some wins, but like St. John's beat Duke. You need those kind of wins to build a strong resume to get into the tournament. Not just, OK, we play in the Big East so we are going to be in it. You need those signature wins to get in it.

"I think we need to still go out and get one."

I'd say beating PItt at Pitt would fall into the signature win category. Of course, so would beating UConn, Georgetown or Louisville.

--- Some questions about Ibrahima Thomas worked their way in yesterday. His recent slump has been well documented here. Thomas himself admitted he needs to rebound the ball better, in particular.

Cronin gave some precise analysis of his expectations for Thomas from this point forward. None of it involves seeing more effort from him.  

"At the end of your senior year, you are who you are. Thomas is a very effective rebounder. His shot selection, he has to have more discipline. If he gets a rebound he has to put it up and in or pass it. He has to stop getting the ball taken from him. But effort is never a problem."

--- Thomas stepping up on the boards will be a necessity at Pitt. Nobody in the country rebounds like they do. In fact, they lead the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. They are grabbing 44 percent of their misses. In conference play, they rank second at 40 percent. UC is 10th at 34 percent.

Who is No. 1 in the conference? WVU at 42 percent in conference games. What was a major factor in UC's loss to the Mountaineers on Saturday? Defensive rebounding. WVU pulled down 11 of 25 potential boards (44%). On the opposite side, UC pulled down 13 of 38 (34%).

Allowing Gary McGhee and company dominate the glass at that rate would doom the Cats once again.

--- For Cronin, a larger factor on Saturday will be turnovers. Looking at how Notre Dame was able to beat Pitt last week and Rutgers able to play within three points at the RAC, some of it goes back to taking care of the basketball.

Rutgers only turned the ball over six times, Notre Dame eight.

UC leads the league in turnover margin in conference play. Pitt typically doesn't force many turnovers. Even in their biggest wins against Syracuse and Georgetown, the opponents turnovers were in single digits. Bottom line, that's a stat UC must dominate to spring the upset.

"You got to take care of the basketball, you got to get good shots," Cronin said. "You can't give them layups in transition. You go in there and take bad shots, you turn the ball over you are not going to win. Two years ago we went up there and shot 54 percent from the field, 46 from 3 and lost. We gave up 85. That's because we had seven turnovers for layups, that was the difference in the game. You give them seven uncontested layups off your offense you are not going to win. You can play great every other possession of the game but you are not going to be able to make that difference up, they are too good at home." 

--- I asked Cronin what was the toughest venue to play in this season: Syracuse's Carrier Dome, Villanova's Pavillion or Pitt's Peterson Events Center.

For my money, I would have said the Pavillion, but Mick showed the smooth avoidance skills of a politician in answering the question.

"Tough to say, I'll tell you that one after the game," he said. "Let's hope it's not Peterson." 

--- The game will be on FSO SD Channel in Cincinnati. DirecTV 685 & Dish 478. H/t to Tommy G for the TV breakdown.

--- Mike DeCourcy takes on ethics in the new age of journalism with the Syracuse point shaving story as a jumping off point. No argument here.

--- Adam Zagoria breaks out the midyear All Big East awards. UC doesn't receive much respect, except Sean Kilpatrick makes the All-Rookie team.

--- Bill Koch caught up with Deonta Vaughn during some recent time off from his team in Poland. Great to see Deonta having success over there. He's averaging 12.3 points a game.

Vaughn will always hold a special place for Mick Cronin who relied on him through some of the thinnest rosters this school has seen since the 80s.

The guy bought in and always gave effort. Easier said than done on those teams.

--- The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a story about Cronin turning UC around. There are some interesting quotes from Jamie Dixon in there attempting to compare UC's situation to when Pitt turned their program around.

Cronin was asked yesterday if Pitt is the model he tries to build his program from, but balked at the concept.

"I'm worried about building Cincinnati's program," he said. "I love Jamie, but we have to have our own identity."

--- Do you know your opponent? Well, if you don't, Bearcats Blog does. All the concerning metrics and analysis you need to know about the trip to Pittsburgh.

--- Luke Winn's power rankings divide up who is feeding Jared Sullinger. I would love to see the same graph on Yancy Gates.  

--- Some more recruiting analysis from NSD, this time from ESPN.

--- On to some randomness...

--- Did you know Needlenose Ned was on Heroes and Deadwood? Bing!

--- Baby Super Bowl pick most everyone in Cincinnati can relate to.

--- I was surprised to hear Mick Jagger was still alive, much less that he would be performing at the Grammy's.

--- A UC mustache silhouette t-shirt with Connor Barwin's epic stache as the template would make my year.

With time to digest the National Signing Day haul of the Bearcats we don't really know what we don't know, you know?

NSD is one of the oddest days on the sports calendar. You are celebrating something that you don't really know if there is a reason to celebrate.

What we do know is, by the numbers that are as close to measuring sticks as are available in this field, the Bearcats did well.

Scout.com ranks UC 41st overall and third in the Big East behind Louisville and Rutgers with Jameel Poteat as the lone four-star recruit.

Rivals.com ranks UC 47th and also third in the Big East behind Louisville and Rutgers.

Brian Bennett at ESPN gave them a C, which was sixth in the league. (FWIW)

This was the first time UC has cracked Scout's top 50 and first time its been rated better than fifth in its own league.

