May 2012 Archives

A sad day for Bearcats Nation and the blog today. Cincinnati basketball legend Jack Twyman passed away at the age of 78.

Here is the AP story.

Personally, I never interviewed Twyman nor did I meet him. But the first thoughts that come from people who did know the man wasn't about his impact on the court. No, the talk wasn't about being among the top ten scorers in UC history despite playing prior to the invent of the 3-point line. No, they didn't mention his 11-year career that included a prolific four-year stretch in which he averaged at least 22 points per season. No, they didn't mention the 1959-'60 year in which he posted 31.2 points per game. They didn't open with his six NBA All-Star appearances.
All that came second.

Most people when mentioning Twyman, opened with his humanitarianism. And Maurice Stokes.

If you don't know the story of their friendship, take the time to read this piece here. It's well worth your time and provides the truest glimpse to what Twyman represented. (H/t Tommy G)

--- As for the numbers of Twyman's career, he scored 1,598 points with the Bearcats over his four seasons. He ranks fifth all-time in points per game at 17.8.

His senior season averaging 24.6 points per game ranks second behind Oscar Robertson for average points in a single season.

Don't forget, Twyman is one of the most prolific rebounders in school history as well. He averaged 16.5 rebounds per game his junior and senior seasons. Only Connie Dierking in 56-57 averaged more boards in a season (18.8).

That's right, his senior season he averaged 24.6 points and 16.5 rebounds. I'd argue, likely without much resistance, it's the best non-Big O season in the history of the program.

His No. 27 hangs in the rafters as one of three retired numbers at UC between Robertson and Kenyon Martin.

--- This from Mick Cronin:
"Jack Twyman was the first former player to greet me six years ago when I returned to Cincinnati. I enjoyed our lunches together and the wisdom he spoke with so kindly. He was a first-class man and obviously, one of the greatest to ever put on the Bearcats jersey. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. We will miss him greatly."

--- This from AD Whit Babcock:

"The Bearcat family lost one of our legends yesterday with the passing of Jack Twyman. He was a true gentleman, a great man who loved UC. He will be missed. He supported his alma mater in every facet. He was an icon. The name "Jack Twyman" will forever be associated with our University and a golden era of UC Athletics."

--- UC lost one of the great representatives of the program. A sad day, indeed. Prayers go out to his family. RIP.
Promise I haven't lost my hold on reality after I labeled yesterday's Breakfast as 4.29.12. I don't know what you did your Memorial Day weekend, but, let's just say if that's the dumbest move I made on the first day back then I undershot the projection.

Back to equilibrium today with the date (I believe) correct and focus returning to UC and the Big East.

Let's eat...

--- Much of the talk during this lull in the year revolves around the non-conference scheduling. It certainly does on on this blog, anyway. I'm constantly delving deeper into the topic than anybody not named Mick Cronin.

I won't do that today. Andy Katz broke out the story to end all stories about non-conference scheduling, which even includes a quote from Mick about finding teams in your boat.

We all yearn for the day UC could pick football arenas and top-tier teams to play every year, but for now, they live in a different neighborhood. And this neighborhood has plenty of empty lots.

If you've ever wondered about the difficulties facing Mick and building non-conference schedules, you'll want to read this.

--- Still waiting on the Big East-SEC Challenge pairings.

--- Adam Zagoria ranked his top 21 players
in the Big East next season. Only Sean Kilpatrick made the list. Zags is pretty well respected and does call SK a POY candidate, but the fact Cashmere Wright was left off makes little sense from my angle.

Rob Dauster believes leaving USF PG Anthony Collins off the list was the biggest mistake. This brings up a topic that probably won't be disputed: The Big East will have the best collection of point guards in basketball next season.

Take a look at this list with their 2011/12 stats/notes:

Player, School, Year              P/G   A/G   TO/G       A:T  NOTE
Cashmere Wright, UC, Sr.        10.9   4.2     2.2     1.91  School rec for steals/season (2.4)
Anthony Collins, USF, Soph.     9.0    5.2     3.4     1.52  Avg 14 points/4 ast/2 TO in NCAAs
Shabazz Napier, UConn, Jr.      13.0   5.8     2.8     2.07  Avg 18.2 ppg over final five
Vincent Council, PC, Sr.            15.9   7.5     3.5    2.14  Led BE conference play (8.0 A/G)  
Peyton Siva, UL, Sr.                    9.1    5.1     3.4     1.50  3.1 A/TO during Final 4 run
Tray Woodall, Pitt, Sr.,               11.7   6.1     3.2     1.90  Missed first 11 games
Junior Cadougan, Marq., Sr.      6.3    5.4     2.6     2.08  T-3 A/G during conference play
Brandon Young, DePaul, Jr.     14.5   4.7     2.4     1.96  One of two w/ 14+ppg/4.5+apg
Jerian Grant, ND, Soph.           12.3   5.0     1.9      2.63 Only soph? Top A/TO ratio returning

--- Who would you even dub the top returning point guard? You could make a legit argument for half of this list.

--- Cash's argument? Tough to find a better all-around player as far as scoring and adding possessions. His 2.4 steals per game combined with his 2.2 TO/game (second-best on list) and top 10 among 3-point shooters creates the entire package.

--- Much love has been given to Vincent Council and a fresh influx of weapons will only improve his stock, but aren't the numbers skewed on a team that plays as much defense as the last-place finisher in the Deveroes league?

-- Siva owns the splash factor and can point to a Big East title and Final 4 run. Nobody else can do that. Of course, only one other player is turning the ball over as much as Siva. Yet, his 3.1 A/TO during the five-game Final 4 run stands as impressive as any PG in the nation, much less the conference.

--- Collins improved more than any player on the list over the course of the season and was the primary reason USF made the run it did late in the year. Another year of seasoning and addition offensive weapons make him a darkhorse for first or second team.

--- The senior point guard stands as one of the most revered team characteristics come NCAA tournament time. They know how to win and guards win games in March. This league posts five premier senior PGs. Toss in two top junior guards and you won't find a league with the same haul anywhere.

-- Whoever ends up as the first-team Big East point guard will likely be a first- or second-team All-American considering the horses in the conference.

--- Moving on.....

--- Surprised to see UConn pull
out of port on the Carrier Classic (you like that?). To be honest, not a big fan of multiple aircraft carrier games. It's a cool concept, but let's not go crazy down the slippery slope where there's a day full of aircraft carrier games and TruTV is televising Ohio vs. Robert Morris on a Hocking River barge.

--- Zags with an interview (video) with Yancy Gates following his workout with the New York Knicks.

--- Andrea Adelson wondered how the divisional breakdown would occur in the future Big East with the current stable of members. First observation of the three different scenarios she offered? None included UC-UL in the same division.

Hard to see anything but East-West considering the significant distance differential between the two sides.

--- Randomness...

--- Jim Tressel talks about his departure from OSU with the Plain-Dealer. Interesting piece.

--- We didn't need a senate primary to tell us this, but it most definitely did: Craig James -- not well liked.

--- Tweet of the Day: @darrenrovell: Since Facebook went public Mark Zuckerberg lost $15.7 million PER HOUR.

--- I'd prefer there weren't zombie attacks going on in America.

--- Bob Dylan: cooler than everyone. 

--- There is a sequel being made of In the Army Now with Pauly Shore and Andy Dick. I'm not adding a punchline, because none is needed.

--- Rage Against the Machine
and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello turns 48 today. So many great songs to choose from. My RATM flavor of the week is this one, though. 

Hope everybody had a great Memorial Day weekend. It's easy through all the festivals and pool parties to forget why we celebrate the annual opening of summer, but I'd be remiss not to open up the blog today thanking all the military members that have fought and continue to do so. They fight so I don't have to. And nobody wants to see me fight. I'd likely be deported for my effort.

Let's eat...

--- Doc wrote this column about the future of the Big East and included a conversation with AD Whit Babcock. The unified, optimistic stance coming out of the spring meetings paints a rosy picture, but as Whit spoke about in our podcast more than a month ago and has reiterated many times since, nothing will paint a rosier picture than a big win in the TV negotiations.

Until then, all schools stand back and wait to see what the financial gain/loss will be in the conference going forward. Anything between now and then is pure speculation. As Whit said to Doc, the Big East has "the potential to be" the best conference for UC going forward. In this realignment era, however, things can become better or worse in a hurry. It's a bit like weather in this town -- you don't like it, wait a minute.

--- The closest thing to inside information on the whole process will come from Brett McMurphy who has been two steps ahead of every move over and over again for Here's a segment he did on Friday with Tim Brando. Listen, you'll forever be more informed.

--- Back to the reason we care
about any of that -- the actual players and games -- Andrea Adelson broached two quotes from Butch Jones about the potential of Walter Stewart. Jones had this to say on the ESPN blog:

"At this stage of the game, he's probably the most focused individual I've been around in a long time from all aspects, from off the field and his leadership qualities, to on the field the demands of his teammates, demands of himself," Jones said. "He's turned into a dynamic leader. Seeing the maturity level and the success that Derek Wolfe and John Hughes had last year has really propelled him to another level from his work ethic to his attitude to his conditioning to expectations, not only of himself but to his teammates. He's really leading this football team right now."

And more from Butch:

"We need to have an edge presence to our defense," Jones said. "Walter has worked himself into that spot. But also depth is going to play a role. We like to rotate as many as eight to 10 defensive linemen. We had that luxury last year. Right now, we don't have that luxury. We have a lot of individuals who have to take account for themselves, and really work themselves into being able to give us some quality snaps."

No, the rotation won't be as deep on the front line, but Stewart will still have help. He appears primed to lead the team in sacks and be the best player on a unit that should already be relatively strong.

As I've pointed out before, you need only to look at his final eight games of 2012 to see what a dedicated Stewart can produce. He had six sacks in the final eight games after going sackless the first five weeks of the season.

The guy began to grow into the player everyone hoped he could be following his breakout freshman season.

If you were to extrapolate out his final eight games of the season into a full campaign, you'd see his .75 sacks per game leave him among the best in the country.

Here's where he'd stand:

1. Whitney Marcelius, Illinois - 1.23
2. Trevardo Williams, UConn - 1.04
3. Brandon Joiner, Ark. St. - 1.00
4. Jake Bequette, Ark. - 1.00
5. Jarvis Jones, Georgia - 0.96
12. Melvin Ingram, South Carolina - 0.77
13. Walter Stewart, Cincinnati - 0.75
14. Sean Porter, Texas A&M - 0.73

Consider none of his output came against a few of the lesser schools that fill the early part of everyone's schedule and a full, focused year from Stewart could easily place him among the top 10 sack artists in the country based on last year's conclusion.

Other questions will ultimately decide if this happens. Will the limited rotation diminish his returns? How much impact will it have that attention previously focused on Derek Wolfe/John Hughes shifts to Stewart? Can he sustain his play from the back end of last year over a full season?

--- Late to the party on this one
, but Jones held Butch and Barb's Blue Jean Ball last week for the 1200 Club. Appears to have been a good time. Also appears Barb's famous cookies the players are always talking about were in attendance as well. My jealousy starts there.

