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Time to applaud Cronin, Bearcats

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(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.

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5 Comments

Great article, Paul. Last night was the most significant win in Mick's tenure. I know a lot of "fans" want him gone, but unfortunately for them, he ain't goin' anywhere.

The one constant over his five years at UC has been defense. He hasn't always had the most skilled ball-handlers/shotmakers, but UC has been in a lot of games they shouldnt have been due to tough, scouting-report D.

Give him credit. Like you said, took a job nobody wanted-- and there are 5 or 6 Big East teams who haven't done a dam* thing in 10+ years, while Mick has quickly taken UC from last to knockin' on the door of upper-tier.

Go Bearcats.

Great win last night! Should be the ticket in the tourny... ;) MR. C is doing a great job rebuilding UC mens basketball back to where it was, I will even go farther and say it will even be better...

Paul,

Love your perspective. I really don't think that people understand the depth of the hole that Cronin inherited. I've been so impressed with the progress of this program from a recruiting perspective, as well as their increasing competiveness in the most daunting conference in college basketball. He's beaten Hall of Fame coaches every year he's been here with inferior talent. The level of vitriol directed towards him by so called fans has never made a bit of sense to me. I can remember laying in my sleeping bag studying for a final exam while sleeping out for tickets to see Huggs' team play Memphis for the Conference championship (Nick the Quick vs. Penny Hardaway)....back in the "good ole days". I'd like to thank
Mick Cronin for making me feel that same way again. I really don't think that all of the "haters" out there understand the slightest aspect of college basketball.

I too have to give credit where credit is due. I tip my hat to Coach Cronin as I am one of those who felt losing Huggs was something this program was never going to recover from. But here they are on the edge of the top 8 teams in the BEST basketball conference ever. Imagine if this team were still in Conference USA? Basically would have already won the conference and would be just waiting for bracket placement. To be doing it in the Big East? Congrats to you Bearcats and Coach Cronin.

-Standcorrected.

paraphrasing an interview with cronin earlier this year... 'to be successful in this conference, you cannot only be a good team, you have to be a great team'