In the grand scheme of things, all the stats I just gave you are worth less than the fax paper they the NLIs came in on.

Butch Jones was sure to point that out Wednesday.

"Recruiting is not an exact science," he said. "The real rankings should occur one to two years from now."

--- This was a deep class that was heavy at WR and DL. Six players from each position were signed.

Here's a breakdown of the class thanks to the fine UC football SID Ryan Koslen.

Signees: 24

HS players: 22

JuCo: 2

Early Enrollees: 3

State champions: 6 (Alex Chisum, Dwight Jackson, Chris Moore, Carroll Phillips, Akise Teague, Shaq Washington)

Four-star recruits: 2 (Jameel Poteat, Malcolm Murray)

Three-star recruits: 21

Cincinnati: 4 (Rod Coleman, Pat Coyne, Brandon Mitchell, Justin Murray)

Mr. Football Award winners: 2 (Akise Teague, Nick Temple)

BY STATE: California 2, Florida 6, Georgia 4, Indiana 1, MIchigan 1, New Jersey 1, Ohio 8, Pennsylvania 1.

BY POSITION: DB 2, DL 6, LB 2, OL 3, QB 2, RB 3, WR 6.

--- What appears to be the big fish in the class is RB Jameel Poteat. He comes from Bishop McDevitt HS in Pennsylvania which also produced LeSean McCoy and Ricky Watters. It has always been Pitt country and was as well for Poteat. However, when Dave Wannstedt was let go, Poteat reopened his recruitment.

Despite his committment, Jones said he never crossed Poteat off his list.

"He was never crossed off. As the recruitment of him occured very, very early in the summer. He took a trip here with his parents. He fell in love with the place. It was a tough decision for him. We just always had that relationship. Jahmile Addae did a tremendous job continuing that relationship. We kept talking. We knew he had something in his heart for Cincinnati."

While rankings of players mean very little, the number of schools that were after Poteat and the fact he was highly regarded and chose Cincinnati was a huge boost for this program.

"He's No. 76 on the top 100 in the country. The amount of offers, over 30-some odd offers and he chooses the University of Cincinnati, It hink that is a great illustration for players to come is that we are going to attract the best of the best."

Poteat will slip in behind senior Isaiah Pead this year. How many carries he will garner is unknown, but considering the success a number of freshman running backs enjoyed last year, not giving him an opportunity would be foolish.

Michael Dyer played a huge role in winning the national title for Auburn, South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore carried for 1,197 yards on the way to the SEC title game and Ronnie Hillman gained 1,532 yard for San Diego State.

The bottom line is Pead gained 1,029 yards last season and will pass the torch at the end of the season. Pead's success was a significant reason Poteat ended up with the Bearcats.

"We had the stigma that we weren't going to run the football," Jones said. "Then Isaiah Pead ends up being a thousand-yard rusher. We proved to individuals that we want to run the football."

--- The most immediate position of need was linebacker. The lack of depth at the position last year forced the Bearcats into some tough formations and pushed the starters reps to the limit.

The advantage with this class is both linebacker commits will be on campus for spring practice. Nick Temple (5-11, 214) and Dwight Jackson (6-1, 205) will be able to early enroll and get some early work.

When addressing those two Jones added, "we may not be done, either."

--- With so many kids switching school choices and decommitting UC was able to hold its class almost completely in tact on NSD. In fact, it was able to hold on almost all year on players who held their verbal committments.

In this day and age, that's the exception much more than the rule.

"It's the most unusual recruiting year I've ever been a part of," Jones said.

--- Jason Williams filled in for Bill Koch and talked about the "experts" showing UC some love this year.   

--- If you didn't have time to monitor all the action on Wednesday, you can go back to see Tommy G's coverage which spanned all day. His interviews with Butch Jones, Jon Jancek, Kerry Coombs, Dave Lawson and the press conference are all archived along with highlight videos of all the recruits.

--- After you enjoy Tommy's work, check out the story about the man who has become a jack-of-all-trades for UC athletics.

--- The recruiting season puts a lot of press on families, travel budgets and stress levels. For Jones, there may have been no more pressure than that placed on his stomach.

"I think I've added 30 pounds," he said.

Jones would go to Boi Na Braza Brazillian Steakhouse every Friday and Montgomery Inn every Saturday. Then the big Sunday Funky's catered breakfast to cap off every weekend.

This is completley unverified, but I'm going to guess there are no vegans in 2011 recruiting class.  

--- At the media availability Butch Jones showed the highlight videos and made a few comments about each recruit. I'll run down the list and give you a quite quote of what was said about each player:

RB Ralph David Abernathy IV (5-7, 160, Atlanta)

Jones: "He will add another dimension in terms of improving team speed on offense."

DL Demetrius Alston (6-4, 215, Norcross, Ga.)

Jones: "He's very, very explosive. He will be adding an edge presence for the defense."

WR Alex Chisum (6-3, 184, Fayetteville, Ga.)

Jones: "He had a key catch on fourth down in the Georgia Dome to secure a state championship victory."

WR Rodriguez Coleman (6-3, 180, LaSalle)

Jones: "Very good quickness, very good size."

QB Patrick Coyne (6-1, 230, Badin)

Jones: "He was the ring leader of this recruting class. he has a live arm, strong, mobile and plays quarterback with a LB mentality."