--- More analysis on the
reported move of the Crosstown Shootout to a neutral site. This time Bill Koch explores the popularity of the neutral site in the Illinois-Missouri basketball rivalry.

--- Tim Higgins is retiring. But what will become of in-season Twitter vitriol? Jim Burr, your move.

--- Mike DeCourcy has some advice to make Peyton Siva a better player. I think UC fans everywhere prefer he didn't follow this link.

--- Big congrats to good friend
of this blog Rob Dauster, who toured through here and did a podcast with me with the Ballin' is a Habit hoops journey. He's now writing for

--- The UC track and field team officially sent four student-athletes to the national meet following regional qualifying this weekend.

Michelle Eby (pole vault), Kathy Klump (800 meters) and Emelie Larsson (javelin) all posted good enough numbers this weekend to receive an invite while Jasmine Cotton (heptathalon) moves on by virtue of her in-season numbers.

The Outdoor Championships will take place in Des Moines, Iowa June 6-9.

--- Also, the 4x400 team
of Shanay Portis, Jalisa Jarrett, Aricka Rhodes and Klump set a school record with a time of 3:37.62. It broke the record set last year of 3:37.93. Unfortunately, the time wasn't good enough to qualify for nationals.

--- There is still time to RSVP for the Football Open House, which will be held next Tuesday. Should be a cool event with a chance to chat with Jones, Babcock, players and others. Here's your info.

--- Randomness...

--- Honestly, with marriage proposals like this, the rest of us don't stand a chance.

--- I think Andre 3000
as Jimi Hendrix is working. Here are some photos.

--- Outside of recipes, what else could be in a Colonel Sanders biography? Chapter 1: Came up with chicken recipe. Chapter 2: Made tons of money. Chapter 3: The art of popularizing your facial hair. 

--- Matt Forte saw
a report that said his knees weren't healthy. So he made a video that completely proves the report wrong. Awesome.

--- Dave Matthews Band at Riverbend tonight. They take some heat, particularly because the fan base can be a bit yuppy, but they produce a pretty incredible live show and have been doing so as well for as long as almost anybody out there. Enjoy the day, everybody.

Want to take an even deeper look at New Mexico after touching on them yesterday. With ESPN likely picking the game up, it's a no-brainer. Looking at the Lobos recent history against top-conference opponents, the matchup makes even more sense.

The last three years against top-conference teams during the regular season they are 14-3:

Opp                    W/L  Scr

@Arizona State    W   76-71
Washington St.*   W   72-62
Boston College*    W   75-62
@USC                 W   44-41
Oklahoma St.*      W  66-56
St. Louis              W  64-60
Arizona State        W  76-62
@Cal                    L   89-64
Colorado*              W  89-76
Northern Iowa*       L   66-60
Texas Tech           W  61-60
@Dayton              L   76-73 (2OT)
No. 25 Cal            W   86-78
No. 18 Texas A&M* W   84-81
Creighton             W   66-61
No. 24 Texas Tech W  90-75
Dayton                W   68-66

--- These opponents don't offer the equivalent of beating Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, but they are major programs, regardless. And if its Top 25 non-con foes you are judging by, they are 3-0 in those -- all coming in 2009-10. In fairness, that was a VERY good St. Louis team they beat at home last season -- who would eventually spend much of the season ranked.

--- Also, among those games at The Pit, they are 7-0. That includes the win over St. Louis, Dayton and two teams ranked in the Top 25 at the time. That will not be a pleasant trip to the arena that typically slams 14k plus in for every game.

The good news about that game, UC will have Sean Kilpatrick in his senior season and the Lobos won't.

--- Mike DeCourcy at The Sporting News ranked his Top 25 for next year and while New Mexico was left out, UC was sitting there at No. 18. They were also ranked third among the Big East teams (Louisville 3, Syracuse 8).

--- Divisional alignment proposals
were made at the Big East meetings for football. According to this piece from, there are three currently on the table. One would compartmentalize them between East and West, another North-South, then another breaking them up into three different regions.

Considering the wide sprawling nature of the conference and expansion across the Mississippi, an East-West feels like the most logical conclusion. Of course, a scenario like that could place UC and Louisville on the border of possibly moving to the Western side.

Considering all the variables still unknown revolving around the conference, this probably lands somewhere between priorities 50 and 55.

--- Andrea Adelson wraps up the
comings and goings from the spring meetings.

--- A hot topic of conversation nationally has been the possible 18-team Big East basketball tournament. No doubt that could be a long week in NYC for some.

--- Randomness...

--- Saddened? Yes. Depressed? Yes. Surprised the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which provided some of the great journalistic efforts since Hurricane Katrina, reportedly won't be a daily newspaper? Absolutely not. Sad state of affairs in the industry.

--- Will Smith can do no wrong.
Don't try to convince me otherwise. OK, just leave I, Robot out of the discussion.

--- I would really like to go to just one post-SNL party.

--- The Rays are always
doing fun stuff like this. Convinced its a part of the formula for why they win. Joe Maddon is and has been for years, the best manager in baseball. End of discussion.

--- Stereogum came up with this list of the Top 25 albums of the year so far. The Walkmen came in at No. 2. Like their stuff. Here's the title track, "Heaven."

Binns can run, catch AND walk

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From the Twitterverse, where I try to keep updated on anything from politics, medical research, happy "spin" messages (lot of those), music and sports, I found an interesting piece of news recently.

Former UC receiver Armon Binns, who will forever be known as the guy with "The Catch" against Pitt on a snowy December day, is receiving his degree.

While that shouldn't be compared to climbing Mt. Everest, as scholarship athletes should get their degrees in my opinion, it is still an accomplishment.  Particularly so because Binns has been gone from UC for well over a year.

After being picked up by the Jaguars, he eventually made it to the Bengals as a free agent and their practice squad.  At the end of the season, he was activated, but not used.

From all accounts, he's been one of the most improved receivers the Bengals have.  God bless Mohamed Sanu, but given more than two years (which was all Binns really played of note) with similar focus that Rutgers had on Sanu, Binns might have been a draft pick instead of an undrafted free agent.

NFL folks typically don't call me, but I've seen more of Binns and more players than most and I think he can play.

Maybe someone should ask Dave Wannstedt....

Anyway, I got Jack Brennan of the Bengals to let me past Checkpoint Charlie at Paul Brown Stadium recently and talked to Armon about his upcoming diploma.
Quick and to the point this morning. Not going to lie, most days when this is short and to the point it's because I have a ton of work to do. That's not the case today. A complimentary round at Four Bridges magically showed up on my plate and the perfect weather forecast dictates skipping it would be one of those death-bed regrets.

So, let's do this. A couple news nuggets I want to hit on.

First, on yesterday's Crosstown revelation and joint announcement. If you want more people to weigh in on it, you'll need every college basketball outlet to hire more writers. Because everyone with a steady Internet connection (and I'm guessing Motley Sports doesn't even have that) has offered their opinion of the neutral site move.

If interested, you can read this from Rob Dauster, this from Yahoo! and this from Matt Norlander. This may be the most polarizing topic in the sport right now. Everyone has an opinion. And an adamant one.

And, as sure as the sun rising these days, is knee-jerk overreaction on Twitter. UC and XU offered a joint statement about the event in which they basically say, we have some unique plans about how this event will go down, so reserve judgment until you hear what we have to say.

That's how I put it. Here's how they did.

"The University of Cincinnati and Xavier University were both surprised to see today's announcement concerning the future of the Crosstown Shootout.  While both schools are committed to the future of the Crosstown rivalry, specific discussions are ongoing and no details have been finalized.  We look forward to sharing our plans with the community at an appropriate time in the coming weeks."

--- As they ask for all of us to reserve judgment on this event, let's do so. Hear them out. If you still aren't satisfied with the move, so be it. Just know it is reportedly a two-year agreement and if it doesn't work out in any fashion, it can easily be changed.

--- Moving on, big news coming from Eammon Brennan at ESPN regarding UC's non-conference schedule, in particular, the work Mick Cronin has done to upgrade it. First off, he is once again fighting for a premier SEC opponent in the Challenge.

Actually, all he's asking is for a like opponent. In events like this conferences rank their teams when deciding who they should play to create like matchups. The Big East hasn't done that. It's why St. John's ended up playing UK last year and UC had to travel to lower-tier UGA.

The Challenge is in the process of checking on sites, dates and other availability options of the matchups, so we won't know the matchup for a week or two. Only that UC will be hosting someone. Obviously, someone in the top five of the SEC would be considered an appropriate opponent for next year as that's about where UC should be ranked in the BE.

Here's Mick to Brennan:

"I don't know why we wouldn't rank our teams, too," Cronin said. "I'm asking the league to get us a like opponent. If we're being picked high then we want the same thing (from the SEC)."

--- The biggest news of Brennan's piece, however, is that UC appears to have secured a home-and-home with Mountain West school New Mexico.

For those unfamiliar with the conference, remember, the MWC sent four teams to The Dance last year (New Mex 5, San Diego State 6, UNLV 6, Colo St. 11). It's no joke. 

The Lobos were 10-4 in that conference last season and won the conference tourney. They beat Long Beach State in the first round then fell to eventual Final Four team Louisville by just three in their second-round matchup.

Steve Alford has done a remarkable job since taking over as coach there. They finished the season ranked No. 23.

The best part for UC, which will host New Mexico this year and travel West the next season? The Lobos only had three seniors and two juniors on last year's strong team and will assuredly be in the vicinity of the Top 25.

They return five of their top six leading scorers.

You can't ask for a much better opponent than this considering how tough it is to find one these days. Great get for Mick.

--- So, for those of you dying for the improved non-conference schedule here's what we (think) we know: Xavier @US Bank, Iowa St. and/or UNLV in Vegas, New Mexico, @Marshall, SEC opponent.

Plus, we'll see what other gems come out when the full schedule does.

--- In light of the day, only one song seems fitting right now. Enjoy it, everybody.

The big news to surface today comes from the breaking news headquarters of Bill Koch at The Enquirer, who reported that the Crosstown Shootout will be moved to US Bank Arena for the next two years. This coming season it will be played on Dec. 18, 19 or 20 and be televised by ESPN (Obviously, and I'm sure they won't touch very often on last year's incident).

The news comes as a bit of a surprise, because there hadn't been much speculation about moving to a neutral site, but the bottom line reiterated by both sides throughtout this process played out in this decision: the culture surrounding the game needs to change. That involves both the players and the fans.

When inside the other team's hostile environment the fans gain power from all being on one side and the opposing players feel the hostility back them into a corner. Not to mention the support emboldens the home team to puff their chest out all that much more.

Plus, moving to a neutral site allows this to come much more of a celebration of basketball in the community. That is the goal of the entire process.

Also, with the revitalized Banks/downtown area, the draw socially creates a huge event for the city.

The only concern with the move would be that now you put the need to for mature, responsible behavior into the hands of fans who will be sitting next to the enemy. Let's hope these adults out there can act as such and avoid any altercations. If they can't, well, there are no guarantees of the series continuing in two years. Again, all this information according to The Enquirer.

Let's eat...

