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Bearcats Breakfast 2.9.11

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Phew.

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.

Phew.

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.

Phew.

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.

Phew.

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.

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