OL Parker Ehinger (6-7, listed  at 265, Rockford, Mich)

Jones: "I've coached three kids from Rockford and all three play in the NFL. He is now up to 295 pounds."

DL Chad Hannah (6-5, 215, Tampa, Fla.)

Jones: "He was a Signing Day surprise. We thought he was going to an ACC school. He said he can't get Cincinnati off his mind. He's only played football for two years, which is good so he won't have any bad habits."

LB Dwight Jackson (6-1, 205, Miami, Fla)

Jones: "We needed more run and hit guys. he definitely is a run and hit guy."

WR Damon Julian (6-3, 215, Pierce College)

Jones: "He's a very physical kid and actually was Reuben Johnson's high school teammate in New Jersey."

DL Brandon Mitchell (6-2, 300, Withrow)

Jones: "He's the sleeper of the class. I expect big things from this young man."

WR Chris Moore (6-0, 166, Tampa, Fla)

Jones: "He has Armon Binns-type skills in terms of playing the ball in the air."

WR Max Morrison (6-1, 165, Kenton)

Jones: "Ben Mauk's father was his head coach in high school."

DL Silverberry Mouhon (6-3, 220, Norcross, Ga.)

Jones: "He has tremendous size potential."

OL Daniel Murray (6-3, 295, San Diego)

Jones: "He was in our camp. That shows the importance of getting players on campus during the summer."

OL Justin Murray (6-5, 254, Sycamore)

Jones: "He's very athletic. He can run and has the frame to be very large."

DB Malcolm Murray (6-1, 205, Glendale, Calif/JuCo)

Jones: "He's a junior college player and is currently on campus."

DB Trenier Orr (5-11, 175, Winter Garden, Fla.)

Jones: "I like his break and drive, he has good contact skills."

DL Carroll Phillips (6-1, 215, Miami)

Jones: "I rank him right in there with Brandon (Mitchell as a sleeper). He can really add an edge presence to our defense."

RB Jameel Poteat (5-11, 200, Harrisburg, Pa.)

Jones: "Good size, very good explosiveness. We all know about him."

RB Akise Teague (5-8, 178, Youngstown)

Jones: "He has good make you miss, but can run with power as well."

LB Nick Temple (5-11, 214, Indianapolis)

Jones: "He was Mr. Football at Inside Linebacker. Their school has a great tradition and history."

WR Shaq Washington (5-9, 160, Maple Heights)

Jones: "He is explosive, we had him in our summer camp."

QB Stephen Weatherford (6-2, 205, Odessa, Fla)

Jones: "He's accurate, has good feet and is mobile."

DL Chad West (6-6, 210, Perry)

Jones: "He was an early commit for us."

Southern Charm

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The Bearcats recruiting class comprised more players from Georgia and Florida than Ohio and Indiana, an accomplishment Butch Jones hopes will benefit the program for years to come.


CINCINNATI - Slicing through the tables of hats, rumors of questionable tactics and Three-Card Monte of decommitments, the foundation of Signing Day success lies in relationships, familiarity and opportunity.


Winning recruiting wars inside the 300-mile radius of Cincinnati will always be at the center of the Bearcats plan. In no other location are the three core elements of success more prevalent. The geographic safety net holds a taut connection for teenagers who've only seen most American landmarks in their history textbooks.


The unique element to the 2011 Bearcats recruiting class was the willingness to ditch the safety net. Not only did they ditch the safety net, they tossed aside one of their top recruiting tools and ventured into the midst of the SEC recruiting jungle of Georgia and Florida.


Cincinnati enjoyed limited success in Florida before. Players like Mardy Gilyard, Dominique Battle and Ricardo Mathews were among those from the Sunshine State who thrived in Clifton.


The Bearcats have never succeeded in Georgia, at least not in recent history. In fact, UC doesn't have any on their current roster and haven't snatched a player from Georgia since Clint Parks and Anthony Williams in 2003.


Yet, here they were not only entering SEC territory as the Big East outsider with no recent track record in the state, but coming away with four recruits from Georgia and six from Florida on Wednesday.


The Bearcats grabbed 10 players from Georgia and Florida the past five years combined. To match that mark with one class was more than coincidence or snowball effect.


"It was a priority," Butch Jones said. "They have great high school football down there, great coaching as well. We wanted to make that an area of emphasis."


For the 2010 season, Florida and Georgia both ranked in the top five for most players from their state in the NFL, along with Texas, California and Ohio.


Establishing a foothold in those prominent areas means throwing punches with the big boys of the sport. The Bearcats aren't in a position where top RB Isaiah Crowell would be on ESPNU pulling a bearcat cub onto his podium instead of a bulldog puppy representing his University of Georgia commitment, but Cincinnati showed they aren't afraid to pit their program against anybody.


The days of living and dying by the depth of Cincinnati talent may be of the past. Four of the Queen City's finest were a part of this class. There were more from Florida and Georgia than Ohio (8) and Indiana (1).


Cincinnati will always be the engine of this program, but establishing desired depth and prominence will only be obtained venturing outside the friendly confines of the I-275 belt.


"We got a great product here," recruiting coordinator and co-defensive coordinator Jon Jancek said. "When they have an opportunity to get up here and show them the opportunity and them meeting with people they are going to be surrounded by creates a lot of excitement in their minds."


