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 blog. Paul 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.