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.
--- 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.
--- 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.
--- 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.
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.
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 pullout 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.
--- There is a sequel being madeof 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.
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.
"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
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.
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.
--- 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.
--- 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 2011-12 @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 2010-11 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) 2009-10 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 Philly.com, 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.
--- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
--- 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 workDerek 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.
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).
--- 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.
--- 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.
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
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
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.
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."
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."
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
--- 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.
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.
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.
--- 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.
--- 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.
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.
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 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.
"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
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.
--- 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.
Last night he went 2 for 4 with his first home run of the season and three RBI.
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 Alvarehttp://cstv.collegesports.com/mt/mt.cgi?__mode=view&_type=entry&blog_id=19z 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.
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.
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.
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 catstix.com.
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.
"@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.
--- 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.
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.
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
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
"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.
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.
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.
"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.
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
--- 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 shortâ€‘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
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.
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."
--- 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.
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).
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.
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.
--- 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.
--- 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.
--- 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.
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?
AB: 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?
AB: 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? AB: 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? AB: 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?
AB: 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?
AB: 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.
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 points.......in 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.
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.
"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
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
"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 Newsrecently
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
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.
All Tony Pike wants is a chance - and he's about to
get one from his hometown team.
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.
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 comesfrom 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 GoBearcats.com 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
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.
--- 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
--- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
--- 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.
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."