Back to work for many of us, for some of you today begins the sojourn to Charlotte for the Belk Bowl festivities. UC-Duke will beat 6:30 p.m. on Thursday. For those still in town, UC will host New Mexico in basketball at 9 p.m. Thursday.
For those buried under a pile of children's toys and manuals, we're all thinking of you.
Let's eat ...
--- UC is now ranked No. 8 in the AP and Coaches poll after a weekend where three top ten teams lost. The ranking represents the highest spot for the program since midway through the 2003-04 season.
Tweet of the week thus far came from Mike DeCourcy: "Cincinnati Bearcats ranked top 10. Polls are dumb, but it's a long way from one scholarship player."
Seems like we say this with every passing milestone, this being the latest. Because it deserves to be said. Remember when some wondered if this program would ever return to relevance or how anybody could a program out of a hole this deep? Nobody says that anymore.
This may be a brief stay in the top 10 or maybe a stepping stone to another milestone, regardless, sit back and savor this one a little bit. And enjoy this team.
--- Only undefeated teams left in the country: Michigan, Wyoming, Cincinnati, Duke and Arizona.
--- New Mexico fell out of the Top 25 to No. 26 in the AP after losing to Nate Wolters and South Dakota State on Saturday.
(BTW, apparently the fighting JackRabbits endured a 1,200-mile bus ride due to weather issues, then showed up at one of the toughest arenas in the country and beat undefeated New Mexico. How about that?)
No matter, still will be a great test for UC and fantastic non-conference showdown for Fifth Third Arena tomorrow.
Hope to see a number of fans out for this game, as a momentum seems to be building as the season ramps toward conference play at the end of this week. The Bearcats drew about 10k for the Wright State game on Saturday so a game of this magnitude on national TV will hopefully follow suit.
The staff had to work pretty hard to make this game happen. Finding like major non-conference foes willing to do home-and-home deals doesn't come easy.
It wasn't the ideal time, Cronin would prefer to play it before Christmas, but when all the other pieces aligned for it to be on the 27th, he needed to go through with it.
"I don't like playing this game on the 27th," Cronin said. "We tried hard to get a non-conference home game against a top 25 team. We have a flicking hope on the horizon from a Midwest state school to try and get a series with. But this year New Mexico was the one team willing to do it, and we have to return it. This is the only time they could do it is because they are playing Saint Louis after us, and it's the only time ESPN could. I would rather have my guys be able to go home for Christmas. I think it should be like that for all of college basketball, but there is too much money involved."
Notice Mick hinting at another home-and-home? Midwest state school can only send speculation out there, so I'll let you conjure up the possibilities while I move on.
--- Sean Kilpatrick named to the Big East Honor Roll. He averaged 18.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in two wins against Xavier and Wright State last week.
--- Hope you caught my story from the Wright State game about UC trying to work on its offensive execution. While still enjoying the 12-0 run to start the season, