My Second -- and Unfortunately Last -- Top 10 List

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Anyone get a license plate number?


Yikes.  The Bearcats looked like they got flattened on Thursday night by a speeding New York taxi trying to beat a red light.  I'm just happy that the 89-51 loss to Notre Dame didn't end their season. 


The sun came up this morning and I am looking forward to Selection Sunday.


I was hoping to do a Big East Tournament Top 10 list for four straight days, but no such luck.  Here's the final edition for 2011:


1.  25 instead of 38.  The 38-point margin of defeat was the second-largest in Big East Tournament history (Syracuse beat Boston College by 41 in 1999), but the number I'm choosing to focus on is Cincinnati's win total going into the NCAA Tournament.  A 25-8 record including five victories over RPI Top 25 teams - by an average margin of 13 points - is a tremendous accomplishment. 


2.  Selection Sunday.  I always look forward to filling out my bracket (only to lose to the cleaning lady in the office pool), but I don't know that I've ever been more excited about watching the selection show.  Even after the Notre Dame rout, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has UC listed as 24th overall on his s-curve which would make Cincinnati the final #6 seed.  Whether they're a 6 or 7 seed, at least we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bearcats are in.


3.  Broadway Smashed.  While the Bearcats had a great team outing to a soul food restaurant in Harlem on Tuesday night, Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey took his squad to see the Broadway show "Jersey Boys."


"I wanted them to see the best actors and chemistry and how a group plays off of each other because I believe that's what they've done this year," Brey told reporters after the win over UC.  "We were like 'Jersey Boys' tonight.  We were all doing our thing."


I'm fairly certain that the Bearcats did not attend a special preview of the ill-fated Broadway production of Spider-Man.


4.  Defensive Disaster.  So how did the Big East's top-ranked defense allow 89 points to a team that only scored 66 points against UC in South Bend in January?


"In every meeting that we had, Coach Cronin told them that we had to be the aggressor in this game, but they got us back on our heels and we just never recovered from it," assistant coach Larry Davis told us on the radio post-game show.  "They came out and shot a high percentage from three point range early in the game.  We switched to zone and as soon as we did they banged two or three 3-pointers in.  It just got discouraging at that point.  Our guys didn't throw in the towel, but you could see that their body language dropped.  They didn't have that 'pop' and quit doing the things that normally makes us a really good defensive team."


"I didn't think we were capable of playing 'D' as bad as we did tonight, but they made a lot of shots - a lot of shots - especially early," Yancy Gates said.  "Coming out of the press, they did a good job of getting us to collapse and kicking it out, but they came out ready to play."


5.  No Serious Injuries.  As rotten as Bearcat fans felt last night, it pales in comparison to what St. John's fans are experiencing after learning that senior D.J. Kennedy will miss the NCAA Tournament after tearing his ACL in Thursday's loss to Syracuse.  The son of former Bearcat Puffy Kennedy (still UC's all-time leader in steals) is one of the most versatile players in the Big East, and you can't help but feel sick for a kid who has endured three tough seasons only to miss out on his first trip to March Madness.


"I've wanted to play in the NCAA Tournament since I picked up a basketball in grade school, and this is a real blow," said Kennedy in the New York Post.


6.  Déjà vu.  Perhaps the biggest reason for optimism following the loss to Notre Dame is Bearcats ability to rebound from their lowest moments this season.  Lose at home to St. John's? ... bounce back with consecutive wins over Louisville, Providence, and Georgetown.  Lose at home to UConn? ... answer with a road win at Marquette.


"We have shown the ability to bounce back, and I know that Coach Cronin will get them prepared," coach Larry Davis told me.  "We'll put this one in the rearview mirror and move forward.  There's no choice.  We've got to."


7.  Yancy Gates.  It was not a great offensive performance as Yancy went 4-for-10 from the floor, but I thought he was the one Bearcat who stuck to the game plan and never stopped fighting against Notre Dame.  Yancy finished with 12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 assists.  Over his last eight games, Gates is averaging 15.1 points and 7.8 rebounds.


"He's played really hard now for eight games in a row and has tried to lead the team," Coach Davis said.  "He was the one guy in the huddles who just kept saying to the guys, 'Come on man - keep playing.'  That's a good sign of his maturity because under adversity tonight he just kept playing."


8.  Cashmere Wright.  Simply put, the Bearcats will struggle to advance in the NCAA Tourney if Wright does not play well, because they do not have a true back-up point guard.  Cashmere had 2 points and 2 assists in 16 minutes against Notre Dame and did not do a great job on the defensive end.  If he plays like he did against Louisville (20 points) and Providence (11 points, 11 assists), the Bearcats can play with anybody. 


9.  Positive Publicity.  There's a huge headline in Friday's New York Post that reads, "Cincy's New York Accent."  The story is about Cincinnati's recent success at recruiting in New York and includes this paragraph:


"It started with Lance," Coach Cronin said, referring to former Lincoln High School star Lance Stephenson, who chose Cincy over St. John's.  "He was such a highly regarded player, and for him to come here and then to go the NBA, Lance did all that but we get the credit."

You can read the entire story here.

10.  Moving On.  As painful as the Notre Dame game was, we'll barely remember it if Cincinnati wins two games next week and advances to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 10 years.  That season (2000-01), the Bearcats were a 5th seed after losing to Charlotte in the Conference USA Tournament - a game that saw the 'Cats get destroyed on the boards 45 to 29. 


"The one thing about the NCAA Tournament is that everybody is 0-0 when you get there," Coach Davis said.  "Once you get in, anybody can get beat and anybody can advance.  We'll rest and give them a couple of days off to clear their minds and rest their bodies a little bit.  Rashad's toe is a little injured and Cashmere's got sore knees, so we've got guys that are banged up a little bit.  Come Monday, we'll get back in the gym.  We'll know who are opponent is, we'll prepare, and we'll be ready to rock-n-roll on Thursday or Friday."


"It's my feeling in March in tournament play, you've got to be aggressive," Coach Cronin told me.  "You can't worry about losing, you need to throw the first punch and try to get the other team on their heels.  You can't think about what's at stake and 'If we lose we're going home.'  Scared money never wins, so you've got to stay aggressive."


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