Jancek deserves credit for facilitating the excitement. Many of the connections were made as a result of his time as an assistant at the University of Georgia. Previous flyover country for Bearcats recruiting landed RB Ralph David Abernathy IV from Atlanta, teammates DL Demetrius Alston and DL Silverberry Mouhan, of Norcross, along with WR Alex Chisum from Fayetteville.


Chisum spearheaded the northern migration last summer as the first to commit and the other four seemed to feed off of his move, according to Jones.


"We got such great reception when we brought the kids up on our campus," Jancek said. "Every time we went down to a school down there we were very well received. It was a great situation."


Jones also credited running backs coach Jahmile Addae, who grew up in the area of Tampa, Fla., for establishing connections with recruits like WR Chris Moore, QB Stephen Weatherford and DL Chad Hannah, all from the area.


"You go where you trust the coaches," Jones said. He was also referring OL Parker Ehringer from Rockford HS in Michigan. "I've coached three kids from Rockford and all three play in the NFL."


Considering the track record of the southern states, the percentages of finding schools that provide Rockford-type production only go up. That means the Bearcats program will also, or so Jones and his staff hope.


"Our base will always be the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, basically a 300-mile radius," Jones said. "We really made some inroads in the state of Georgia that I think will serve us for many years to come."

Significant Gaines

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Since today is National Signing Day, I thought it would be a good time to write about a future Bearcat. 


But not a football player - it's time to tell you about basketball player Kelvin Gaines.



The 6'10", 235 lb. center is redshirting this season after separating his shoulder in October.  While Gaines is not playing in games, he is able to practice with the team and travel on road trips. 


"We're pretty deep on the front line and his shoulder injury cost him the first month of the season, so by the time he really got acclimated to what we're doing it was mid-December and he was behind the eight ball," head coach Mick Cronin told me.  "But even when we recruited him, we knew that redshirting was a possibility."


Gaines has become the pet project of UC assistant coach George Jackson.  As the head coach at Withrow High School, Jackson helped develop future NBA big men Tyrone Hill, Brandon Hunter, and Ricky Calloway.  Before or after most UC practices, Jackson can be seen working with Gaines on fundamental big man drills designed to improve his footwork and ability to score near the basket.


"Since he doesn't get to play in the games, he gets extra individual workouts," Coach Cronin said.  "He was never really in a high school program for an extended period of time, so sometimes he has two-a-days.  If you bring a guy like him in, you've got to put the work in with him.  But we'll reap the benefits with him because he has tremendous athleticism.  He's got great speed for a big guy.  We just have to work on his footwork and teach him some go-to moves." 


Gaines came to Cincinnati with the accurate reputation of being an outstanding shot-blocker who was raw offensively.  But I can report first-hand that Gaines has made significant progress in his ability to score since the start of practice.  Initially, Kelvin was reluctant to shoot, but in recent practices that I have attended, he has demonstrated a decent touch around the rim.  


"From the first day that he got here until now, Kelvin has gotten a whole lot better," said junior Yancy Gates.  "I know some people don't think he'll be ready for two or three years, but Kelvin has made a lot of improvement.  You see improvement every day at practice."


"He's my roommate and he's got a lot of upside," said senior Darnell Wilks.  "They're trying to develop him offensively right now."


The redshirt year should help.  Gaines needs only to look at teammate Sean Kilpatrick to see how a year of practicing against Big East-caliber players can help him become an immediate contributor next season.


"I tell him to just keep working and don't give up," Kilpatrick said.  "If you take a day off, you'll be falling back.  So don't get discouraged - just keep working." 


"It will depend on him," Coach Cronin said.  "How much time he puts in, how much effort he puts in, how focused he is, and what he's willing to sacrifice to get better.  I'd like to think he can help us next year.  That's always the goal."


I wouldn't expect Gaines to score a ton of points in his first season or two, but athletic big men are hard to find and even harder to sign.  So while we're all interested in a signing day list of football prospects that most of us have never seenn, I can safely say that the basketball program has a player signed, sealed, and delivered who has tremendous potential.


"He's tough and he's a super athlete so he should be a great shot-blocker," Coach Cronin told me.  "He's doesn't have Kenyon Martin's lateral movement, so you can't compare him to Kenyon - but that wouldn't be fair anyway.  Maybe Donald Little, but he's a better athlete than Donald.  He's the best athlete of all of our big guys.  He's jumps the highest, runs the fastest, and is probably the toughest.  He definitely likes contact the most."


"The way he can jump is amazing - and he doesn't even bend his knees," Yancy Gates said.  "His athleticism is crazy." 


I would 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.

Bearcats Breakfast 2.2.11

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Rise and shine happy campers, make sure you have your booties on because it's coooold outside!

That line from Groundhog Day would lead off this blog post regardless of weather conditions, but it certainly rings true today.

It's cold outside, but the dust has been blown off the fax machine and it's heating up inside as the UC recruiting class is coming together as I type.

Thanks to everyone who comes to this blog, but without doubt the place to be this morning is at UC Signing Day Live on this site. Here is the link.

Tommy G has live interviews going on every hour with different members of the UC staff. It opened with Butch Jones and will close with him at 1 p.m., then again with his 2 p.m. presser all the media will attend. 

All the highlights of the players are posted on the site as the NLI's come through as well.

Nobody in the Big East does Signing Day as well as Tommy G and the crew. Nobody.

This will be a full class of 25 expected, so there will be plenty of videos and stats to look through if you feel like killing time today. And if I know my demographic well enough, I assume most of you decided to stay in bed and "work from home" today.