--- Major rivalries being played on neutral sites has been a popular tradition in a few different football rivalries. The most notable being Oklahoma-Texas played at the Texas State Fair every year.

Other big ones are Georgia-Florida in Jacksonville along with Kansas-Missouri in St. Louis.

While talk occasionally would surface about moving these games, they're all very popular in this setup. How will this correlate to being in the same city as the two schools on the basketball side? We'll find out, but it's been a popular model in certain cases.

--- The endless hours of work
Derek Wolfe put in officially paid off on Monday. The Denver Broncos second-round pick signed a contract for four years and $5.2 million. It guarantees $3.2 million. Congrats to him and can't wait to see how he pans out on the next level.

Wolfe hasn't joined his teammates at OTAs yet because he is waiting for graduation per NFL rules.

--- The Big East meetings opened
up yesterday and football coaches put in discussion over what playoff model they support. Andrea Adelson of ESPN was there and says they backed the four-team playoff model that places the semifinals at bowl sites and a neutral-site national championship.

This quote came from Butch Jones:

"The first thing is preserving the bowl system. So much of it is a reward to our student-athletes and our universities and to our fans and it's embedded in college football. But also it's good having a playoff to crown a national champion. So to be able to have the semifinals in the bowl games, that helps solidify that, but also having a neutral site for the national championship game would be extremely healthy for the world of college football."

--- NBC Sports and Fox made presentations Monday. That's great news for a conference that would love to create a bidding war between those entities and rights-holder ESPN, who owns sole negotiating rights for a month beginning Sept. 1.

--- Andy Staples at SI writes about the unusual atmosphere surrounding the meetings.

--- Yesterday, Phil Steele put
out his preseason All-Big East team. Somehow he filled the first team with only two Bearcats (WR Anthony McClung and P Pat O'Donnell). Of course, Steele also placed Derek Wolfe as second team last year, which bangs the credibility a bit.

Point being, Walter Stewart not being on the first team is a travesty. The UC defense owns four players on his second team you could make a first-team argument for (Dan Giordano, Maalik Bomar, Drew Frey, Stewart).

Adelson didn't diss Stewart, however, placing him as the ninth-best player in the conference.

--- Sad news out of Morgantown as former coach Bill Stewart died of a heart attack yesterday. The Times-West Virginian had this great piece about the type of man Stewart was. He always came across in any media sessions as the happiest guy in the room, from my perspective. Whether it be postgame interviews or conference calls, he was happy to be there and loved chatting with people.

--- Randomness...

--- The Jay-Z music festival "Made in America" slated for Labor Day weekend in Philly received a huge boost when they announced Pearl Jam will be a headliner along with the iconic rapper. That's a pretty strong 1-2 punch right there.

--- Is mowing the grass such a dangerous experience that packing heat is necessary?

--- The Real World has devolved into a concoction of drugs, sex, fame and extreme narcissism, but this is the 20th anniversary of when the show broke some serious ground on real social issues. Remember watching those first few seasons and really learned a lot about people. Now, all you learn a lot about is hooking up in hot tubs.

--- You got to love the
Thunder and their fans. Good for OKC. Young guns vs. Old guys will be a fun Western Finals.

--- Only a couple of weeks until RHCP at US Bank (June 6). Reminding everyone, this is a fantastic live show if you are at all a Peppers fan.

Only one place to start today.

Far from an ideal situation sat on the desk of Mick Cronin, Whit Babcock and UC athletics last week. While none of the details are being released, we do know that Octavius Ellis was somehow involved in the incident at PLAY nightclub downtown. To be honest, for the purposes of this discussion, any other details are irrelevant.

Ellis was dismissed from the team Friday. Here's the official statement from the school:

University of Cincinnati men's basketball head coach Mick Cronin announced Friday action he is taking following a reported incident in a downtown Cincinnati nightclub during the past weekend.

Men's basketball student-athlete Octavius Ellis has been dismissed from the team. He will have access to academic support services through the end of the academic quarter. However, he is immediately separated from all team activities.

"Octavius didn't adhere to the standard of conduct I expect from members of our team," said Cronin. "I will work to help him find a fresh start at a new program because I do care very much for him as a person.  I believe he can benefit from being in a new environment. That's likely what will help him the best to learn and mature from this."

The University has learned that no formal charges will be filed. 

"I regret the mistakes I made this year and I know I need to mature as a person," Ellis said. "I want to thank my coaches and teammates for the opportunity I had at UC."

UC director of athletics Whit Babcock supported Cronin's decision and said, "I believe Coach Cronin has our program headed in the right direction.  I appreciate his leadership of our young men athletically, academically, and socially."

A freshman forward from Memphis, Tenn., Ellis played in three games during the 2011-12 season, averaging 2.3 points and 1.7 rebounds in 8.3 minutes.

--- The statement speaks for itself as does the punishment, there's only a few points I'd like to make regarding the move.

Let's not pretend that Ellis is an expendable scapegoat of the situation. Despite redshirting and being seen as a project upon signing with UC, Ellis had a bright future and was a legit option manning the interior. Remarkably, since arriving at UC Ellis was still growing. He'd already added a few inches and was approaching the 7-foot arena. If you don't think UC could use a 6-10/11/7-foot athlete in the middle the next three years, you are crazy.

Ellis came with potential and showed progress. The backstory of his life and what he has had to overcome/deal with is beyond my capacity to understand. Sure, he posted non-factor numbers during his limited time last year, but nobody wanted to see him go on the court.

None of that mattered, though. The moment Ellis involved himself in the PLAY incident he forced Cronin's hand. The coach had no choice.

What we learned this year about Cronin -- if we didn't already -- was that he is a man of principles and will stand by them regardless of what it means for his basketball team. With the way he handled the Crosstown Brawl and its aftermath served as the most visible representation of what has been a career of placing conduct at the top of his priority list.

Ellis and everyone else connected to the brawl knew there was as zero tolerance policy going forward. That day they waived their right at the benefit of the doubt. They knew what Cronin's reaction would be should another incident occur. Everyone who watched his most famous press conference as a head coach knew that.

Following that press conference the national media narrative lived along the lines of "will Cronin back up his words." After UC issued stronger punishments than even recommended and the dismissal of Ellis, he illustrated he stands by every word uttered that day.

He left no doubt.

And he didn't do so with disdain or recklessness. Both sides mutually agreed to part and Ellis will be given help with the academic side of his transfer. The fact Ellis was quoted and represented in the statement tells you all that needs to be said about the situation.

As coaches and programs cut corners, break rules and sweep problems under the rug across college athletics, the transparent standard Cronin and UC athletics abide by needs to be recognized. From Day 1 he's preached patience as the program rebuilds because he wanted to do it the right way. He wanted to create a sustainable model the fans and school could view with pride.

The events of the past year and week prove that model holds up under the most intense spotlight. They prove developing student-athletes trumps wins.

They prove Cronin is a man of word, no matter the cost. For that, the Bearcats fan base should be proud.

Let's eat...

--- Big East meetings this week in Florida. Whit Babcock headed down there with Cronin, Butch Jones, Jamelle Elliot and Robin Martin. Andrea Adelson gives the spring meetings primer here. Obviously, conference stability and the league's future will head the list again.

Every school will arrive with a weight off their shoulders though, with the news ESPN reported stating Boise State reaffirmed its commitment to the conference.

--- Joey Johnston at the Tampa Tribune gave a state of the conference as the spring meetings begin.

--- Another development that may come out of this week? Big East-SEC Challenge matchups. The matchups were released this week last year. I'm officially exhausted from discussing this topic for the last month. UC will host....somebody. Wait and see.

--- Tough season for UC baseball came to an end this weekend with Saturday's loss to Georgetown, 15-4. The Bearcats finished 18-38, 7-20. Rebuilding/transition years are difficult. The strong contingent of young talent should bode this team well into the future.

--- Josh Harrison kept the MLBearcats in the news on Friday when he broke up Justin Verlander's no-hit bid in the 9th inning.

--- Randomness...

--- Love that Jon Kitna is now a high school math teacher. If I had kids, I would gladly put them under his watch. One of the ultimate NFL good dudes.

--- Kyrie Irving dressed
up as an old man and schooled some unsuspecting ballers on a New Jersey pick-up court. Don't reach, youngblood!

--- Shocking that Mark Zuckerberg was able to find a woman willing to marry into half of his millions.

--- SNL cracks on Screamin A. Smith. Great stuff.

--- Speaking of SNL, Mick Jagger and Arcade Fire killed it in this performance.

Andrea Adelson at ESPN posted her post-spring Big East power rankings today. You can find them here.

She ranks UC fourth. Louisville held down the top spot still living off their late-season surge from their young team and QB Teddy Bridgewater. Prognosticating the Big East has come with one assurance in recent years and that's placing West Virginia at the top and underestimating the Bearcats.

With WVU gone, the league opens up even more than already expected. And, of course, UC predicts to the middle of the pack. In related news, studies show people enjoy weekends more than work days.

Does this ranking make sense? Sure it does. Andrea does a nice job. The Bearcats lost the Offensive Player of the Year, Co-Defensive Player of the Year, leading tackler, quarterback and four NFL Draft picks.

The teams AA placed above UC all return starting quarterback (Rutgers both who played last season). Bottom line, whenever doing college football rankings, place the returning quarterbacks at the top and you'll typically look good. It's the default sportswriter template. The Times New Roman of predictions.

Just take a look at the Big East champs the last five years:

2011: Louisville, WVU, UC -- Geno Smith and Zach Collaros both were returning while Bridgewater took over for the Cards
2010: UConn -- Zach Fraser and Cody Endres both returned
2009 -- UC -- Tony Pike was back
2008 -- UC -- Tony Pike took over
2007 -- WVU -- Pat White final season

That's right, only the 2009 Bearcats and Louisville share last year involved a team with a new quarterback. UC would love to follow the Cardinals model from last year with a dominating defense and dynamic quarterback setting tone. It could happen, but predicting it would be tough to do.

Still, why would anybody in Clifton care about these rankings? UC in the middle of the pack is as much a rite of spring as mothers awkwardly pinning boutonnieres on daughters prom dates.

Last year, Brian Bennett was still writing for the Big East blog and placed UC 7th-most likely to win the Big East at 25-to-1 odds.

UC has work cut out for it this year and a number of unknown quantities will be counted on to play major roles (ie QB, RB, MLB). Even if they were returning the entire squad, though, to expect any type of respect this type of year would be ignoring the pattern. And as long as that pattern plays out in the same way it has three of the past four years, nobody will care.

--- Randomness....

--- Josh Harrison continued his hot streak with two more hits Thursday. If you missed all the information about the UC MLBearcats, here is the link to yesterday's Breakfast.

--- Tommy G cranked out a new promo for season ticket holders. This one features Tony Pike talking about the greatness of Nippert Stadium. 

--- David Letterman and Conan O'Brien continue to give it to Jay Leno.

--- Wait, Bono is getting richer?
You know we can stop funneling money to the guy?

--- This book about the Dream Team is moving to the top of my summer reading list.

--- That's a big pool.

