Bearcats Breakfast 12.29.11

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I want to focus mainly on tonight's basketball game against Oklahoma, but before I do that, I can only say that the Liberty Bowl has really turned into a great setup for UC. With all the events these guys are a part of, I'm officially overflowing with jealousy.

The opening night had the welcome party with singing, eating and what I can only imagine being the most intense game of Madden Monte Taylor has ever played. The whole night seemed like a blast.

Then there was last night where the guys hooked up a trip to Rendezvous, which I can only tell you is as close to the down-home, Southern cooking experience you can find without mama asking you to clear the table afterward.

Then, they had a suite for the Memphis-Oklahoma City basketball game. JK Schaffer and Randy Martinez went down on the floor to be honored at halftime. They received an authentic Grizzlies jersey with Cincinnati on the nameplate.

Speaking of Martinez, Randeazy Cam is really hitting its stride with two more episodes posted.

As for some of the news, the starter at QB will be announced today. I'd be shocked if it wasn't Zach Collaros.

Also, as Andrea Adelson points out, UC plays the role of underdog yet again.

OC Mike Bajakian held a press conference with the media yesterday. All the offensive info you could want.

For those of you on your way down to Memphis or if you are already there, Tommy G announced the location of tonight's Tweetup. It will be at 7 p.m. CT at Local Gastropub (@localgastropub) 95 S. Main Street. UC-OU game will start at 8 p.m. CT.

On that note, let's eat...

--- Bill Koch had this preview story talking about two teams in search of credibility. He's dead on. This is big for both teams to give one final difficult non-con test before taking on brutal conference schedules. Everybody on here knows what UC will face in January in the Big East, but the other OU (9-1) will enter a run of six ranked teams in their next 10 games to open Big 12 play.

Other OU coach Lon Kruger called UC the toughest opponent they've seen and up there with St. Louis, who thumped them by 20 earlier this year.

--- For reference and for entertainment purposes only, UC wasn't the underdog Mick Cronin was preaching they should be earlier this week -- as least not by the Vegas numbers. They opened as 4.5-point favorites.

The major reason for Cronin's concern -- and briefly outlined here earlier in the week -- is Oklahoma's prowess on the glass.

For UC being what Mick calls "the smallest team in Division I" right now without Gates or Mbodj, the board warriors coming to town isn't the greatest matchup. They rank nationally only behind Pittsburgh in offensive rebound percentage (44.4).

They rank fourth in the country in overall rebounds per game.

What happened in the game they lost to STL by 20? The Billikens held them to just nine offensive rebounds on 35 missed shots (26 percent). What was probably their best win of the year? A 15-point win at Arkansas. That day they grabbed 10 offensive boards on 24 missed shots (42 percent).

"As a team if we don't play unbelievably hard defensively with our scrambling and scrapping and everything we can do to get a rebound...we are not going to have a chance to win," Cronin said.

Take a look at the offensive rebounds allowed by UC since switching to the four-guard offense. And remember, this is against teams that don't have near the athletes Oklahoma will be bringing in tonight.

Opponent   OppOReb OReb% 
Wright State        4    18%
Radford              17    41%
ARPB                11    35%
Chicago St.        12    29%

On the contrary, the Cats have experienced a mixed bag of earning second chance points on the offensive boards. Yet again, this came against teams ill-equipped to stop them athletically.

Opponent   UCOReb OReb% 
Wright State       12    52%
Radford               8     32%
ARPB                19    58%
Chicago St.        10    30%

Keeping the number of offensive boards under 40 percent for Oklahoma and and over 30 percent for UC will be the deciding number. The Cats don't have to win the battle, they just can't be dominated in it.

How do you accomplish that with two players taller than 6-foot-4? Very carefully.

"The key is where they get shots from," Cronin said. "Shooting five feet and in they are going to play volleyball. You saw that against any team we played in the last four games. We can't let the ball get deep. The ball gets deep and teams are shooting five feet and in they are going to have two rebounders as well as the guy shooting and we are just not going to be tall enough, it becomes a matter of height. We got to make sure we keep the ball out of the paint the best we can, that way it gives us a chance to block out."