Also, the Signing Day Dinner is tonight at the Marriott.  

Let's eat...

--- What everyone hopes these recruits will be doing one is heading to the NFL Scouting Combine. Three Bearcats players were officially named to the combine list: OL Jason Kelce, K Jake Rogers and WR Armon Binns.

The event begins Feb. 23.

--- Another player Bearcats wouldn't mind seeing these recruits emulate is Texans DE Connor Barwin. Of course, that's much easier to do these days with Barwin back at UC going to school during his down time. He's training with Bob Mangine and working out around the UC football players.

Barwin took about 20 minutes to chat with me last week and I got around to posting up the interview yesterday. With all the football talk kicking up this week, it only seemed appropriate. If you have some time, it's worth the read. He's insightful, funny and just a refreshing perspective on being a professional athlete.

--- More on football Bearcats with Mardy Gilyard among the Rams players to have postseason surgery.

--- Yesterday I took a look at the 2007 UC recruiting class and how stars correllated to success. Brian Bennett touched on each Big East team's 2007 class and what type of players they produced.

Pulling three or four legit stars out of the class was about the norm.

--- Zac Jackson of FoxOhio writes about Butch Jones' recruiting class and, in particular, Mr. Ohio from Youngstown Ursuline, Akise Teague.

--- Great tweet from Brett McMurphy this morning in regards to recruiting class hype.

"Not sure which is more hyped - and wrong - recruiting classes or Punxsutawney Phil's spring forecast"

--- More statistics on hype vs production in recruiting classes.

--- A quick basketball link, here is a tempo-free conference aerial chart of how UC stacks up in the Big East in terms of efficiency. It simplifies very complicated statistics but also goes to show how close UC is to being one of the best teams in the league if they could just find a way to score more consistently.

--- As for randomness, you have enough highlight videos to watch when you go over to UC Signing Day Live page, so I won't bombard you.

But I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn't throw up a scene from one of the great comedies.

Needlenose Ned! Ned the head! Got the shingles real bad senior year? Bing! 

Bearcats Fall in Pitt

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Bjonee Reaves matched her career-high 22 points in first start as a Bearcat but it was all for not in Tuesday's loss. 


Pittsburgh handed the Bearcats (8-13, 1-8 Big East) their seventh-straight defeat 79-48 at Petersen Events Center in the Steel City. 


The junior college transfer went the distance logging 40 minutes while shooting 6-16 and 7-8 from the free throw line. None of her teammates were able to hit double digits in points.


"I'm glad [Reaves] stepped up like that," head coach Jamelle Elliott said. "It's obvious Shareese Ulis has really been struggling physically. Her knees have been hurting her all season. I knew she wasn't going to be able to give us the type of game she had been giving us the last four or five games." 


It was just the fourth time this season that leading scorer Ulis has not dropped at least 10 points. 


The Bearcats hit a mediocre 28 percent of their shots. Elliott said she liked the looks her squad was getting but they needed more focus.


The Panthers (10-11, 2-6) had three scorers in double figures. Guard Jania Sims led all scorers with 24 as she hit the 1,000-point plateau - the 17th player in program history.


Forward Chelsea Cole had the contest's lone double-double with 19 points and 14 boards.


Pitt raced to a 16-5 lead just past the halfway point in the first half after UC hit one shot over that period.


The Panthers full-court press flustered the Bearcats from the tip off to the final horn as UC committed 16 turnovers. It didn't help that UC had a sparse bench due to injuries.


"They pressed us for 34, 35 minutes," Elliott said. "With seven players and your starting point guard hurting more and more every day [it's difficult to win]."


With 2:54 left in the opening half the Panthers stretched their lead to 23. The closest Cincinnati got the rest of the way was 16 on Jeanise Randolph free throw with 18:33 remaining. 


Pitt connected on 44 percent of their shots and converted 19-21 free throws. 


The Panthers ended a four-game losing streak and are 8-0 against UC since the Bearcats joined the Big East.


Cincinnati will square off with No. 17/19 Georgetown on Saturday at 3 p.m. in McDonough Arena.   


"Georgetown is going to press us just as much as [Connecticut and Pitt] did," Elliott said. "So we got to be ready for the 1-2-2 pressure."

Connor Barwin has become one of he faces of the recent Cincinnati football success spilling over into the NFL.


He was a second-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2009 and by the end of the year came into his own as a pass rusher off the edge. His 2009 season finished with 2.5 sacks in the final six games.


Entering the 2010 season he looked primed to emerge as a force for all 16 games. Unfortunately, his season didn't last one. In the season opener, Barwin suffered an ugly ankle injury and put out for the season.


He spent all season rehabbing and with his off time over this winter he's decided to return to UC trying to finish his degree. He'll be here this winter semester and hopes to do the same next year to finish his history degree.


Barwin took 20 minutes of his time to chat with me last week. We talked about if he watched the video of his ugly ankle injury, why he's so outspoken about UC, advice for this year's team, why he sits in the front row, eating Subway every day for lunch, epic mustaches and a myriad of other topics.


Paul Dehner Jr.: How did it come about to return to UC?