--- I've done this before, but I don't care, I'm doing it again. The temps this weekend make me want to play this song on repeat. Enjoy it, everybody.

Wanted to open today with an update on the UC baseball players in MLB. It's been a big year for the three Bearcats for myriad of reasons.

You have Tony Campana (Chicago Cubs) who won't receive a better chance to prove himself in the Bigs than this season. With the Cubs in a rebuilding year and starting OF Marlon Byrd jettisoned to Boston, he's been given the opportunity to play about 80 percent of the time and show he belongs.

To this point, he's answered that question with a resounding yes in the form of a .324 batting average. He's played in 23 games with 23 hits, four doubles and nine stolen bases.

Tony-Campana2.jpgTony contends that if he was allowed to play every day he could obliterate the team's stolen base mark. The Chicago record is 67, set in 1903 by Frank Chance. Stealing bases has become more difficult in recent years. In fact, only three players have stolen at least 70 bases since 2000.

If Campana played 162 games at his current pace, he would finish the season at 63 swipes. In this note from the Chicago Tribune, Campana had this to say:

"I've told people before that if I played every day and did what I hope I could do at the plate, I could give myself a chance to get close to 100," he said. "Once you get past a certain number, people are going to really pay more attention to you. But I'd like to think I could come close."

If you look at the numbers across baseball, while Campana is tied for 10th in stolen bases across the league, if you take into account the number of at-bats he used to get to that point his efficiency is as good as it gets.

His nine stolen bases in 71 at-bats gives him a rate of one stolen base for every 7.9 plate appearances.

MLB stolen basers leader Emilio Bonafacio, 20 stolen bases (without being caught once, BTW!), is the only player with a higher efficiency at 7.2. As for third place on that list -- the next closest is Jordan Schafer (Houston) at 10.8. At this point, as far as pure threat to steal in baseball, there is only Bonaficio, Campana and then everybody else.

More pieces on Campana:

The Chicago Sun-Times says he's not so dismissible anymore.

ESPNChicago talks to Tony in this piece on not being shut out this season.

Apparently, Campana has also learned how to play CF and fend off seagulls simultaneously, according to

A postgame interview from earlier this year when he keyed a win in Philadelphia.

--- Moving on to Josh Harrison, who sparked this idea with his big game last night for Pittsburgh. Harrison's season has been a mixed bag as he played primarily off the bench and in a utility role for the Buccos. He's hitting .222 in his 36 at-bats.

harrisonwalkoff.jpgLast night he went 2 for 4 with his first home run of the season and three RBI.

Here was his bomb, which came off of Nats stud starter Gio Gonzalez.

Four days ago, he hit a walk-off single in the 12th for Pittsburgh in a 3-2 win over Houston.

Granted, Harrison is dealing in a small sample size, but if you look at his RBI production per at-bat, he leads the team by a wide margin.

He contributed eight RBI in 36 plate appearances. Returning to the Campana efficiency theory, he's averaging an RBI every 4.5 at-bats.

Next best on the team with at least 20 at-bats? Pedro Alvare at 6.3.

--- Finally, Kevin Youkilis
currently sits on the disabled list (lower back strain) and has returned to the radar of many in this town as rumors circulated the Reds could make a deal for the veteran third baseman.

The emergence of prospect Will Middlebrooks at third base has many teams popping up in destinations for Youk as this piece points out.

For now, Walt Jocketty doesn't appear interested in his services.

In the 18 games he's played before the injury he was hitting just .219 with two bombs. Drastically declined statistics from his career averages.

His rehab assignment with former Dan Hoard stomping grounds with the Pawtucket Red Sox began last night with a walk and a double. His storyline will be an interesting one to watch as he returns to health. And who know, maybe he'll even return to playing baseball in Cincinnati, a place he's openly admitted when be one of the few he would want to be traded to.

--- Randomness...

--- I'm a big fan of Whale Wars
on Animal Planet. It appears captain Paul Watson did one too many Crazy Ivan's and has been arrested in Germany. Even odder, Brigitte Bardot is willing to go to jail for him.

--- Season finale of Community tonight. Here are some photos from their video game episode.

--- What could possibly be wrong with an all-you-can-eat buffet? Well, this obese man was testing the limits and found out.

--- If you see an alligator on the side of the road, I'd go ahead and say placing a towel over its yes and attempting to corral it would not be on the advisable action list.

--- Considering today's blog topic, couldn't help but have this song from The Simpson's running through my head.

Brief and to the point today as we coast into the doldrums of the offseason. At least we have an offensive lineman being waxed on national television to take our mind of the college sports boredom.

While I attempt to wash my eyes out with soap, let's eat...

--- UC will be holding a football open house for prospective 2012 season ticket holders. As I think you all know right now, I'm not here to spin wild promotional propaganda nor am I here to shove tickets down anybody's throat. I will only say that the bargain and treatment that is being given to UC season ticket holders is about as good as you'll see in college football right now.

The Bearcats are hosting an Open House on June 5 from 6-8 at the Lindner Center for folks to talk to Butch Jones, AD Whit Babcock and other UC reps while looking at seats for season tickets next year.

If I had the time and resources to come up with the cheapest season ticket package in the BCS, I can almost guarantee you I'd find UC's celebration of their 125th season by offering a season-ticket package for $125 as the lowest (sections 101/201). That does not even require joining UCats.

For the record, that's $17.85 a game.

Other packages include red zone season tickets the next section over for $160, the Bearcat Lair sections in the end zone under the scoreboard for $175. There are plenty more packages, you can call the UC ticket office at 1-877-CATS-TIX or head over to

Between the cheap prices, seven games on campus and personal attention, it's a pretty darn good deal. I know it's hard to take these comments seriously coming from someone who gets in for free every game, but you can't deny how much you get for your money.

--- Tweet came from Cash Wright yesterday that he was playing HORSE with Aaron Craft, Gov. John Kasich and Clark Kellogg. Unless this is how they decided to settle which schools receive funding, this didn't sound like standard parliamentary procedure.

Actually, UC was being honored for their Sweet 16 run and Cash traveled up to Columbus along with assistant coach Darren Savino to represent the team.

Kasich was honoring the four Ohio schools that made it into the Round of 16.

Cool experience I am sure for Wright.

--- Quick response to a Twitter convo I had yesterday after posting my comparison to other Big East teams basketball schedules. The point was made to me by @ucwais:

"@pauldehnerjr problem isn't lack of marquee games it's the quality of 2nd tier home games More MAC teams rather than Chicago st would help"

This point is understandable and probably legit for season-ticket holders, but understanding the financial state of college basketball scheduling is necessary to refute it. Those MAC and other mid-major schools are well aware of their value on team's schedules and the financial disparity between playing them the lowest tiers of D-I is staggering.

Do other schools play more of those teams? Probably. But you have to take into the account the financial limitations UC has in comparison to the Louisvilles and Syracuses of the conference. That's all part of it.

And while I understand always wanting to see better competition, would Eastern Michigan coming to UC really sell more tickets than Chicago State? You'll have a hard time selling that concept on this blog.

Props to @ucwais for broaching the topic. Appreciate the feedback and its a good conversation worth having.

--- Filed under
"stories I should have touched on two days ago," JK Schaffer was named Mr. Bearcat for 2012. No, that doesn't mean his ditching his pro career for professional mascoting, it means he was the top graduating senior man in terms of academic and leadership achievements, according to the Sigma Sigma Honor fraternity.

If you have ever read this blog before, you are well aware my feelings on that topic. As easy a decision as they've had in front of them all year.

--- Last chance to check out UC baseball is this weekend. They host Georgetown with games on Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday afternoon. If you like promotions, this is the weekend for you.

--- Randomness...

--- This might be well past my primary demographic, but PBS ran a fantastic Johnny Carson documentary the other night. Great stuff about a guy who essentially invented late-night TV. If you missed it, they are streaming the whole two-hour doc here.

--- The 30 for 30 docs are coming back. Awesome. And they will be dropping digital shorts along with each one. The Pete Rose story already has one.

--- Hot Clicks with a fantastic Wheel Of Fortune Fail.

--- Willie Nelson covered
Pearl Jam on SiriusXM. Fantastic.

Been a while since the blog broke out some serious statistical analysis. Today feels like a day to revisit. One that has always intrigued me is the non-conference scheduling.

If you haven't read Bill Koch's piece talking with Mick about the art of scheduling from last week's Enquirer, you will definitely want to. He also talked about the high probability the Shootout will be played next year.

Much of the discussion I've had on here lately was around UK possibly coming to Clifton for a game in the Big East/SEC Challenge. According to ESPN, the Wildcats are likely to play at Georgetown instead.

Mick says he's still working with UK, which has an opening with the IU game falling out. US Bank Arena, anyone?

All of those topics will play themselves out, the one area I would like to get into is the concept that UC plays some sort of schedule far inferior to other Big East teams. Bearcats fans and detractors point out the lack of major opponents. Fair, and clearly a point Whit Babcock and Mick are working to improve.

But let's not get it twisted. UC follows the protocol most everyone else in the Big East does. It makes zero sense to load up with powerful opponents with a slate of 16 of them awaiting in January.

What I want to do is show you the numbers behind Big East schedules and you can judge for yourself how UC stacks up those in similar situations.

To start, let's look at how many BCS-football schools the basketball teams scheduled in the non-conference the past three seasons. I'll break it down by home/road/neutral. I'll add in the A-10, Missouri Valley and Mountain West since they've consistently sent multiple team to The Dance every year.

Here's the breakdown:

School           Games/home/away/neutral
Cincinnati       9/2/3/4
UConn           13/4/3/6
DePaul          11/2/1/8
Georgetown    12/3/3/6
Louisville        10/5/4/1
Marquette       13/4/4/5
Notre Dame    11/1/0/10
Pittsburgh       9/1/1/7
Providence      11/4/5/2
Rutgers           9/3/2/4
Seton Hall       16/6/3/7
USF                7/2/2/3
St. John's        14/6/4/4
Syracuse         14/5/2/7
WVU               11/3/3/5
Villanova          15/4/5/6
AVERAGE       11.6/3.4/2.8/5.3

*Games against Butler and Memphis counted toward the total. Louisville and Georgetown played each team once while Syracuse played Memphis one time.

--- What does it all mean?

Well, here's the biggest takeaway from those statistics: Half of the league has played more than three high-end home games in their non-conference over the past three years. The other half has been in the same boat as the Bearcats. Five teams have the same amount of home games as the Bearcats or less. Pitt and Notre Dame have less. (Though an asterisk should be place next to ND which plays many games considered neutral site against Indiana-based squads)

About one big home game per year is the norm for the league. That's pretty standard for UC, as well. Had this been a three-year period where UC hosted Xavier twice, they'd be right on that. And with the team's profile now raised, teams will be more willing to visit Fifth Third.

--- What's one of the biggest differences between UC and this top teams? The neutral site games. Those are typically tournaments that can only select one team from the Big East. Finding a way into invite-only events has been one of the most difficult aspects of scheduling through the rebuild. Next year, UC will take a trip to Las Vegas and with the recent success, more invites will be on the way.