--- As for matchups falling in the Bearcats
favor, they should be able to post points. Of course, they need to keep shooting the way they have from deep for that to happen, but there's little reason to believe that should cool off considering not just the hot streak, but how many different players have been hitting shots for them.

With their strength of schedule rated 232nd by KenPom, Oklahoma has allowed less than 59 points only twice (South Carolina State, Sacramento State -- both rated in the bottom 15 percent of NCAA teams). They have allowed 70+ four times in their 10 games.

Teams can score on the other OU. The way UC is playing on offense, posting 75+ should probably be the threshold number to shoot for. Whether that happens or not is one of the great mysteries of tonight's game and why I think it's one of the more intriguing contests of the season. In many way, we don't quite know what to expect.

Neither do the players.

"They are a high-major team and I want to see where we are with this offense and how we are playing," Dion Dixon said. "We know who we are as a team and we play together, we don't wonder where we are at, I just want to see how it is going to work when we play them."

--- Forgot to mention this yesterday, but Mick opened his press conference Tuesday letting everybody know that assistant coach George Jackson, who has missed the last few games, is doing well and recovering. He was not hospitalized. Cronin hopes Jackson can rejoin the team in the near future.

--- Of course, don't forget, the game is at 9 p.m. on ESPNU at US BANK ARENA tonight. If you show up at Fifth Third, you can't say I didn't remind you.

Mike Crispino and Tim Welsch on the call for ESPNU. I'm sure you've been awaiting their voice all season.

--- Notes from the Notes:

Did you know UC has won 16 consecutive games at US Bank Arena? The last loss came in 1997 against Temple. Of course, it was the setting for the liftoff, eye-opener from last season when the Cats throttled Dayton over Thanksgiving weekend.

SK is riding a streak of 10 consecutive games in double figures, Dixon has nine straight.

Cash has knocked down 16 of 31 3-pointers since moving to the 4-guard attack.

--- When UC hosts Syracuse on Big Monday, many UC fans may be watching with their hands covering faces and eyes peeking through the fingers.

The top-ranked Cuse are ridiculous right now. Not only are they great, they are deep. Last night, Kris Joseph was 0 for 6 from the floor and didn't score a point. Scoop Jardine only managed five points. They were playing a Seton Hall team at 11-2 and among the biggest surprises of the non-conference season.

They routed the Pirates by 26 points -- and it wasn't that close.

Playing the Orange is a slap to the face. Any and all deficiencies exposed immediately.

--- I'll admit I thought Georgetown would be down this year. I was wrong. The way they have picked up without Austin Freeman and Chris Wright has been remarkable.

They showed some serious poise holding off a late 11-0 Louisville run for a 71-68 victory at the Yum! Center against previously undefeated Louisville. Talk about a tough place to get a win.

Along the same lines, love the heart of the Cardinals team, but they have some bad-decision makers at the center of their offense right now. Peyton Siva and Kyle Kuric have to do a better job of not forcing shots.

--- The Dagger with a look back at the best college basketball moments of 2011. The Kemba crossover on Pitt's Gary McGhee makes me jump up every time I see it.

Some randomness...

--- If you can get Rajon Rondo
for Russell Westbrook you do it. He was arguing with Kevin Durant last night at the Grizz game? He probably was stating his case that Vandy would win the Liberty Bowl and KD had to put him in his place.

--- Columbia House gave away
CDs and tapes back in the day like they were going out of style. How the heck did they make so much money? Because 14-year-olds don't read fine print.

--- If you see a man charging at you wielding a cow femur, you'll want to get the heck up out of there.

--- Manute Bol photo gallery!

--- Forgot about this baseline dunk in the same vein as Micheal Jordan that Dion broke out last year at Oklahoma. Hope to see more of that tonight.

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