I'll have a post coming later today from when I caught up with Steve Logan earlier in the week at the Cincinnati Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony. Logan was great, as was the spread. Quality cheese plate.
--- Tommy G caught up with Mick Cronin yesterday to talk about the offseason happenings around the basketball offices. Among the topics of conversation were Yancy Gates leadership and weight plan, Justin Jackson's body building and the acquisition of Cheikh Mbodj, the spellcheck killer.
What I found to be most interesting, however, was talk of the SEC/Big East challenge. The announcement of the full slate of games will come any day now, but for the moment, all that's known is UC will be on the road. The likely opponent will come from a group of Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Alabama and Auburn.
Remember, this event was expanded in December and moved away from the neutral site concepts and have all the games on campus (a few were on campus before, but most away from home).
The games are set to be the week after Thanksgiving and all 12 will be played over the long weekend.
Before we find out, I wanted to take a look at the four teams and some of the pros and cons of each when figuring out what would be the best matchup. Personall, I pick the best matchup by the city that the game is in. Let's just say I've been to all four and this is a bigger landslide than Reagan-Mondale.
Nashville is one of the great cities of the South, between the Honky-Tonkin entertainment and killer BBQ joints, it's a can't miss for a weekend road trip.
But, for once, I guess this isn't about me. Here's a breakdown
2010-11 results: 29-9, SEC champs, Final Four
Returning: Terrance Jones deciding to return along with Doron Lamb was a lift to what will be the latest ridiculous recruiting class for the Wildcats that includes superstar freshmen Michael Gilchrist and PG Marquis Teague.
From ESPN here's their projected starting lineup: Three freshmen and two sophomores: PG Marquis Teague (Fr.), SG Doron Lamb (So.), SF Michael Gilchrist (Fr.), PF Terrence Jones (So.) and PF Anthony Davis (Fr.).
Ranking: Kentucky will almost certainly be ranked No. 2 or in the country for this game. Most have them behind heavy favorite UNC, but next to OSU and in front of everyone else.
Pros: Proximity, disdain factor, OOC SOS. Obviously, this would be the most popular matchup locally due to the intertwining of the two fan bases. And let's be honest, not too many Bearcats fans are rooting for Big Blue. Most importantly, a road game at a team like Kentucky will give a major boost to the Bearcats RPI and strength of schedule. Plus, with Kentucky likely starting three freshmen and UC returning such a strong core, the time would be ripe for pulling a major RPI-boosting upset.
Cons: You won't be going. Good luck getting a seat at Rupp Arena. Oh yeah, UK is going to be really damn good.
Ballpark percentage: 25%
2010-11 results: 23-11, Lost to Richmond in Second Round
Returning: Vandy had three players that could have declared for the NBA Draft, but all three decided to stay put. The returning trio of Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins and Festus Ezelis (It's a Festus for the rest of us!) averaged a combined 47.2 points a game last year and were the three leading scorers for the Commies.
Ranking: Most have Vandy as a preseason Top 10 and the best team in the SEC, sans UK.
Pros: Nashville, OOC SOS and proximity. Nashville is an easy 4-hour drive or so and my stance on visiting has already been stated. On the court, this will be a great early-season test and likely to earn huge RPI boosters as well. With both teams returning their offensive corps, would require a high-level of play for an early-season basketball game. By the way, Memorial Gym holds more than 14k.
Cons: It's not Kentucky. All the Bearcats fans want to play the Wildcats, but if you can get past the personal feelings Vandy would be the best bang for your buck. Hard to find a con here, though, if you are looking to rack up early season wins, that won't come easy.
Ballpark percentage: 15%
2010-11 results: 11-20, no postseason
Returning: The Tigers didn't have a senior on the roster last season and will have everyone back. Of course, that team went 11-20, so that doesn't mean all that much.
Ranking: Auburn won't be ranked and will be picked to finish middle to bottom in the SEC West.
Pros: This would be a great opportunity to pick up a road win against a major-conference opponent. Auburn won't have near the talent or experience on the floor that UC would.
Cons: Considering UC's standing in the Big East, this would be a bit of a slap in the face going against a bottom-tier SEC team. That said, these matchups are made for TV and the Bearcats just don't have the national appeal of other BE teams at this moment. This would also take away the SOS bump opportunity in comparison with other possible opponents. I would also characterize the game as a bit of a lose-lose. UC would be favored to beat Auburn, but beating a team returning every player and hosting a Big East opponent in their gym will be highly underrated.
Ballpark percentage: 20%
2010-11 results: 25-12, 12-4 SEC, lost in NIT championship
Returning: Alabama will be stacked next year as they bring back the majority of their team, including their top two scorers in JaMychal Green (16.0) and Tony Mitchell (15.4).
Ranking: Andy Katz ranked Alabama at No. 14 in this early Top 25. They will be right around where UC should ranked in the 10-20 range.
Pros: This would be among the four teams in terms of anticipated SOS boost. This would also likely be a featured ESPN game with the two rising programs. Bama presents the most evenly-matched opponent of any UC would face.
Cons: Tuscaloosa would be a haul of a car ride and more than likely a plane trip for the fans. More than that, this would be a battle royal on the interior going against forwards Green an Mitchell, who both averaged more than seven boards a game last year. For a UC team working on its inside depth, could be a tough matchup.
Ballpark percentage: 30%
Pros: You never know how teams will be flipped around at the last minute, but those are the four Cronin said would be the most likely. A trip to Georgia would seem to be a good matchup as the Bulldogs have a good amount of talent returning and will be near the top of the conference. And none of you want to miss an opportunity to visit Athens.
Cons: Playing either Vandy, Alabama, UK or Florida would be a major haul for UC and their schedule and allow the major opponent so many fans complained the Cats didn't have last year. Anybody else would be a bit of a letdown, certainly from a fans perspective.
Ballpark percentage: 10%
--- Big weekend for the baseball team with three games against Seton Hall. They are scratching for position in the Big East race. If you can't grab a ticket to the Reds-Cardinals tilts, there's no better second option in town than Marge Schott Stadium.
--- Shawn Sell with a nice piece on the state-of-the-art vision program benefitting the baseball team.
--- Tough break for former UC swimmer Josh Schneider, who lost in a swim-off in the 50-meter freestyle to make the U.S. team that will compete this summer in Shanghai.
He lost by four-hundreths of a second.
--- Some randomness...
--- I will be planning my days around the Heat-Bulls Eastern Finals. Prediction: Heat in 6.
--- You know what they say, never trust a man with a baby leapord in his luggage.
--- Kings of Leon on VH1 Storytellers should be fantastic.
--- The new movie Horrible Bosses with Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston and Jamie Foxx looks like it will be a huge winner this summer. With me, at least.
--- In honor of the St. Louis Cardinals coming to town and this being a pretty active May weekend in the city, I figured we'd go with some party music from my man Nelly.