--- Some of these teams (Villanova, Seton Hall) benefited in this particular breakdown from playing many of the A-10 bottom-feeders. Let's not go giving too much credit to both. The standard numbers are right around 11/12 games with a home/away and a neutral site tournament. That's it. The numbers support it and there's really no denying it.

There is also no denying that is typically what the Bearcats have done. As Mick says, they would like to be doing more in the non-conference, especially to reward the home fans, but they clearly aren't doing that much less than the rest of the Big East.
Wanted to keep the focus today on the early enrollment concept. This story by USA Today documents that UC leads the country in early enrollee football players with nine. The next closest is Ohio State and Miami (Fla.) with seven.

Here's the USA Today piece with quotes from Butch Jones.

And here's the list of UC players enrolled early:

DB Kevin Brown, RB Deionte Buckley, OL Jonathan Burt, LB Errol Clark, QB Bennie Coney, TE DeShawn Dowdy, DB Marcus Foster, QB Trenton Norvell, DL Josh Posley.

While all receive benefits of enrolling early such as adapting to college life out of season, extra reps, transition to strenuous conditioning program, jumpstart on graduation and chemistry with teammates, for no position is it more important than at the quarterback spot.

The extra time and reps enjoyed while working with coaches allows them to really start understanding the playbook earlier to the point that by the time they arrive at training camp, they can take the reins with relative ease for a freshman.

Two early enrollees in college football last year played a major role in shaping college football and in one case, the Big East.

Ohio State's Braxton Miller enrolled early at Ohio State and down at Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater enrolled early for the Cards.

Tim Tebow, Matt Stafford, Christian Ponder, Matt Barkley and Aaron Murray are all also from the early-entry school of thought. Of the last seven mentioned, only Murray and Ponder didn't play their freshmen years.

What was the early impact for the other five?

Tim Tebow: Threw five TDs, ran for eight, combined for 827 yards and was able to contribute to a national championship along with Chris Leak. Went on to become first sophomore to win the Heisman.

Matt Stafford: Started as a freshman at the first snap. Was far from great his first year throwing seven TDs to 13 picks, but capable to leading the offense and became the No. 1 overall pick in three years.

Matt Barkley: Completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,735 yards starting from Day 1 with the Trojans.

Teddy Bridgewater:
Came on as QB early in the year and revitalized the Louisville attack, proving to be more ready than most anticipated. By the time the season concluded he led U of L to five wins in the last seven games and threw for 2,129 yards.

Braxton Miller: Took over midseason and became the lone spark in a stagnant Buckeyes offense. Combined for nearly 1,900 yards of offense.

Most of these were highly touted recruits and the connection doesn't always mean immediate impact, but certainly a proven track record exists of being more capable of contributing with the extra time in the spring.

--- At UC last year,
S Malcolm Murray, WR Shaq Washington, LB Dwight Jackson and LB Nick Temple were the only four early enrollees. The contributions could be seenat the linebacker position, specifically with Temple.

He impressed coaches last spring to the point that he filled into a reserve role at a position of need early in the season. He went on to start eight of 13 games at linebacker, by midyear he was playing a prominent role.

No freshman started more games. That's partly by situation and also partly because Temple was prepared mentally and physically.

Would he have been able to start eight games and play the major role he was by the end of the season without showing up early to Clifton? In his eyes, not necessarily.

"With the conditioning back home I wasn't sitting down or watching TV, I was running and lifting weights with my trainer," he said. "Playbook-wise it's not that hard, but I don't think I would have been as ready as I was before the season started."

He finished with 35 tackles, 2.5 for loss, one forced fumble and an interception. By the end of the season, his practice reps dictated he was a sophomore and he clearly played at that advanced level.

"Being here more playing with them and the speed of the game," he said, "I was reacting more instead of thinking."

More than anything, Temple references his overall comfort level entering the season. And feeling comfortable goes a long way to playing instinctively on the field.

"I thought I was a veteran here (in the fall)," Temple said. "I was showing them things, I was showing them how to do stuff -- how to read the playbook, how to watch film and all that stuff. I thought I had a more upper step of them when the rest of my class came in."

--- As is seen across college football, this program in no way guarantees success, but it sure creates a more conducive situation for it. That's what Jones describes in his USA Today piece:

"We want to make sure they can handle the great change in their lives. Your home is now the four walls of a dorm room. The surroundings have changed, the culture has changed, your friends have changed.

"You're dealing with 17- and 18-year olds, and the maturation process can be different for different kids at that age. But they're putting themselves in position to play earlier, and the kids who came in this year are doing well in school and on the field. And they're also getting a jump on graduating in four years, which we want to happen."

The Big East wheeled out interim commissioner Joe Bailey for a conference call with the media yesterday. With the state of the conference in flux, Bailey owns the job of holding the fort together while a new commissioner is found. He estimated that task will take three to four months.

In the meantime, a pressure remains to hold the current constituents together until the new TV deal -- expected to be negotiated in the fall.

Rumors circulate regarding dissension between the basketball and football schools while ESPN sources are claiming Louisville is searching for an exit.

Bailey painted an optimistic picture during a conference call. He reiterated the commitment from new members Boise State and San Diego State as well as others to being at the centerpiece of the new Big East. On the surface, Bailey could have been up there spinning the public relations magic. I doubt it, though.

Cincinnati stands at the centerpiece of a group of teams that -- while they don't make much sense through a historical or geographic lens -- can very much work in the new landscape of college football.

How does being a perennial power in one of the top six leagues in college football and an anchor of one of the greatest basketball conferences in the country sound? Oh, and toss in double or triple the current revenue from the TV contract.

You think if UC went undefeated in 2014 as they did in 2009 they would have a shot at the national title? Absolutely they would. And that's something you couldn't even say in 2009. Isn't that what this is all about? An opportunity to win championships -- conference and national -- while developing student-athletes?

It's the reality of what UC will be if this new Big East plan plays out. It's not bad at all. Anybody standing on the ledge needs to step off it, stop worrying about geographic oddities and realize the future is still pretty darn bright in Clifton.

Let's eat..

--- On the note of the intro, here's an absolute must-read for UC fans from Dan Wolken: The Misfits Could Fit.

Two excellent points derived from the piece:

1. Everyone wants to stick a fork in the conference with realignment speculation. Remember when everyone thought the Big 12 was dead? They just received a $20 million per team TV deal. Remember when everyone assumed four superconferences was the model? Apparently not.

2. This:

"But for as much as realignment has changed the landscape of college sports, one thing hasn't changed. The Big East was the No. 6 conference before, and it will be the No. 6 conference after. The only difference is the gap between No. 6 and No. 7 has grown wider than ever.

It's debatable whether the Big East is a nationally relevant football conference now, but by grabbing the schools it grabbed, it has made every conference beneath it irrelevant. Who knows whether that translates to huge television money, but the marketplace for college football is better than ever. The schools that brought their football programs to the Big East stand to gain significantly more visibility and television revenue than they ever could in the Mountain West or Conference USA."

--- A few other interesting notes and quotes from the Bailey teleconference yesterday. He won't be at all involved in the negotiation of the new TV contract. That will fall on a consultant firm that will report back to the executive committee.

--- There are no expectations of a split between basketball-first and football-first schools. Keeping those two sides cohesive will be a major part of Bailey's job over the next few months, but there is little to gain financially for the basketball schools in being unattached to the big-money football paydays.

--- Really liked this exchange about the perception problem the Big East fights:

"Q.  Whether it's accurate or not, I think there's a perception out there that the BIG EAST might be unraveling a bit or in a bit of disarray.  What short‑term things do you see out there that you can do to perhaps refute that image or to strengthen the perception of the BIG EAST on a national scale?

JOE BAILEY:  Well, I think, number one, as far as perceptions are concerned, it's very clear that the executive committee and the membership have made decisions about retaining really, really well respected strategy management consultants like Boston Consulting Group, Score Media for media, and others, to really evaluate in order to reframe, refocus, set the tone and move forward.

So that in and of itself should send an enormous and very strong message to the marketplace that the BIG EAST is very, very focused on making sure that the perception out there isn't what you just described.

And in fact, it isn't.  I can tell you just from being in the meetings that I've been in, it's not at all.  It's a very cohesive, very focused group.

And in terms of what we can do internally with all the stakeholders is simply to continue to send a message that this is exactly what is taking place.

So it's a bit of really good communications internally along with very good communications externally.

--- Remember the Sporting News list that rated UC coach Butch Jones the top coach in the Big East? They have him as the 28th best coach in the country.

--- Former Bearcats tight end Adrien Robinson
only caught 12 passes last season and played in a rotation with Travis Kelce.

He was off the radar of NFL scouts and wasn't invited to the Combine. Yet, he used his opportunity at UC's Pro Day to show off his athleticism. He ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at 265 pounds.

What did the buzz of that day earn him? Well, after signing his deal yesterday, the fourth-round pick earned himself $385k up front signing bonus for a $2.5-million deal over four years.

That's quite a lucrative workout.

--- Randomness...

--- Seinfeld is returning to TV! Sorry, unfortunately its just in some car-themed reality show. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

--- You just don't get it, do you?

--- All you really need to know about West Virginia. Surprisingly, doesn't involve couches on fire.

--- Children performing a visual interpretation of my attempts to pick up women in college. (Hint: Features much rebuffing)

--- Bono is 52 today. One of my biggest failures in life is not yet attending a U2 concert. Though, I can live vicariously through YouTube.

Nick Van Exel among those being inducted into the Greater Cincinnati Basketball Hall of Fame tonight. I've touched on the Nicky Van topic earlier here, so I won't regurgitate it but I plan on heading out there and will have more for you from him in tomorrow's blog.

Can't think of a much better exercise than rehashing the 1992-93 Final Four season. Should be a fun night.

Let's eat...

--- The latest on the UC-UK
front that I have been talking about here the last few weeks. Mick Cronin spoke to Bill Koch about the possibility of getting matched up in the Big East/SEC Challenge. No new news on that front. There's speculation it could happen with UK a road team and UC a home team.

ESPN decides the matchups, so as Mick puts it to Bill, "there's 12 teams in the event so there's six home teams, we're one of six so there's a 17 percent chance it's going to happen."

Technically, with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, there will be 14 teams in the event and seven home teams. So, there's actually a 14.3 percent chance for those scoring at home.

The larger point being this should be more about logic and less about percentages, but when the WWL gets its hands, personal relationships and interests involved, you never know what's going to happen.

"Last year we lobbied for Kentucky but ESPN picks the matchups," Cronin said to Koch. "Now there's speculation that Kentucky will be sent here because they're a road team and we're a home team. You'd think it would be logical because we're close by. But ESPN makes that decision."

If you want to look at the break down of possible Big East home teams that could steal UK away, you can look back here to my Breakfast from April 24.

--- Elsewhere on the basketball schedule front, we have more from the IU hunt. The reports which surfaced yesterday about Indiana and Louisville attempting to workout a deal for the home-and-home vacated by Kentucky have been tabled until next year, according to ESPN.

Does that open up the possibility for UC to swing in next year against the projected No. 1 team in the country? Probably not. Looks like IU is going with a buy game at home to fill the spot, according to Rick Pitino and the Louisville Courier-Journal. 

