I was convinced a while ago but I think after the return to the NCAA tournament last year, the rebound from the Crosstown Shootout, the early success in the Big East with major road wins and obvious respect from Bob Huggins, this is officially Mick Cronin's team in your mind, right? If not it should be.
Let's face it many of you had no idea and/or belief in Mick when he first arrived because you believed he was in over his head. Winning at Murray State and nearly knocking off basketball factory North Carolina was just a magical moment and no credit was due the coaches. But as time has gone on and wins have happened in the most unexpected of places like Pitt and Georgetown, you are running out of reasons to say he doesn't belong. He does belong and has also proven to be a relentless recruiter amidst competition steeper than Mount Everest; and he is gaining ground with each win and visit.
I don't think Mick ever got his rightful credit for taking over a team with very few players, little support and no identity they way he should have. He never ask or begged for it, just ask you to be fair in the assessment along the way regarding restoring this successful program. I nearly fell off my seat last year when people wanted to preface UC's return to the NCAA tournament dance with a "but", but it happened.
When the Crosstown Shootout went spiraling out of control many of you thought Xavier would react the way Mick and UC did, swiftly and decisively and that may have convinced some that he recognized the program is more important than any one or a few players. He even offered himself up as a sacrificial lamb if it meant the program would be best served.
Fast forward to the Big East part of the schedule and they're winning, part of Big East Monday, added another sellout to the ledger and motivated the students and alumni to return exceeding 10K several times. That means more people see, and more important, believe this program is going in the right direction. This by no means is an indicator that the hard part is over with, it's not and Mick would be the first to tell you that. But what it clearly means is this program since Mick assumed the mantle of head coach, is moving down the right path to be a Big East contender and recapture national respect.
I honestly think he should be recognized for what he's done thus far and I'm glad to say this column is my way of doing it. Mick Cronin and his staff have made UC basketball relevant on campus and around the city again. You can argue he hasn't but you would only be admitting your unwillingness to respect the facts, wins and the effort. To that I say C'mon Man!
That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat