I thought about emptying my notebooks of every piece of information remaining from this year covering the UC for today's blog. It seemed like a slam dunk idea. But, just in case the rapture doesn't occur Saturday, I'm going to save a few nuggets for next week. That said, plenty of quality info to read as the world explodes around you. Or you can take part in the official Sports Rapture Draft. Draft Tebow or die.
--- The Big East/SEC Challenge slate was released yesterday and UC was hit with a bit of a surprise opponent. The Bearcats will travel to Athens to play at Georgia on Dec. 2.
During last week's Challenge oppponent outlook, I mentioned UGA as the possible other team outside of the projected big four of Auburn, Alabama, Vandy and UK. The primary reason was they also sit in the middle of the pack in the SEC and if the big names avoided UC because the BE "powerhouses" connected with them, it seemed a logical fallback.
Also, if you are a UC basketball fan, it provides a road trip that will not disappoint. Athens represents one of the great college towns in the country. If you haven't been, it's well worth a trip, especially during the cold December months when the temperature will be slightly more tolerable.
Visit the Taco Stand, explore Broad Street, maybe even take in a local indy band at the home of REM. Just plan the trip and do something, thank me later.
--- As for the basketball side of the draw, let's take a closer look at UGA;
2010-11 results: 22-12, 9-7 SEC, lost in first round NCAA
Returning: The Bulldogs were devastated by the early-entry deadline as their two top scorers Trey Thompkins (16.4) and Travis Leslie (14.4) both jumped ship early. It left guard Gerald Robinson as their only returner who averaged double figures. Also, Thompkins and Leslie were the team's top two rebounders, averaging a combined 14.5 boards a game.
Ranking: Georgia will not be ranked and almost certainly not even receiving votes.
Pros: This will be an excellent opportunity for a road win against a major-conference opponent. Those are SOS boosters no matter the competition. UGA should improve greatly as the year progresses with a young team filling new unfamiliar roles. Catching them early bodes well for UC. This will be an great chance for Yancy Gates, Cheik Mbodj and Justin Jackson to gain some confidence on the boards as UGA will be empty in the paint without Leslie and Thompkins.
Cons: No matter how happy UC will be to play UGA in Athens, facing a premier ranked opponent would have been significant gain in exposure, experience and NCAA resume. Mick Cronin doesn't want to bombard his team with tough non-con foes. He established that M.O. last season. The Big East is too difficult to attempt that technique and the team's fresh legs at the end of the season proved critical.
That said, this would have been a great opportunity for the one huge game to point toward and surround with a few smaller top rung opponents to round out the non-con. Georgia isn't a poor opponent, but it's not a game between ranked teams like Vandy, Bama or UK would have been.
--- This will be the first ever meeting between the two schools.
--- All games will be on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU. Here's the entire lineup:
Thursday, Dec. 1
Georgetown at Alabama
Providence at South Carolina
St. John's at Kentucky
Ole Miss at DePaul
Friday, Dec. 2
Auburn at Seton Hall
Florida at Syracuse
Cincinnati at Georgia
Vanderbilt at Louisville
Saturday, Dec. 3
Arkansas at Connecticut
West Virginia at Mississippi State
LSU at Rutgers
Pittsburgh at Tennessee
--- All of the matchups make sense -- except two. I love Florida at Syracuse because those two teams rarely meet and both will be top 10 against the backdrop of the Carrier Dome. In fact, Florida is undefeated there. Fantastic.
Louisville and Vandy makes sense from talent and geographic perspective. Excellent match. Pitt and Tenn have the rivalry of last year's upset. The majority of the rest are random matchups of lower quality teams.
--- Then there's UK at St. John's. The Red Storm became a significant storyline last year. Steve Lavin did a remarkable job. Both schools own vast college hoops history. I get all that. But St. John's will be decimated next year. They are losing almost 90 percent of their scoring. UK will be ranked in the top three with a trio of top players returning. I don't care how great St. John's freshman class is supposed to be, they will be shellacked in this game. I'm sure John Calipari would love the idea of taking his team into the Garden and showing off a bit. Maybe he held major pull in making this matchup occur, but picking UC or a UConn rematch would have made much more sense to me.
Georgetown at Alabama befuddles me as well. The Hoyas own the prestige of being who they are. That's great, but they will be down next year. They lose more than half their scoring and will be extremely young. Sending them on the road doesn't seem like the greatest of matchups. To me, this would have been the most logical fix and where UC became a victim of the past five years subduing their national draw. Sending Georgetown to UGA and UC to Bama would make much more sense if it's top-tier matchups you are looking for in this event.
--- CBSsports places UC-UGA outside the six games that excites about the Challenge.
--- Jeff Eisenberg took issue with a few matchups as well.
--- Love Nippert Stadium at night? Congrats. The football opener against Austin Peay will be Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. at The Nipp. Should be fun.
--- UC dropped the opening game of the UConn series last night at the hands of Matt Barnes and the Huskies, 3-1. Barnes pitched six scoreless innings despite six walks. Tonight skydivers will be jumping in during pregame and the Bearcats badly need to grab a win -- 6:30 p.m. first pitch.
--- For the first time since being called up, Tony Campana didn't enter the Cubs game on Thursday, a 5-1 win against Florida. No, I won't be updating Campana's stats every day here, but do want to bring you the occassional tidibt when he plays well. He's too good a story not to.
His ascension isn't only a great story for himself and his family, but all of UC baseball. Seeing a direct path from hard work to MLB running through the UC campus can go a long way with recruits and those currently on the team.
Brian Cleary talked about just that yesterday:
"We have worked really hard to create an environment where players can come to develop. Facilities, coaching staff, all those things. One more piece of evidence points to come to
With Campana in the bigs, let's take a look at who could the next UC player to break through.
Josh Harrison: Triple-A Indianapolis. He's currently hitting .330 in the Pittsburgh organization one year after hitting .300 at Double-A. If his numbers persist, it's only a matter of time until the standard Pirates September callups include him.
Mike Spina: Double-A Midland. Spina is putting together a nice campaign during his first run with the A's Double-A squad. He's hitting .277 with nine home runs and 31 RBI already. A move up to Triple-A at the end of this year or next year could track him to the bigs in the next two seasons.
For the rest of the UC players in the minors and their stats, check them out here.
--- Mo Egger is one of the best at doing his job well in all of Cincinnati sports media. If you don't listen to or read him regularly, you don't care about Cincinnati sports. More importantly, he's an even better guy and friend. Read his blog today. Follow his advice.
--- Twitter and Facebook and the Interwebs are killing our memories. I would tell you the last time I went a day without using any of the three but I can't remember.
--- You already knew this Cubs fans, but how about some quantatative analysis from the Wall Street Journal to really kick you in the junk. There's always next year.
--- The Onion Investigative Team explores a question we've all asked ourselves in a way we've hopefully not considered.
--- Kevin Durant. Make 'em say ugggh.
--- I'm taking a road trip to Cleveland this weekend to hang out with one of my old professors, a few friends and take in some baseball. The trip up I-71 will be filled with serious reconnection with some old CDs. Top among them will be one of the great driving songs of all-time. Have a great weekend everyone. Hope we are all alive to reconvene on Monday.