--- Good news for P/K Jake Rogers.
Despite being cut by Tampa Bay earlier this week, he was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday. Apparently Pittsburgh also put a claim in on the former UC kicker.

Dallas will be a good spot for Rogers. He'll have a great opportunity to be the everyday kicker. Consider that last year's starter Matt McBriar ranked 29th in the NFL in net punting average (min. 40 punts). He ranked 26th in average total distance (43.8).

Best of luck to Jake in Dallas.

--- Randomness...

--- So sad about Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch last weekend. Here was a never-before-seen performance from Chappelle's Show.

--- I've heard nothing but great things about The Avengers. Even the end-title sequence exudes awesome.

--- Lady Gaga did something deemed crazy. Yawn. Go away.

--- Today is Cheap Trick
bassist Tom Petersson's birthday. I'll take Surrender any day.


No other place to start today than with yesterday's resignation of Big East commissioner John Marinatto. He stepped down and UC President Dr. Gregory Williams takes over as chair of the search committee for his replacement.

What does that mean? Here's Williams perspective on it as given to ESPN's Andrea Adelson. There's more from Williams, Butch Jones and Whit Babcock with Bill Koch here.

Bottom line: Issue 1 is the TV negotiations. Issue 2? TV negotiations. Issue 3? You see where this is going.

These negotiations represent the single-biggest moment in the new era of the conference. And for no program in the Big East is it more important than UC. Just ask Babcock.

Every move made the last few years has been to squeeze the most money out of this TV deal. Period. Every single one. Check out Pete Thamel's NYT piece on how this year's contract could be bigger than the one offered last year.

Why should UC be encouraged as the administration changes shape? Well, having your own leader molding that shape is ideal.

So much speculation about which program will be ditching which conference to go here or there dominates the headlines. It still serves as a subhead to the Marinatto story with rumors of Louisville ditching the conference swirling and nobody forgetting UConn's attempt to join the ACC last year. One quote Williams had for Koch which I thought was particularly telling was in discussing how dedicated UC is to this conference. For those who keep pounding the pavement for the Bearcats to consider bouncing, they are not paying attention.

UC views itself as a central figure in the Big East and that's the main reason why Williams jumped to the forefront of the situation.

"I looked at this and thought about this for quite some time," Williams said. "It appeared to me after my discussions with coaches and other folks that our best possibility to emerge as a school of athletic prominence in this country was to be in the Big East. It was quickly clear to me that I needed to do everything I could to help the Big East not only to stay alive but also to thrive."

Nobody knows what will happen in the future, such has been the nature of all conference realignment. We do know this, if the league can score a big-money deal with their next TV contract the stability grows exponentially with each figure. That could mean holding on to programs considering defection and rewarding those who are dedicated to the league's future. In Cincinnati, that could mean a monumental turning point toward renovating Nippert Stadium/Fifth Third Arena.

The UC guy is now in charge of finding the right man for those negotiations. You couldn't ask to be in better hands.

Let's eat...

--- An interesting thought to ponder: In the old Big East, the AQ status is what kept the league relevant and UC within striking distance of prominent bowls and national championships.

In a new Big East, the lack of AQ status could be exactly what keeps the league relevant and within striking distance of prominent bowls and national championships.

Think about it. In the past, the lock into the AQ allowed the hunt for a Big East championship to decide if a postseason would be spent on a national stage in the BCS.

Now, with the AQ lost and the Big East fighting to be recognized among the other forming football power conferences, a great year in the Big East coupled with a great non-conference win or two would place them into a possible playoff instead of an AQ system limiting the spots available for participation.

Mean anything? Not really. But a unique twist, anyway.

--- Andrea Adelson compiled a list of Marinatto resignation reaction pieces here.

--- Of course,
few pieces anywhere compare with the strong work of Dana O'Neil. She hits another home run.

--- On to other topics, if you missed it, I spoke with Armon Binns yesterday about the opportunity in front of him with the Bengals. Armon is one of the real good guys in the game and one of my favorites that I covered. When he came out of UC undrafted, few gave him a chance, but he certainly has one in Cincinnati. If the words of coaches mean anything, they think he will shock everyone with how much he's improved over the last year.

He'll be in the mix for the No. 2 WR spot in preseason and at the very least in line for playing time all season barring injury.

--- I've mentioned here
the interest UC would have in picking up Indiana's empty spot as UK dropped them. Well, it appears Louisville is attempting to swoop in on it, according to ESPN.

--- While we are on scheduling, rumors are continuing to float about the Big East/SEC Challenge. This one has Syracuse heading to play new SEC member Mizzou in Columbia. As it states, though, all the games for this series are still in flux. Probably another two weeks until we hear the official slate.

Still sitting with fingers crossed hoping Kentucky is coming to Fifth Third.

--- Marquette is losing Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, but the addition of transfer Trent Lockett will keep them in the Big East elite conversation.

--- Congrats to UC pitcher Zach Morris, who was named to the Big East Honor Roll for the second time this season. The freshman left-hander tossed his first career complete-game shutout. It came Saturday at UConn featuring seven strikeouts, two walks and just five hits.

--- Tweet of the day:
@GoBearcats: Did You Know? #Bearcats student-athletes have accumulated 3,753 hours of community service in 2011-12.

Stuff like this often goes unnoticed, and man, that is a lot of quality time spent in the community.

--- Kenyon Martin still doing it on the SportsCenter Top 10 with this block last night for the Clippers.

--- Randomness...

--- Love the idea of Andre 3000 as Jimi Hendrix in this biopic. On a related note, anybody hit up the Big Boi concert his weekend? I wasn't able to make it and curious the reviews.

--- Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell released their trailer for The Campaign. Looks like the standard strong stuff from guys who you'd expect nothing less from.

--- I don't know the name of this amusement park ride. Though, I think The Regurgitator would make plenty of sense. Feeling sick just watching.

--- Some creepy David Bowie live footage seems fitting today. Enjoy the day everybody.

binns td.jpg
For UC football fans, this image will be engrained into their memory forever. Tony Pike to Armon Binns. Undefeated regular season.

I broached the play last week as we discussed Tony Pike's opportunity for a tryout at Bengals rookie mini-camp. The receiver on the other end of the most famous pass in UC history owns a grandiose opportunity of his own at Paul Brown Stadium.

After being picked up as an undrafted free agent cast-off by the Jaguars at the end of last preseason, Binns spent the majority of the year on the practice squad. He was promoted off the PS when WR Andre Caldwell went on IR late in the year.

Rumors circulated in the weeks following the season that coaches were pushing for Binns to play an active role in the final week of the season and playoff game against Houston. He'd been that good in practice. He was inactive for both, but the mere thought of tossing a practice squad player in the fire for the season's biggest moments illustrated the progress he'd made in just one season.

While off the radar to the general public for a year, he's about to return to the forefront entering his second year in the league. The battle for playing time behind A.J. Green is more wide open than Binns was against Pitt. And he feels primed to seize the moment.

Binns has been able to go to school and attend offseason Bengals workouts since they're in the same city. He's wrapping his degree and plans to walk in June as a proud grad of UC. Here are thoughts from Binns on his progress entering what he hopes to be a monumental year.

PDJ: How far did your game come last year, stuff that nobody saw except in this locker room, just grinding on the practice field?

Armon Binns: I feel like I made some huge strides in my knowledge of the game and my route-running ability. Just body control and everything. Just learning how to be a pro from some guys who have been in the league such a long time.

PDJ: How much was the mental technique and learning things more refined than you even thought they could be?

AB: The mental aspect of the game was what I walked away with, just learning what defenses see. Talking to Pacman (Jones) and Nate (Clements) about what they see when I am coming off the line and how I am triggering my breaks. Learning the whole idea of defenses and coverages and everything.

PDJ: What did they see when you first came here?

binns_armon_Mug.jpgAB: Just playing high at times. Keying your breaks with your eyes and arms and things. Just little, subtle things that you don't really notice as a college player, because the game moves so fast.

PDJ: Always had ability to go up and get it, was that what you figured you needed to improve on coming into the league, the route-running techniques?

AB: Definitely, that's the thing a lot of scouts and stuff thought I couldn't do. So, that's the thing I wanted to work the hardest at and become more consistent at.

PDJ: This feel like a refreshing feeling here with the wide open battle. Whoever plays best between now and Baltimore will be the No. 2 WR?

I think it's the best position I could have been in. I told someone last year was kind of like a redshirt year for me. I kind of got to sit back, learn a lot, but at the same time be in here with professionals playing the game. Now I come into a wide open situation where I just got to perform and be the best me I can be and hopefully everything will work out.

PDJ: You can be a great practice player, but you thrived when the lights came on Saturdays, how different is it going through the grind when the light at the end of the tunnel was so far off?

It was hard, man, but I just paced myself and kept faith in the Lord and kept grinding. One of the older guys told me just control what you put on film, so that's what I did, tried to work hard and control what I put on film every day.

PDJ: How do you view this competition at WR with Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, Ryan Whalen, Vidal Hazelton, Andrew Hawkins, Brandon Tate and yourself battling?

AB: The NFL is all about competition. All I can do is control what Armon Binns does. Be the best me I can be and be consistent in what I do on the field, make plays and put confidence in the coaches mind that I can do it.

PDJ: Watching the draft pretty closely with wide receiver looked at as a need position?

Sat there and watched the whole draft. When I watched the first and second round go by it make me feel a whole lot better just knowing its wide open. So go out there and get it.

I feel like we got whole lot of talent in our group. Talent that people don't know, especially young guys like me and Ryan (Whalen) and (Andrew Hawkins) didn't get to play that much last year but we got some good players that can go out there and make plays for this team.

PDJ: Talk to any of the four UC undrafted guys to give advice?

Talked to DJ, talked to Zach. Lot of it is just your mentality and going out there with that chip on your shoulder and wanting to show you were just as good as the other 200-some guys that got drafted. Just go out there and prove it everyday.

PDJ: How did this draft reflect the rise of UC's program since you arrived?

It's like night and day. Guys are getting drafted, signing free agent deals. You saw (two) UC players come off the board before one Ohio State player, that just shows how far the program has come.

Cinco de Mayo, Kentucky Derby and 80-degree temperatures all packed into one weekend? Yeah, I'm getting out of town. Actually headed to Pittsburgh for the Reds-Pirates series and my first experience at PNC Park. I hold high expectations. From everyone I've talked to it's an incredible park. Looking forward to it.

Let's eat...

--- Dan Hoard spoke with Sean Kilpatrick
who clarified not only will he be back next season, but for his senior season as well. He plans on spending the offseason working on his ball-handling and attacking the basket with his left hand.

SK got himself in trouble last year turning the ball over dribbling through pressure. It was the only real weakness in his game. And it's a stretch to call it a weakness considering how well he attacks the bucket.

There's no reason to believe he won't make major strides in that area. In fact, he did so last season as his turnover rate dropped. If you look at turnover percentage from KenPom it dropped from 15.3 to 13.3 percent.

