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Bearcats Breakfast 11.21.11

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Let's start with the good news. We would be remiss not to open with the UC women's volleyball team winning their first Big East championship on Sunday with a straight sets victory over Notre Dame.

Believe it or not, this was the first BE tournament championship for any UC team.

Missy Harpenau led UC and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. She totaled 39 kills and 35 digs in the tournament.

Big congrats to them and the NCAA selection show will be Sunday where they should have a pretty good seed entering the tournament.

Let's eat....

--- OK, on to the not so good.
I hate to start my week off on the soapbox, but I have to do so.

Watching the reaction to Saturday's double-downer made me sick to my stomach. Granted, I'm judging by the snap tweets I received and saw circulating during the day as the frustration of the losses to Rutgers and Presbyterian began to soak in, but the amount of big-picture judgments made on the two coaches based on one game was appalling.

I'm hearing from people questioning Butch Jones' coaching ability and all the work that has been done in the season to this point. I'm hearing people calling Mick Cronin a terrible coach. These are almost certainly the same people praising both endlessly no less than 10 days ago.

The knee-jerk reaction of sports fans makes no sense. Yes, the losses hurt. Neither wanted to lose nor did they expect to. But to claim these games proved some sort of fatal flaw or defining factor in either coach is ludicrous. Is the bandwagon that small that one setback forces so many to jump off?

Likely, some of the Cronin-bashers will always be there. Whether it was flipping around the academic and off-court conduct of the team, recruiting some of the top talent in the country to a dismantled program, leading them out of the bottom half of the Big East and into the NCAA tournament or the team's first Top 25 preseason ranking since taking over -- some people won't care to hear the facts.

They won't want to hear that losses like the one UC hoops suffered Saturday happen annually. Heck, this year alone Long Beach State beat Pitt, Seattle Pacific topped Arizona and NKU/Kent State both beat our beloved Bob Huggins and West Virginia.

Last year Florida lost to Jacksonville at home. The Gators went on to a No. 2 seed and advance to a Regional Final loss to Butler.

Cleveland State beat Syracuse in 2009. That was one year after LeMoyne College topped the Cuse in an exhibition.

Fire Jim Boeheim!

In 2004, North Carolina lost to lowly Santa Clara at home. They went on to win the national championship.

Roy Williams, Bruce Weber, Billy Donovan, Jamie Dixon. Yep, they're all garbage.

Teams experience growing pains in November. It's part of the process. Everyone is figuring out their strengths and weaknesses. A loss to Presbyterian doesn't mean Cronin suddenly lost touch with the program. C'mon, people, we're better than that, aren't we?

The same goes for Jones. Nobody is placing blame here on the injury to Zach Collaros deciding the outcome of Saturday's game against Rutgers, but does UC struggling to move the ball with one week to fix losing the unanimous captain and heart of the team against the league's best defense make Jones a bad coach?

Does it wash away the rebound from 4-8 to 7-1? Does it take away the constructed chemistry and resilience that sparked come-from-behind victories in three consecutive conference wins?

Apparently, to some fans it does. The opportunity to go 9-3 and share the Big East title still exists. If I'd have told you that at the beginning of the year, what would you have said then?

Seasons and coaches need to be viewed in retrospect and big picture. The game of throwing coaches under the bus is a favorite reaction across college sports. One all too sad and familiar.

I challenge this base to be better than that. I thought they were.

(Takes deep breath, steps down off soapbox, tugs suit and brushes shoulders, exits quietly)

--- Without doubt, the most surprising element of Saturday's game against Rutgers was the disparity in the trenches. This was a game UC entered as the second-ranked team in the country stopping the run with Rutgers 118th in running the football.

I remember stating I would be shocked if Rutgers compiled more than 40 yards on the ground. The Knights running effectively was so far out of the realm of consideration, I didn't even include it in Friday's Four Stats For Victory.

Yet, there was Juwan Jamison running for 200 yards?

And there was Isaiah Pead and the UC running game, going against a team that allowed a 100-yard rusher to all five previous conference foes, only gaining 28 yards on 14 carries?

As much as people would love to point the finger at Munchie Legaux -- and this team will rightfully call it a team loss where everyone failed to do enough -- it's hard to get past what occurred in the running game. The one advantage the Cats had was up front. They had to dominate it. The opposite happened, forcing Legaux into positions he wasn't comfortable in and UC wasn't comfortable putting him in.

Give credit to the Scarlet Knights and don't put this all at Legaux's feet.

--- Here's where we stand in the Big East title picture. There is currently a five-way tie at the top of the conference. Yes, more than half of the teams in the league right now can claim first place.

