Bearcats Breakfast 1.4.12

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The same pattern repeats itself year in and year out in the Big East: early in the conference season, home teams thrive. This was especially true the last few seasons when the parity in the conference ran so deep.

Learning how to win on the road in hostile environments takes time in this conference. By the end of the season, the numbers begin to even out, but early on road teams tend to struggle mightily.

At first glance, it would seem those numbers are slightly more moderate with home teams going 10-5. Considering the increased disparity between the top five and bottom five this season, that's actually reasonable. Looking closer at the breakdown of all five conference games, though, it seems the same early-season formula is in play.

If you aren't one of the premier teams in this conference, you are going to have problems winning away from home early on.

Of the five losses by home teams, all of them came at the hands of a ranked opponent -- except for UC@Pitt.

- Georgetown topped Louisville in one of the better games this season.
- UConn squaked by USF, 60-57
- Syracuse predictably throttled DePaul
- Louisville beat up on what looks more and more to be a bad St. John's team
- And, of course, UC taking down the Panthers.

In all 10 other Big East games this season the home team won. Those include two upsets of ranked teams:

- Seton Hall took down No. 10 UConn last night by 12 (Same SH team that was crushed on the road in the Carrier Dome)
- Notre Dame 72, No. 22 Pitt 59 in South Bend

I waste your time at the beginning of the Breakfast with this for two reasons:

A) The next two games are those the Bearcats SHOULD win. Following trends of how difficult it has been for non-top tier teams (aka young teams, aka ND, St. John's) to win on the road early in the season, winning games with the home environment and opponent's inexperience on your side are critical. You must swipe winnable games in this conference at every chance.

B) These stats display how impressive UC's win against Pitt was. They literally did what no other unranked team in the conference has done this season -- win a road game. Personally, that tells me perhaps these Bearcats deserve to be ranked, but that's a discussion for another day. Having veterans leading the way helps since the core of this group finished off the regular season winning four in a row on the road last year shows they know how to win in unfamiliar locations.

Both of these concepts play a major role tonight against ND. The Irish are 9-0 at home this year, including the Pitt upset. They are 0-5 away from South Bend.

While the Big East remains a study in struggles on the road, the Irish are case in point.

Their losses: @Maryland (78-71), @Gonzaga (73-53) and neutral floors vs Indiana (69-58), UGA (61-57) and Mizzou (87-58).

Not much shame in the schedule, but the results are undeniable. With so many tough games ahead, winning these next two inside 5/3 are critical.

Let's eat...

--- Of course, 5/3 needs to create a home-court advantage or else you might as well be playing in the auxiliary gym. Down the stretch last year, the crowds and energy in that place were 90sish (it's a word if I say so). Even though there were about 4500 at US Bank the other night, the place rocked as UC made its comeback. The noise made a huge difference.

Mick Cronin wants that to continue. He wrote this letter to the student body asking for their support as the conference season begins.

It's well said and politely asks for their help in being a part of what Cronin knows can be a special season. For so often there has been this battle between fans and the recreation of the Bearcats, whether for schedule, prices, interest, whatever. Cronin continues to try and bridge that gap especially with the students. This isn't some revolutionary move or one that will change the game of UC hoops. Not at all. Just a nice gesture and one that should remind students how much they are needed and what kind of impact they can have -- for free, by the way.

Cronin didn't have to do this. He did. The latest example of a coach who keeps making all the right moves.

--- Expectations are for a good crowd tonight. You can get tickets starting at $12 or take the last opportunity to hop on the ND, Nova, Cuse, Louisville mini-plan for $100.

--- The return of the suspended players comes tonight, for more details check out yesterday's Breakfast which I did what half of you did on checks written yesterday and listed it as 2011.

Bill Koch also outlined what they are stepping into in this piece.

AP's Joe Kay tackles the topic.

Chad Brendel with another analysis.

All include the same mantra from Mick: These players will show up, play team basketball and do what I tell them to do.

--- As Bill touched on in his piece, fair or not, a portion of fans view UC's emergence as addition by subtraction of Gates. From my seat on press row, that's simply not the case. The return of free and easy basketball where nobody is afraid to shoot and everybody gives relentless effort every second changed this team. One that all season I've been saying needed to be perimeter-driven.

Now, who knows what we will see tonight when the new players return to the rotation. Though, as Cronin pointed out yesterday, don't expect to see crisp basketball. It takes a few games to get back into rhythm. Even some of the Bearcats don't know what to expect, but I'd be shocked to see anything but the same effort and energy as has been displayed for each of the six games. And that's been enough to win to this point. It likely would be again tonight.

--- Cashmere Wright stat watch: 38 assists to six turnovers the last six games. His A/TO rate the past six games sits at 6.3:1. The national leader for the season is Dave Sobolewski at Northwestern (4.6:1).

--- Notes from the notes:
UC ranks among the nation's leaders in fewest fouls committed (9th-14.4), scoring defense (16th-57.4 points), turnover margin (22nd-4.1) and blocks (25th-5.5).

--- Mike DeCourcy does a HOF
job debunking the myth about soft, home non-conference schedules. Thank you.

--- Jake Curtis of the SF Chronicle
points out that UC isn't the only team using the four-guard lineup successfully. See Mizzou and Colorado.

--- Not sure what's worse, that
in-depth Bubble Watch columns are being written the first week of January, or that I looked through it.

Sidenote for the millionth time: Stop using RPI as an indicator of team value this early on. Once schedules and results begin to float to their level in early February we can talk. For now, it's as useful as a car with no steering wheel. (I'd debate heavily its usefulness altogether, but that's for another day. I'm trying to keep my blood pressure down)

--- Without doubt, UConn losing
last night at Seton Hall should grab everyone's attention. Seton Hall appears for real.

First thought that popped into my head when I saw that score? Holy moly, is Syracuse good. I'm not saying they will, but the Orange have as good a shot to go undefeated in Big East play as any team I can remember since UC joined. I predict 16-2.

--- Some randomness....

--- Phillip B. Wilson of the Indy Star wasn't a big fan of Bill Polian, apparently.

--- San Diego coach Norv Turner and GM AJ Smith kept their jobs. In related news, Jon Lovitz has a string of new movies coming out.

--- What would you do if a mouse was found in your can of Mountain Dew? Filing a lawsuit would be high atop the list.

--- Starbucks addicts, you're going to want to put down your lattes before reading this link.

--- OK, so,
Stephen Tyler, Alice Cooper and Wierd Al walk into a club -- stop me if you've heard this one.

--- Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons says he was thinking about brunette girls when he made the game-winning kick last night. When I can't write a story, I do the same thing. I can confidently say it does not work with the same efficiency.

--- Have to admit just the mention of Wierd Al makes me think of my favorite of his parodies. Even Ezekiel thinks my mind is gone.

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