Another way of looking at it is his freshman season he had one turnover every 16.7 minutes, compared to last year he averaged one turnover every 22.7 minutes. If he can drop his turnover rate around 11 percent, he'd be one of the scariest guards in the Big East (as if that wasn't the case already).

I have full expectations his scoring numbers will grow steadily over the next two years, especially next year as the top returning scorer on a team initially lacking an inside offensive presence.

How far could we expect Kilpatrick to climb up the Bearcats all-time scoring mark? Could he end up the second-most prolific scorer in UC history?

Take into account in 2010-11 he averaged 9.7 points in 20.6 minutes per game.

In 2011-12 he averaged 14.3 points in 34.7 minutes per game. His points per minute dropped a bit, but let's say his scoring totals go up 1.5 points per season. That would place him at 15.8 points per game next year and 17.3 points per game his senior season.

Those shouldn't be considered unrealistic expectations. All of these barring injury, of course.

He has 867 points right now. He'll have about 36 games per each season which places him at 569 points scored his junior year and 623 points scored his senior season (give or take a few extra postseason contests).

That would make his career scoring total 2,059 points for his four-year career.

Steve Logan currently holds the second spot in all-time points at UC with 1,985 points scored.

Of course, The Big O is in first place at 2,973 three seasons.

Even further, let's say SK holds his same 14.3 ppg average over the next two seasons, he would theoretically finish with 1,896 points for his career. That would place his third all-time behind only Logan and 11 points in front of Deonta Vaughn and 15 in front of Danny Fortson.

Yes, folks, make no mistake, we are in the midst of one of the greatest offensive careers in the history of UC basketball.

--- The IU-UK rivalry has officially been placed on hiatus. As I've mentioned before, a IU-UC matchup would make sense and has been mentioned by Mick before as a school he'd like to get a regular series started up with. IU now has an opening and one that would be a premier road trip for the Hoosiers since they were slated to head to Lexington.

Also, UK owns Lucas Oil for a game next season. They need to fill that. Granted, they can go anywhere, but if they were looking for a local interest contest UC/Ohio State/Purdue would make sense in that spot. Of course, as I've also mentioned before the Big East/SEC Challenge could end up with UK@UC as a centerpiece game as well.

--- While we talking rivalries,
Andrea Adelson was looking at the future of Big East rivalries. When you are legitimately placing Navy-SMU into the conversation, you know we've reached a whole new world for the conference.

Regardless, she rightly places UC-Louisville as the best rivalry in the conference. Might as well mention now that UC hasn't lost to the Cards since 2007.

--- That cut by Pead never gets
old and here is the conversation bearded Tommy G had with the newest St. Louis Rams running back.

--- Rookie minicamps for the Jaguars (JK Schaffer), Jets (Randy Martinez) and Bucs (Zach Collaros) this weekend. Best of luck to all the former Bearcats taking on the league.

--- Randomness...

--- New season of Whale Wars starts June 1. If you don't watch this show, I highly recommend it. And remember, the whales are our clients.

--- A Perfect Strangers video game? Don't be ridiculous.

--- A brawl? At a Boston wedding? I refuse to believe this crazy propaganda.

--- Between Two Ferns making its TV debut. There was some allure to BTF and Zach Galifiniakis being online, but I will definitely be watching.

--- Thanks to everyone who popped by the Breakfast this week and that leaves me with this song for the weekend. Have a safe one, everybody.

Two More Years Not Enough For Kilpatrick

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Remember those rumors about Sean Kilpatrick leaving UC early for the NBA?  Well, the All-Big East guard says that he'll not only be back for his junior and senior seasons - he wishes he could stay even longer.

Kilpatrick scream (550x367).jpg

"As many years as I can stay," Sean told me.  "I've never said that I was going to the draft - it isn't even in my mind.  The college life that we're living now is something that is more important than the draft for me.  The NBA is going to be there, but I still have a lot of learning to do.  I still have to learn how to read defenses and on top of that, just to better myself.

"Another huge point is that I love Coach Cronin and I don't want to leave him.  I want to stay here as long as I can.  That's why I put it out there on Twitter to let everybody know that I'm not going anywhere."

Except to the gym.

After leading the Bearcats in scoring as a sophomore at 14.3 points a game, Kilpatrick is dedicating his off-season to improving his ball-handling ability.

"A lot of dribbling drills," said Kilpatrick.  "Coach told me that I need to work on my left hand a lot more and be able to handle the pressure when someone is guarding me.  He said, 'Don't concentrate on your jump shot so much - just worry about your handle.'  That was one of my biggest weaknesses.  This year it will be a lot different and I'll be able to get to the rim with my left hand."

During this part of the school year, the players are limited to two hours a week of on-court workouts with the coaching staff, but Sean puts in extra time on his own.

"I'm in here every day in order to get better," Kilpatrick told me.  "I make it my business to be in here most of the time because this is the actual season for me.  This is where everything starts. 

"I come late at night.  I have (graduate assistant) Scott Ratterman come open the gym up around 9 - 9:30.  He just tells me to hit the lights when I'm done." 

Kilpatrick's dedication is not going unrecognized.  The Sporting News recently ranked Sean as the nation's sixth-best shooting guard (including number one in the Big East).

"It's an honor, but it made me a little bit hungrier," said Kilpatrick.  "I know that I can keep pushing myself to where I can be better than sixth.  I'm never satisfied with being below number one.  It made me more focused on what I need to do."

And if he needs an additional push, Sean knows that he'll get it from Coach Cronin.

"He knows how to get me going," said Kilpatrick.  "We both love winning and love the game so much.  If we lose, just know that something is going to get thrown, or somebody is going to curse.  I love him.  Since I was in prep school, he's never changed with me or with any of the guys.  The loyalty and respect that I have for him is amazing."

I asked Sean if there's anything about Coach Cronin that Bearcat fans don't know.

"Everyone thinks that he's mean," Sean said with a laugh.  "That's because everyone sees Coach Cronin on the court and they don't know how he is off the court.  He's the nicest guy you'll ever meet.  He's polite, he knows exactly what he's talking about every time, you can go to him for advice, and you can actually talk to him about anything.  He's like a father figure to us when our dads aren't around.  That's what I love about him the most." 

It sure sounds like Kilpatrick plans to stick around.

I'd love to hear from you at

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at

And I'm on Facebook at

Pike Grateful For Bengals Opportunity

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All Tony Pike wants is a chance - and he's about to get one from his hometown team.

Pike at UC (550x415).jpg

On Wednesday, the Bengals announced that Pike is among the unsigned players who will attend the team's May 11-13 minicamp on a tryout basis.  After spending the 2010 season as a backup with the Carolina Panthers, the 26-year-old quarterback missed all of last year after having elbow surgery.

"I've been back in Cincinnati rehabbing for a long time and the Bengals reached out to my agent with some questions about my health and when I was going to get back to 100%," said Pike.  "After that, it was just a matter of me getting healthy and the timing being right for the mini-camp.  It's an unbelievable opportunity.  Growing up in Cincinnati and being a Bengals fan, it's been a life-long dream to be a Bengal.  For them to give me that opportunity to come into mini-camp and see what I can do means a lot."

After leading the UC Bearcats to a perfect regular season and trip to the Sugar Bowl as a senior, Pike was selected by Carolina in the 6th round of the 2010 draft.  Tony appeared in one regular season game as a rookie, going 6-for-12 for 47 yards in a loss to New Orleans.

But last July, Pike needed surgery to fix a nerve injury in his right elbow.  When the first procedure didn't correct the problem, the former Bearcat had a more extensive operation eight weeks ago.

"On the second surgery, they cut the muscle in my forearm and they tucked the nerve underneath the muscle," said Pike.  "Then they sewed the muscle back together to protect that nerve from moving around.  It was a more painful procedure, but with my history at UC, it's nothing that I haven't been through before.  The end result was a lot better than the first procedure, so I'm really happy.

"I saw (Cincinnati Reds) Dr. Kremchek here in Cincinnati and he said he does this surgery every year on pitchers here.  He told me it's something that pitchers come back stronger from and that's how I feel right now."

Pike broke his left arm in his junior and senior years at UC, but bounced back quickly to lead the Bearcats to back-to-back Big East Championships.  Tony says that he is completely recovered from his elbow injury and is ready to show the Bengals the powerful arm that tossed 29 touchdown passes and only 6 interceptions in his final college season.

"I feel great," Pike told me.  "My strength and accuracy are back.  That was the biggest thing with the elbow - the nerve was causing my accuracy to go down a little bit, so with that being back, I feel great about my chance here.

"The frustrating thing about the nerve surgery was that we couldn't really give teams a timetable for when I would be healthy.  The Bengals rookie mini-camp fell at just about the right time.  I just saw the doctor (Wednesday) to get cleared.  I've been throwing a lot and staying in shape.  I've actually been going over to Elder a little bit to throw to my brother and some of those receivers.  So, it's been a long process and a slow process, but it's all coming together at just the right time."

Pike might seem like a longshot to make the Bengals roster, but keep in mind that he began the 2008 season as the fifth-string quarterback at UC before leading the team to the Orange Bowl.

All he needed then was a chance.

I'd love to hear from you at

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at

And I'm on Facebook at

Going to keep this brief today. If you're looking for a lusty Breakfast, check back to yesterday's which took a few unexpected loquacious turns for a random Wednesday in May.

A few stories out today, Bearcats fans need to read. The first from Dan Hoard on Tony Pike's opportunity with the Bengals. Cincinnati invited Pike, along with UC product Reuben Haley, to a tryout at their minicamp next week.

Pike is coming off a season where he was waived early by the Carolina Panthers on an injury settlement. He had elbow surgery and finally feels back to health. The combo Bengals/Bearcats fans in the city have been clamoring for Pike to receive a chance at PBS since his draft in 2010. Here it is. He says his arm strength and accuracy are back to where they belong and with a quality showing he'll receive an invite to training camp in July. There, he could compete with Zach Robinson for the third QB job.

The numbers and accomplishments of Pike at UC are off the charts. He threw the most famous pass in UC football history and led them to unprecedented heights.

Of course, any excuse to show this, I will take. Best of luck to Pike next weekend.

--- A second story comes
from Bill Koch and though I have heard from many of you that Kerry Coombs means nothing here anymore and nobody wants to read about someone who left the program, I still find his story compelling. He meant so much to UC for five years and gave a lot to this program, his comments on the love he still owns for the school and why he's currently at Ohio State show the reality of the situation and Bill does a great job creating context.

--- Check back to
later today as our guy Tommy G posts a conversation with new Rams RB Isaiah Pead.

--- In the mean time, the weather out there makes me feel like playing this video.

After hearing about Nick Van Exel being elected into the Cincinnati Basketball Hall of Fame, I can't help but reminisce about the season that changed my view of college basketball.

Despite the sketch which makes me look like I'm awaiting my application for AARP, I'm actually 31 years old. The 1991-92 Bearcats caught me at the intersection of impressionable and bored, the perfect combination to be swept up in the sport. For whatever reason, I'd never been a dedicated college hoops fan before Nicky Van and everyone else took the tournament by storm.