Connor Barwin: Well, it was kind of my plan. I left after the fall part of my senior year for training. We all started traveling so I couldn't go to school to finish and graduate. I needed that winter and spring to finish, so after my rookie year, it was kind of a hectic first year. I decided this year, hurt or not, I was going to come back after the season ended. If we would have been in the playoffs it would have been hard to do. I decided after talking to Mike Thomas and Butch Jones about potentially coming back to school and they were both on board with it. As soon as we played our last game I drove to Cincinnati and started school that first week.


PDJ: What classes are you taking?


CB: I'm a history major, so I am taking three upper level history classes.


PDJ: What's the reaction like when you sat down on Day 1? You get a triple take from some people sitting around you?


CB: There was a couple. But I find myself a little more focused than I was when I was playing football here. It's crazy how much you can mature in two years. I did well, I think my Senior year I was 2.9 and 3.0. I definitely got a few double takes of, 'Is that who I think it is?' But I am sitting with the older people in class and I am sitting in the front of the classroom. I am not with the people in the back anymore, so it's been a bit of a different experience.


PDJ: So, you weren't a front of the classroom guy before?


CB: Oh no, I was in the back or the middle -- but never the front. I'm in the front row almost every class now.


PDJ: Speaking of the old days, the photo of you with this incredible mustache has circulated quite a bit, now that you are back in school here can you bring that back?


CB: No, no, I will not bring the mustache back. That's a gameday Sunday thing only, you shouldn't walk around in public with that mustache on in regular public. It's pretty, well, I used to scare myself when I looked at myself in the mirror.


PDJ: It was pretty full, it has some Selleck-like tendency to it?


CB: It definitely was, that's why it was so funny, that's why it was fun to wear on Sunday's because you feel ridiculous.


PDJ: Will it be back next season in Houston?


CB: Most likely. If I get a chance I will.


PDJ: It's probably a special request of the teammates now, isn't it?


CB: Oh yeah, people enjoy it.


PDJ: You know it inspired almost the entire offensive team to grow mustaches during camp this year?


CB: I did see that. That was pretty cool. It's a big commitment to grow a mustache so, I was proud of those guys to try to do it.


PDJ: You are just doing this semester, right?


CB: Yeah, I will do this semester, then hopefully next year I can come back and finish the same time next year. It works out for us nice because if you don't go to the playoffs - hopefully we'll go to the playoffs next year, then I'll finish in the spring - we had two dead months. At UC, it's 10-week quarters, so I can work with the Texans and they'll allow me to get out of 10 weeks for school.


PDJ: Has that always been something that has been really important to you, that no matter what you want to go back and get that degree?  


CB: For me, I never kind of thought about it, for me it was obvious. You had to do it. It seems like some of the reaction when people find out I am going back to school is, 'Oh, I can't believe you are going back to school, you have a career you are making money,' but in my mind it was, you have to go back to school. I can't not have my degree just because I'm playing football. It just made sense to me and I knew I had to do it no matter what.


PDJ: With the labor situation, you may have plenty of chances to get some classes done.


CB: Exactly, I may need to get my degree and get a job.


PDJ: You know, the biggest advantage now is you aren't a poor college student anymore, you can afford to grab more than a Chik-fil-a sandwich for lunch?


CB: That is a difference, but there's not that many choices on campus, so I still stick to Subway pretty much every day.


PDJ: Would you rather sit through an 8 a.m. lecture in your history class or go through film of a loss with your position coach?


CB: Oh, I would much rather sit in hour lecture of history than watch film after a loss. No matter what.


PDJ: Is that the most brutal part of the NFL experience, the post-loss film session?


CB: I don't know if it's the film session, it's just losing is brutal. I don't know what the environment is on every team, I'm sure that's the way it is around the league, but you hate losing no matter what. Competitors hate losing. But at the professional level it's just so disappointing for everyone when you lose with the amount of work that you put in. The day after the night of the game, stay home the next day, it takes a good 24-48 hours to get that bad taste out of your mouth.


PDJ: Obviously last year was brutal for you, did you ever watch the video of our injury, because it made the rounds virally?


CB: I watched it. I DVR'd the game at my house. I watched it once. But I haven't deleted it in my DVR. I don't know if I'll watch it again. It was pretty nasty, it was like, how did I not hurt my knee with what it look like on TV. Considering my ankle gave out completely that allowed nothing to happen to my knee, thankfully. It's one of those injuries that you would think would happen 10 times during a game and then it only happens a couple times during the season to certain people.


PDJ: Have you ever had an injury that serious before?


CB: Never. I have never had a football-related surgery or anything. It's my first injury. Hopefully my last. Playing this sport, these things are bound to happen at one point in your career.


PDJ: How tough was that to come to terms with you work all offseason, you prepare, you go through the preseason it takes forever, then first game like that, how tough was that to deal with initially?


CB: It was really hard. The biggest thing for me was I couldn't think of it in terms like that. Because if I started thinking how much work I put in the offseason, how ready I was to help the team, that would have killed myself, so I tried to immediately focus on what I had to do, even though in hindsight it was such a long way away. Immediately I turned my focus getting better right away, what steps I have to take to get swelling down and different things like that. I try not to look at it in the long term because it is just so hard to think of things that way so you just try to take it day by day. That's how I got through it.


PDJ: What was your rehab process and where are you at with that now?


CB: I've been doing rehab all year in Houston, which was nice that I got to stay around the guys all season. As soon as it ended, I came here and continued my rehab with Bob Mangine, the UC football team head trainer. I work with him every morning before class. The rehab is going well, I started running last week. I am running even better this week. Hopefully in a month or two, without any setbacks I will be back to full go.


