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My First Top Ten List From New York

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David Letterman has this week off, so there's no chance of having another show revolve around my man Chuck Machock this year while I'm in New York for the Big East Tournament. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read this).

 

But as I did last year, I'll blatantly rip-off an idea from the Late Show and do a daily Top 10 list as long as the Bearcats are alive in the Big East Tourney.

 

1.  Yancy Gates.  Not a bad start to the postseason huh?  Yancy scored a career-high 25 points in UC's 87-61 win over USF on Wednesday, and is averaging 15.6 points and 7.6 rebounds in his last seven games.  But stats don't tell the whole story.  His ability to prevent the opposition from getting easy baskets is a huge reason why Cincinnati is holding opponents to 58 points a game.

 

"He's been the difference in our defense," Coach Cronin told me after the USF game.  "Instead of being a liability as a younger player, he's the strength of our defense as a veteran.  Every time this team huddles up, he's the one speaking up and telling the guys to stay focused on defense.  He knows that if we continue to defend, we can continue to win and have a great run in March."

 

2. Aaron Pryor.  Prior to Wednesday's game, Coach Cronin brought up "The Hawk" in the locker room to motivate the players.  The Hall of Fame boxer from Cincinnati was famous for aggressively racing across the ring as soon as the bell sounded and throwing the first punch.  That's the attacking style that Mick wants his Bearcats to emulate in the postseason.  If you've never seen Pryor in action, here's a tribute video.  

 

3.  Amy Ruth's.  Coach Cronin is not overly superstitious (nice sneakers Lavin), but after winning two games in last year's Big East Tournament, the Bearcats did return to the same restaurant that they went to before their first game last year.  It's a soul food joint in Harlem named Amy Ruth's, and the broadcast crew tagged along this year for fried chicken, ribs, collard greens, yams, mac-n-cheese, cornbread, peach cobbler, and banana pudding.  As I write this, it's been nearly 48 hours since the feast - and I'm still stuffed.

 

4.  The ESPN crew of Sean McDonough, Jay Bilas, and Bill Raftery.  I understand they said some nice things about Chuck and yours truly during last night's telecast (thanks!), but that is not why I consider the trio to be the best broadcast crew in any sport.  In my opinion, nobody combines information and entertainment better than Sean, Jay, and Raf.  Plus, whenever Raftery does a UC game, the first thing he asks me is, "What is Chuck's streak up to?"  It's at 260 and counting.

 

5.  Big East Tourney Exposure.  I didn't think of it at the time, but being the #7 seed in this event, provides an unbelievable opportunity for national exposure as the Bearcats could conceivably play a prime time game on ESPN for four straight nights.

 

"It's huge," Coach Cronin said.  "That's why getting in the 7 o'clock game is so big from a recruiting standpoint.  Staying alive and staying on national TV is so big for our program.  Obviously, we recruit the New York area very, very hard, so the Big East Tournament is a big sell.  Staying alive and doing well in it is even more important."

 

6.  Jermaine Sanders.  Speaking of recruiting the New York area, the future Bearcat from Rice H.S. in Harlem was recently named one of four finalists for "Mr. Basketball" in New York State.  If Jermaine wins, it would mean Cincinnati would have signed the recipient of that honor for the second time in three years (Lance Stephenson).  Sanders earned some publicity today in the New York Daily News and the New York Post.

 

7.  No Assumptions.  You probably expected Cincinnati's first round opponent to be Villanova - I know I did - but if you're wondering if the coaching staff had prepared for a game against the Wildcats only to have to adjust at the last minute when USF pulled off the first round upset, the answer is no.

 

"I won the battle on that one," Mick told me.  "My staff wanted me to start watching film of Villanova on Sunday and I refused.  I told them I would wait to see who wins.  I don't need a lot of sleep before the game because I'm too nervous, so I waited to see who won and didn't waste time."

 

8.  Tommy G.  It's great to have Tommy Gelehrter with us in New York to provide extensive video content on gobearcats.com.  I hope you'll check out our daily reports that are prominently displayed on the home page.

 

9.  Beware the Double Bye.  This is the third year that the top four regular season finishers in the Big East received a double bye into the quarterfinals.  In 2009, two of the four lost.  Last year, three of the four lost.  This year, top-seeded Pittsburgh lost.  That's six out of the first nine folks.  Furthermore, the #2 seed has lost in each of the last two years.  The Bearcats will try to make it 3-for-3 against second-seeded Notre Dame.

 

10.  Attack the Irish.  In Cincinnati's regular season meeting at Notre Dame, the Irish built a 33-19 halftime lead and went on to beat UC 66-58.  Cincinnati held Big East MVP Ben Hansbrough to a 1-for-8 shooting performance from the field, but the coaching staff says that the 'Cats can do a better overall job defensively in the rematch.

 

"I think up there, we played a little too passively defensively," said assistant coach Larry Davis.  "Our idea was to stay between them and the basket without fouling.  When they start dribble-driving and you help a lot, they kick it out and get wide open threes.  We feel like we have to go after them a little bit.  They're going to beat us off the dribble occasionally, but we have to get in 'em a little bit and make it tough.  Don't let them get in a rhythm where they can run their offense easily.  If we can do that, I think we'll have a better chance."

 

In the now-trademarked words of Jets linebacker Bart Scott:  "Can't wait!" 

 

Our pre-game radio coverage on 700 WLW starts at 6:30 and we'll have post-game video coverage on GoBearcats.com.

 

Go 'Cats!

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

 

And I've finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.

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