Nothing was like watching the kid from Kenosha, Wis., though. In junior high, he was the player I emulated in practice. I tossed more halfcourt heaves yelling his name than should be legally allowed. Of course, none swished through as his did. On a related note, if I ever would have hit a buzzer-beater, I would have run directly to the locker room, too.

Great to see he'll be honored by the local HOF. Cool moment from Cincinnati folks my age.

Let's eat...

--- Sporting News came out with a list ranking the football coaches in the Big East. Some guy named Butch ended up at No. 1. Somehow, SN left Doug Marrone of Syracuse off the list. But Butch would have the upper hand on him by virtue of the shared BE title last year.

Hard to argue with Butch Jones at the top considering the year UC enjoyed last season plus success on and off the field. I remember after the season and latest round of coaching changes, mentioning to Butch only one current coach has more seasons in the Big East. His reaction was the same type of disbelief I had when I first looked at the numbers. What a wild realization.

--- This season will be a bigger challenge than even last year. Recovering from the 4-8 year was far from easy, but the motivation of the 2010 disappointment drove a team packed with experienced senior stars.

As Jones has spoken about and Andrea Adelson touches on here, this will be an incredibly young team.

Only nine players on the roster averaged 35 snaps a game last season (AA lists the nine in her blog) and they'll be replacing their leading passer, rusher, sacker and tackler.

The thought of losing the four most important stats in college football would seem to be a doom-and-gloom number. But is it really?

Upon further review, not quite. Here is a list of BCS teams that won a division, conference or national championship last year and find how many of them returned their top passer, rusher, tackler and sacker.

Team       Total   Pass/Rush/Tack/Sack  
Clemson    0/4    N/N/N/N
Va. Tech    1/4    N/N/Y/N
Okla. St.    2/4    Y/N/N/Y
Mich. St.    3/4    Y/Y/N/Y
Wisconsin  1/4    N/Y/N/N
Georgia      1/4   Y/N/N/N
LSU           2/4   Y/N/N/Y
Alabama    2/4    N/N/Y/Y
Oregon      2/4    Y/Y/N/N
USC          4/4    Y/Y/Y/Y
UC            4/4    Y/Y/Y/Y
WVU         3/4    Y/N/Y/Y
Louisville   1/4     N/N/Y/N

--- Of the 13 BCS programs that can claim some type of championship last year, nine of them returned 50 percent or less of their passer, rusher, tackler and sacker combination.

-- Only USC and UC returned all four players.

--- A number I found most surprising in this list, in the age of the QB and spread offense, 5 of 13 teams didn't return their leading passer from the previous year -- that includes the national champion Crimson Tide.

--- Perhaps this would be as much an indictment on the ACC (in case the Clemson Orange Bowl debacle didn't count), but both Clemson and VT claimed division titles with new faces at the key positions. Clemson saw the emergence of Tajh Boyd propel them without any of their top players returning. But they are living proof of a team's ability to win without the benefit of returning stat stuffers.

--- Overcoming the loss of
Collaros, Pead, Wolfe and Schaffer will be difficult, but it's far from doomsday. All of college football proved as much last season.

--- Bearcat Nation looks at the possible draftees for next year's Bearcats. Too bad Pat O'Donnell wasn't a coming out this year, pretty sure the Jaguars would have been blowing up his phone.

My current choice for top Bearcat selected next year? Walter Stewart.

--- UC players talk on about what watching the draft did for their approach to next season.

--- John Hughes talks to BearcatLair about his draft day surprise. Got to be thrilled for him.

--- calls UC the best at developing recruits into drafted players.

--- Here are the details
on Van Exel's enshrinement. He'll be joined by fellow Bearcats Cheryl Cook and Jerry Couzins.

--- A guy who hopes to break some of Van Exel's single-season record, Sean Kilpatrick, was ranked as the No. 6 shooting guard in the country entering next season by The Sporting News and HOFer Mike DeCourcy.

Mike, predictably, makes a great point about the move from small forward to Dion Dixon's shooting guard spot. SK should be matched up with smaller defenders more often and be able to take advantage of his 6-foot-4 frame. SK slashing to the lane against smaller defenders is unfair. I'll have to poke around for a better 1-2 guard combo than SK and Cashmere Wright next season. The list won't be long.

--- Andy Katz discusses some of the challenges coaches are facing dealing with 18-game conference basketball schedules. It makes playing non-con home-and-homes extremely difficult. He specifically mentions UC having trouble finding top opponents to make a deal.

A situation to keep an eye on: UK and Indiana appear to be at an impasse with the future of their rivalry. From the I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin' department: If that relationship falls apart, UC-IU would be a logical local replacement.

I'll say this, as much as I would love to sit down and put together the basketball schedule for UC, I'm glad it isn't my job. Talk about pulling your hair out.

--- Randomness...

--- Eli Manning is hosting SNL Friday. The promos aren't bad, particularly the final two.

--- Stone Gossard says Pearl Jam plans on finishing their new album this year. Hell yes.

--- This may be the coolest iPhone case I've ever seen. Perfect for calling the authorities if your friend OD's on caffeine pills prior to a career filled with box office bombs and softcore porn. (I'm so excited!)

--- Add this to the list of reasons why I don't go hunting. I probably too much resemble a turkey, anyway.

--- In honor of a new Pearl Jam album, here's a great one from the Back Spacer. Have a good one.

Now that we know the destinations for one of the most prolific classes in UC history, the question is how will these players fit in at each of their stops.

The situation can only do so much. Remember, Mardy Gilyard went to a St. Louis team devoid of talent at WR, but could never latch and find the same dynamic playmaking he showcased at UC. Yet, a player like Connor Barwin showed up in Houston and had to switch positions midway through while dealing with an injury that stole a season, but still owns the third-most sacks in his draft class.

All of that said, an advantageous situation can make all the difference.

--- Let's start with Derek Wolfe. Maybe the most shocking aspect of all the UC draft picks was that Wolfe went to a Broncos team utilizing the 4-3 defense. Wolfe was categorized as the ideal 3-4 DE with teams like Baltimore and New England in hot pursuit.

There's little doubt Wolfe can play the DT position in a 4-3. He showed that all season as he moved in and out of UC's front line. The biggest reason Wolfe will be be set up for success is the guy who will be line up directly next to him: Elvis Dumervil.

Dumervil owns 52 sacks in 75 career games. With that type of pass rusher next to you, the double team, chip and all attention leaves one-on-one on the interior all day. With the possibility of Von Miller charging in from the opposite side, it's almost impossible to devote more than one blocker to Wolfe.

Remember, this was a young defense that really came on at the end of last season. Five of the final eight games last year, the Broncos held their opponents to 13 points or less. Now, the postseason debacle at New England showed what happens when they can't pressure the passer, but there is a ton of potential/expectations for that unit.

Oh, and some guy named Manning might help them win a few games.

John Fox comments on the want-to and nasty element to Wolfe being a big reason why they drafted him in this BroncosTV piece.

The Denver Post dug even deeper into the true story of Wolfe with this profile.

--- Maybe the best match
for any of the drafted plays is Isaiah Pead in St. Louis. The Rams are looking for the heir apparent to Steven Jackson. According to Adam Schefter, Pead is that guy.

One comment I made immediately after hearing Pead went to the Rams was that you have to believe Jeff Fisher saw a little bit of Chris Johnson in Isaiah Pead. Now, Pead doesn't have the 4.28 straight-line speed of Johnson, but the ability to hit home runs in space runs on parallel tracks. Fisher loved that philosophy in Tennessee and obviously hopes to bring it to St. Louis.

Some knocked the size of Isaiah Pead when discussing the concept that he could be an every-down back in the NFL. He weight in at 5-10 and 197. What was Johnson's height/weight on draft day? 5-11, 197.

During his senior year at East Carolina, Johnson averaged 6.03 yards per carry. Pead for his career: 6.03 yards per carry.

These two are certainly different backs with Johnson owning more speed and Pead more cut-and-go wiggle, but the big-play correlations rang true for Fisher.

Match Pead with the 29-year-old Jackson at 6-2, 240 pounds and you have one nasty thunder-and-lightning mix. Jackson's contract will be up in 2014 and he's set to make $7 million each of that next two seasons. At that point, if Pead has done anything resembling what he showed at UC while splitting carries with Jackson, then you have the full-time back of the Rams.

Also, to mention again, you have to love Pead on the speed turf of the Edward Jones Dome. Two of his best games his senior season came on grass (14 for 155 @Tennessee; 22 for 118 @Pittsburgh), but if you compare his turf/grass numbers for his career, he's undoubtedly better on the synthetic stuff. Which makes sense considering his quick-cut style of play.

Career turf: 443 carries, 2,736 yards, 6.2 yards per carry
Career grass: 102 carries, 552 yards, 5.4 yards per carry

We've all heard Isaiah talk before, but here he is talking to the Rams site about how he wants to affect the Rams.

--- John Hughes to Cleveland on Friday night was a pick that shocked even Hughes himself, who planned his draft party for Saturday. His fit will be an interesting one as he'll jump into the rotation behind last year's first-round pick Phil Taylor and tackling machine Ahytba Rubin.

Hughes brings an alternate size to the front line dominated by massive humans.

Rubin: 6-2, 330
Taylor: 6-3, 335
Hughes: 6-3, 309

Still, those big boys certainly can't handle breathing through 60+ plays a game, so it leaves plenty of opportunity for Hughes to touch the field and show what he can do. It would have been unrealistic to think Hughes was going to land into a starting position, so to show up as more of a pass-rushing DT spelling one of the biggest men in the game isn't a poor position to be in at all.

--- The Giants know how to cycle through productive tight ends. Over the last five years, they have had three tight ends lead them in receiving from that position, each stepping in flawlessly from his predecessor.

2011-Jake Ballard: 38-604
2010-Kevin Boss: 35-531
2009-Kevin Boss: 42-567
2008-Kevin Boss: 33-384
2007-Jeremy Shockey: 57-619

They don't expect Robinson to be that guy this year. He's a physical specimen who needs to be developed. He'll play behind Martellus Bennett and Jake Ballard this season while learning how to translate his athleticism into results.

It's a concept familiar to GM Jerry Reese who compared Robinson to Jason Pierre-Paul, an athletic wonder hoping to come into his own out of South Florida.

"A guy we haven't talked about - our first fourth-round pick is Adrien Robinson, the tight end from Cincinnati. We really think this guy has a huge upside. He is a big, big man; long arms.  He didn't catch a lot of balls for them. But he is kind of a late bloomer who has really come on.  And we think this guy is kind of a JPP of tight ends. We like these kind of people.  We will get Mike Pope involved with this guy. We brought him in for one of the visits. We are excited about him. We think he can really come on and develop and be a terrific football player for us. So it is very exciting for us to get him."

--- Some randomness...

--- Only if this means her awful show on NBC won't be back does Whitney Cummings getting her own talk show sound like an appealing concept.

--- I think this goatee is sweet. However, I'm not sure my opinion would match that of his employer.

--- Since many local news shows linger on unwatchable some nights, I'd highly recommend adding videobombing dogs to every one.

--- This catchy little tune has been stuck in my head for days. Sorry, now it will be in yours.