UC can win the BCS bid by the following occuring:

1) Win out. Pitt beats West Virginia. UConn upsets Rutgers.

2) Complete chaos.

The way the Big East has gone this year, the second seems more likely than anything. There are multiple scenarios where UC can win the title, but focusing on those two games will be the easiest way to put it right now.

While Syracuse has lost three in a row, finding a way to beat the Orange should be at the top of the priority chart right now.

--- What we
learned in the Big East, from Andrea Adelson. Includes discussion of missing ZC.

--- CBSsports.com talks Big East Winners and Losers from Week 12.

--- On to basketball, I posted
Mick Cronin's postgame comments in my blog Saturday. It felt like a day where letting Cronin's words speak for themselves was the only way to properly tell the story. Nothing I could construct would illustrate the core message better than his venting of postgame frustration.

If you want to get a feel for how it went, here is the video.

He wasn't alone in his frustration. Yancy Gates and Sean Kilpatrick both entered the postgame press conference and voiced a similar message. Likely, they were just repeating what Cronin said in the locker room, but you have to believe the message hit home now.

SK said this about teams coming back on them.

"That's mostly like our problem," he said. "Especially with whole fact when we do get up we stop playing hard. It shouldn't be like that. With a team like that shouldn't come back like that with open 3s the way they did."

Here is the video of Yancy and SK.

Kilpatrick admitted the mistake he made not pulling his rebound back out to get fouled in the final seconds. The overwhelming theme, however, was small mental errors like that one or the missed free throw by Gates aren't the issue here. This was a big-picture problem Cronin will be addressing with his team.

"Even if we would have won, we are not a very good basketball team," Cronin said.

--- Cronin insinuated changes would be made going forward and he specifically talked about more playing time for Kelvin Gaines, who does hustle and play hard defensively.

Tonight's game against Northwestern State will be much more interesting to watch all of a sudden.

The game will be on FSO and ESPN3.com at 7 p.m. Of course, you can always follow along for observations and (occasionally) witty commentary on Twitter. (@pauldehnerjr)

--- The scene with Presbyterian coach Gregg Nibert after the game was my highlight of the weekend. Sure, his team beat UC. But taking that out of it, watching him be forced to tears discussing senior Khalid Mutakhabbir, who buried the game-winning 3-pointer, was special to witness.

Joe Kay does a nice job of capturing it with his AP story.

Kids at these small schools are beaten to a pulp by a run of top teams early in the season. And if UC played them 100 times, they'd probably win 99. To see the emotion come flowing out and the endless hours of thankless work paid off for one special moment, I was honored just to be in the room to see it.

--- Yet to see the new Top 25 rankings, they'll be out later today, but UC will almost certainly drop out. Gary Parrish had them out of his Top 25 and one.

--- Randomness...

--- What a great day for
celebrations in the NFL yesterday. First, you had Maurice Jones-Drew going all LeBron in Cleveland. Then you had Tony Scheffler breaking out the Flashmob commercial dance.

--- CBS did a piece on the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Still going strong.

--- I might consider watching CSI now. Probably not, but I'll think about it.

--- Beats by Dre or Bose?

--- In case you hadn't heard yet, Lee Corso with the quote of the weekend (Link contains bad language). Corso apologized soon after.

--- Football coaches could only hope to recruit players with the kind of effort and determination it took this girl to rush the field while on crutches.

--- Things got weird at the conclusion of the American Music Awards last night. As if LMFAO doing Party Rock Anthem wasn't disheartening enough, David Hasselhoff showed up on stage in some sort of European Speedo with a smiley face on it. He thrusted to unnecessary levels.

As a friend said to me at the time: There are some things you just can't unsee.

I'm sad for our country.



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2 Comments

You can think so all you want, but the coaching comments for Jones are not based on one game.

Paul,

I really love Butch Jones as our coach and hope he wins enough to stick around for many years. But I think where the fans frustration lies in this Rutgers game is that we all knew what Rutgers defensive game plan was going to be. Stack the box to take away the run, jam the receivers and keep everyone in close to the line, and blitz Munchie all day. Force Munchie to beat you as a passer. Apparently Butch didn't think that would happen. Continuing to run Pead up the middle and force Munchie to stand in the pocket and make short passes in coverage all day wasn't going to work. Everyone knew that but UC's coaching staff. They rarley looked downfield, they rarely ran outside and they rarely got Munchie outside the pocket to use his athleticism to make plays.

I certainly hope they make better adjustments this week.

A huge supporter of Butch Jones,
Brad Holdheide
UC Class of 96