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 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.
--- 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."