PDJ: The 4.47 you ran a pro day two years ago, you going to have that back in you?


CB: I don't know if I'll ever have that back in me again, but hopefully close to it.


PDJ: What was the biggest thing you took from sitting back and watching the season?


CB: You spend time watching the film and you learn more about football. I think the biggest thing I grabbed from it was just how precious your time is out there. I go from having a good time playing high school football to playing four years of working my way through the system then to my rookie year and just being pulled out of that, that much and having to sit back and watch, kind of made you realize how lucky you are to be playing. How to take advantage of the time you are given when you can play. You just don't realize how lucky you are to be doing what you are doing. That's the biggest thing and hopefully I can remember that when I am going through those hard days next year at training camp and hopefully at Week 12 next year I can remember how much worse it was when I wasn't able to play.


PDJ: You have been as active and outspoken about UC and the football program as probably any athlete that has come through here. Where does that come from?


CB: I think it just comes from me going to school here and having a great time and being around people that treated me the same way. People that believed in me at this university always believed in me from the beginning. They gave me the opportunity. It's the biggest school I got offered from. I came here and they gave me an opportunity, if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be where I am now. Anybody that gets to play basketball and football for this university is going to have a different perspective. I just know it is a great school, I am going to be a UC fan the rest of my life, hopefully an alumni pretty soon. After four years you become indebted to the university and there is nothing that is going to change that. I am not going to forget where I came from, so to speak. And I want them to do well. When I first started the UC football teams wasn't doing very well and when I finished they were the best they've ever been. I want that for every other student-athlete that goes here. I want them to be successful because it makes it that much more rewarding, so much more fun.


PDJ: There's still a few guys you have connections to on the team, what is the impression you have gotten from them as far as recovering from the disappointing season?


CB: There is one class that I played with and that is Zach Collaros' class. Being around them, with one year left and meeting some of the younger guys being around them in the weight room, it's cool because they can ask me for advice sometimes. My biggest thing to them is I have gone through a coaching change and the biggest thing everybody has a different philosophy, everybody does things different. But the coaches are there for the same reason as you. I just tell them they have to buy in completely to what the coach is trying to preach and the assistants are preaching. If everybody buys in, that is what happened when I was here. We all bought into Coach Kelly's philosophy and that is the most important thing.


PDJ: Hard from the outside now, but from what you have seen and talking to guys do you see a lot of the similarities in the coaching changeover that went through to the one now?


CB: I do see them buying in. It takes a little bit of time. When Coach Kelly got here, we had a strength coach we thought initially for the first couple months that this was the craziest guy. We just didn't understand his philosophy, what he was doing. It takes time to buy in. By the time he left we felt this guy was the reason we were running faster and winning games was because we had the greatest strength coach ever. It is about taking time, buying in and as long as you believe in their ideas they are going to work if everyone is committed to the same thing.


PDJ: Will you be down at the Super Bowl?


CB: I'll be down there for the weekend. I am here Monday through Friday, but I will be out at the Super Bowl, in Houston a couple weekend. There's still stuff I got to do for weekends but I will be here Monday-Friday every week for school.

Chances Are...

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You could have won back fans rooting for West Virginia; you could have shut the haters up; you could have made a statement to the Big East that UC understands playing in this league means there are no easy games even if the other team is short handed and one of the starters isn't playing. But the outcome went against everything that was on the line and 2 things deeply disappointed me: One, UC seemed to lose their heart after not scoring easy buckets and defensively their intensity was noticeably absent at crucial times. 

I don't pretend to know what goes on in the mind of an 18-21 year old no more than my parents knew what was going on in mine. But I do know what should be on the mind of a 18-21 year old in the Big East; playing for 40 minutes like it's your last game. I am anxious to see if the lost and their mental state carry over into the next game with a positive or negative impact. If they are who we think they are (apologies to Dennis Green), then this loss could be the catalyst to tighten up team chemistry down the stretch. If not then this team is going to hit a spiral like an Alfred Hitchcock Thriller. 

Every team in the Big East is in desperate mode because from week to week the top teams are getting beat not once but several times. We looked at Syracuse as the top team and they can't stop losing; UConn was a force but U of L went on the road and beat them. Georgetown, Villanova, etc. all have a roller coaster ride to show for their schedule thus far. And UC can't afford to give away home games after stealing road ones.

So up next is Pitt in Pittsburgh and they saw Notre Dame rock their home court so there will be no looking past UC. The Bearcats need to make a statement in this game and it better be something along the lines of Tupac Shakur..."Me Against The World". Because after that performance at home against the Mountaineers it has probably reverted back to that. The fans who came to potentially get back on the bandwagon found an easy excuse not to. I am hoping to find a reason to keep hope alive, but its up to them to convince each other more than me.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat

Bearcats Breakfast 2.1.11

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It's odd not planning for a basketball game right now. After the last stretch of six games in 17 days, the week off serves as a much-needed breather for the team. Although, they would probably say this week will be harder than any of the previous game weeks. On his radio show last night, Mick Cronin talked about getting his team back into the mindset of playing hard. He felt like they lost that and regressed in that department.

We'll see what a week of getting after it and running sprints does for the effort at Pitt on Saturday. But we have plenty of time to talk about that.

