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TWO AND THROUGH NOT ALL THAT BAD

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The way these things work is that a day later, the happenings of the previous night aren't all that bad.

Unless, of course, you're a Pitt fan and you're still completely dumbfounded by the fouls and/or whistles in the Butler game.  Sorry Pitt, UC fans will pity no one when it comes to unfortunate endings to games or seasons.

Back to the Bearcats, let's face it, losing in round two is nothing new around here and 32 teams met the same ending this past weekend.  Moving on takes great talent, good fortune and a favorable match-up.  To have all of those things in March is rare.

The seeding committee has as much to do with a team's fate as any. Then, there's lady luck.

Show of hands that had Richmond in the Sweet 16 this year and beating Morehead State to do it?  From last year, no truth-telling soul had Butler in the national championship.

It's quirks and the luck of the draw.

Truth be told, UC's 1992 Final Four run was full of these things.  They get the semi-cakewalk in round one against Delaware, then draw Michigan State (but this time on a favorable floor in Dayton).  After beating the Spartans, UC by rights should have had Kansas.  But, the late Don Haskins and Texas-El Paso pulled the upset, so UC gets the Miners in the Sweet 16 and beats them.  That led them to Memphis in the Elite Eight, a team they had owned all year and owned again.

Then, it was the Fab Five of Michigan in the Metrodome.  Using their paid players (very talented, but very paid) Michigan advances by four and the run was over.

Nothing can be taken for granted and nothing is easy.

So, in light of that, the fact that Mick Cronin took a team that was knocked out of the NIT to seven more wins then last year AND the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years is remarkable.

When you lose a senior scorer in Deonta Vaughn and another to the NBA (who should have stayed) in Lance Stephenson, the mathematicians say you should be trending down if anything.

Fortunately, math whizzes only fiddle with Sagarins and RPIs and don't coach basketball.

Armed only with a redshirt who witnessed 2010's 19-16 (Sean Kilpatrick) UC didn't bat an eye and got out to a great start (15-0) before finishing 26-9.

Granted, all nine losses were against Big East competition, but the Bearcats won 12 games against league opponents (counting the tournament games).  12-9 in a league that sent 11 to "The Dance" is more than respectable.

As good as some of the past teams have been here, they never played in this cannibalistic league.

Not many teams that have played at Fifth Third Arena have finished with 26 wins at season's end. The number is eight (2002-31 wins,2000-29,1992-29,1996-28,1999-27, 1998-27 ,1993-27 and 1997-26). To add further perspective and include some older teams, this year's squad won one game less than the 1961 national champions, the 1963 NCAA runners-up, and the 1993 Elite Eight group.

Do they strike you as that talented?

As candid and polite as I can be...no.

I appreciate what the departing seniors did, but anyone following basketball closely will tell you these weren't players that you would automatically tag as future NCAA tournament stars.  I respect them tremendously, but the talent that Mick Cronin attracted early on and the talent he'll attract from this point isn't even comparable.

Some may take my OPINION as offensive, but I'm just trying to be as truthful as possible.

That's exactly why no one should be terribly downtrodden over a second round NCAA tournament departure. Coach Cronin did a great job with what he had to work with and got the Bearcats back in the conversation.

Let's face it, if your games aren't on ESPN, if you're not ranked and if you're not in THE TOURNAMENT, you barely exist in the eyes of recruits.

Now, UC matters because Clark Kellogg, Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery have talked about them.

When I say, "On to better players".  That's what I mean.

God bless Rashad Bishop.  He was kicked off the team and came back and played some of the best defense a Bearcat's ever played. In the season-ending loss to UConn, Bishop played like a guy that knew it was his last game.
bishop.jpg
Rashad Bishop hoisting a jumper vs. UConn
(Courtesy Cincinnati Enquirer/Gary Landers)

The rest had their moments. Larry Davis hit the occasional big shot, Biggie McClain got in the way and gave Gates a blow. Darnell Wilks and Ibrahima Thomas were often the same player.
When they weren't in foul trouble, they could give added reach and dimensions to the team.

They were soldiers, they did their time and naturally, everyone appreciates it.

But, let's face facts. Better players will be coming through.

Plus, Cronin returns Yancy Gates, Cashmere Wright, Dion Dixon, Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson (who will be a thrill to watch in a couple years), JaQuon Parker and Kelvin Gaines (redshirt). The incoming recruits will add to this core and things will build from here.

As disappointing as it is to exit a tournament, it's even more disappointing to not even be in the discussion or be relevant.

Welcome back to relevancy UC (and a tip of the C-Paw hat to Coach Cronin)!

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