Bearcats show why you play the games

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From any angle, the Cincinnati men's basketball team provided a winning season far beyond the 26-9 record.


CINCINNATI -- Snap analysis in the fresh moments immediately following the defeat to UConn would lament rebounding woes and foul trouble, missed shots and missed opportunities, Kemba Walker and, well, more Kemba Walker. The loss stung those attached the program, without doubt. Likely will for a while.


On the scoreboard, the score read 69-58. The Bearcats were losers. By every other scale imaginable, the Bearcats were winners. In a runaway.


It begs the question: Why does the college basketball program exist? Outside of the same reason 99 percent of things in this country exist - money - the purpose runs so much deeper.  


What matters to you?


Does the program exist to establish school pride?


Just ask the fans who lined the gym floor at the conclusion of Senior Night in Fifth Third Arena as the Bearcats made a victory lap trading high-5s with fans after delivering the worst loss in the last six years of Georgetown basketball. Ask the thousands who filled up the Twitter timelines and Facebook status bars with #GoBearcats hashtags.


Does the program exist to aid the development and careers of student athletes?


Take a look at Dion Dixon, who annoyed the janitors all summer for access to the gym and saw it pay dividends as the most improved player on the team. Imagine the vindication for a player who changed the local and national conversation surrounding himself from one unfortunate turnover to averaging 13.7 points a game over the most publicized month of UC basketball in five years.


Does the program exist to teach life lessons and grow up as men?


Watch the tears stream from the eyes of Yancy Gates during the final seconds Saturday and immediately end the conversation about Gates as a kid who needs to care more. See the adversity of being scrutinized in his own arena then turning inside the locker room and allowing his band of brothers to lift him back up - and vice versa. Those tears could have been handwritten thank-you notes to his teammates and delivered the same message. The most public local basketball figure in decades on the UC campus faced adversity very publicly this season and emerged as the basketball player so many critics questioned if he ever could be.


Does the program exist to bring excitement to the fan base?


Did you hug Justin Jackson when he ran into the student section after a season-swinging victory against Louisville? How exhausted were your vocal chords in the moments following the 66-46 drubbing of Xavier? How high did you jump off the ground when Gates' bank shot buried St. John's in Queens? Did you need to replace the edge of your seat after the Bearcats bounced Missouri by 15 points for their first NCAA tournament game in five years?


Does the program exist to widen the exposure of the university?


Cincinnati graced the front pages of web sites, newspapers and saw their name come across one of the most watched programs of the year. Twelve times the Bearcats were on national television somewhere on the ESPN family of networks or owning the primetime stage in the NCAA tournament.


Does the program exist to win? Five consecutive seasons with more wins than the previous, 26 victories, 11 Big East wins and five victories against teams ranked in the Top 25 in the RPI at season's end. Zero losses to a team not in the NCAA field. Charlie Sheen said it better than I can.


Does the program exist to test a player's will?


There was talk midway through the season that Cashmere Wright could need to be shut down for a week in order to help him heal through nagging knee and shoulder injuries. Not only did Wright not miss a game, he provided the most impressive hustle plays of the season and led the team in steals.


Does the program exist to churn out quality individuals who will be positive members of society?


In the era of non-compliance, allegations and suspensions, name how many Bearcats were at the center of an investigation or how many found themselves in trouble with the law? There are none. When's the last time anybody mentioned UC basketball and academic issues in the same sentence?


When you're done asking yourself which of the above questions are relevant to you, then ask yourself if the Bearcats delivered on the investment. The answer is yes. No question.


Whether AD Mike Thomas or Joe Bearcat Fan, no matter what lens you view the University of Cincinnati men's basketball program through, it could only be recognized as a success. You don't need a scoreboard to know that.  

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