The good news about this week off is we can flip our attention to football for a few days. National Signing Day is tomorrow.

While I can't talk much about any of it in this space today because of school regulations, there will be plenty here Wednesday as the letters start flowing in. Coach Jones will speak to the media at 2 p.m. Follow me on Twitter (also, if you aren't following Tommy G on Twitter, tomorrow would be the perfect day to start) and check back here throughout the day for breakdown, analysis and plenty of quotes from the coach.

Let's eat...

--- All of you will be obsessing over stars and recruit rankings this week, it's time to point out how inexact that science really is. I understand the excitement of seeing how many three and four-star recruits chose Cincinnati, but history shows -- particularly around here -- the best, most productive players came without much billing.

Brian Bennett took a look at some of the Big East production. First, his list of all the ESPN150 players currently in the conference. It's almost as hit and miss as throwing darts at a roster.

Next, Bennett looks at this year's All Big East team and what their recruiting rankings were.

Ten of the 22 players were unranked by ESPN as a recruit -- including Zach Collaros and Armon Binns. Think about that. Almost half of the best players in the Big East weren't even on the radar on NSD. None were five stars, two were four stars (both from Pitt) and four earned three stars.

So, with a total of six of the 22 earning three or more stars, you have a better chance of landing an unranked player on the All Big East team than one with three or more stars.

If you look at numbers like those, then consider how poor UC's recruiting classes ranked the years leading up to Brian Kelly's incredible run, understand development means much more than recruitment when it comes to winning in the Big East.

--- Let's turn the spotlight inward even more. Recruiting classes are judged four years down the road. Let's take a look at UC's 2007 recruiting class and see how the rankings stack up to production.

ESPN judged 11 of the 22 members of that class worth ranking. The positions are as they were listed coming out of high school. As you'll notice many have since moved.

Here's the list

Pos   Player        ESPN rank   Rivals stars  Scout stars

TE Adrien Robinson     77             3                  3 (No. 25 TE)                  

LB Ricardo Thompson   74             2                 3 (No. 44 OLB) 

DT Frank Becker          73              2                 2

TE John Hughes           73              2                2

OT Craig Parmenter      69              2                2

QB Chazz Anderson     69              3                2

QB Bryant Thomas       69              2                2

DE Randy Martinez      67              2                 3 (No. 48 OLB)

WR Orion Woodard       67              3                2

DT Rob Trigg                66              2                2

OT Sam Griffin              62              2                2

WR Armon Binns          40              2                2

QB Zach Collaros          40              3                2

LB Alex Delisi               40              2                2

DT TJ Franklin               40              2                2

WR Drew Frey              40              2                2

WR Tomaz Hilton          40             3                2

OT Alex Hoffman           40              2               2

RB Scott Johnson         40              2               2

OT Blake McCroskey    40              2               2

ATH Tahree McQueen   40              2               2

RB Montez Patterson    40              2              2

QB Deon Reed             40              2               2

Taking a look at who at least two of these "experts" thought would be head of this class, the top producers were supposed to be Adrien Robinson, Ricardo Thompson, Randy Martinez, OJ Woodard.

As far as the players who have developed into the head of the 2007 class, you had to start with Collaros. He was unranked as a QB, but Rivals saw at least as small spark in him, giving him a third star.

Binns was universally dismissed by all three. Nobody needs a reminder of his career.

OT Sam Griffin developed into the premier offensive lineman of the class and one of the keys for the Bearcats offense.   

Drew Frey came to UC as an under-the-radar. He's since moved to safety and become the centerpiece of the defensive secondary.   

Adrien Robinson entered as the highlighted prospect and hasn't necessarily disappointed, but stuck behind Ben Guidugli his entire career.

A number of other players who came with little to no hype have contributed for the Bearcats.

The point of this is not to spotlight successes and failures. Nobody on that list should really be viewed as one or the other. The point of this is prove how subjective and unscientific these rating systems are. They shouldn't have been judged by the numbers next to their names in the first place. Tomorrow, the players that have you jumping for joy and telling everyone about their multi-star rating may become half the player some of the lesser known, unranked recruits do.

Enjoy NSD for the celebration of college football and the hard work of the coaching staff. Learn about all the new players on the team. But don't begin to judge any of them because they are ranked at the top of the class with x-number of stars or the unranked and unnoticed at the bottom. It rarely predicates success. The numbers don't lie.

--- Back to basketball, despite the loss to WVU, the Bearcats are still an NCAA tournament team. The basketball matrix with all the bracketology predictions you can imagine have only one analyst keeping UC out. Their average seed is an 8. As for Joey Brackets at ESPN, he has UC as a 9 seed right now.

--- Gary Parrish: "The Big East conference -- where everybody loses."   

--- Interesting thoughts (as always) from Ken Pomeroy on the process the selection committee uses.  

--- The Big East is 6-1 in non-conference games against Top 10 teams. Just thought you should know.

--- On to some randomness...

--- I don't want advertising on my jerseys, though I understand how some people might think NFL soccer jerseys are cool.

--- Blake Griffin averaged 26 and 13 in January. There's no way he should have to campaign anybody for All-Star Game inclusion.

--- Media Day is such a joke. Ines Sainz will probably field more questions today than Antonio Brown.  

--- Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric want to know what the Internet is in 1994. I'm sure plenty of people had conversations like this that year, but it really cracks me up coming from these two.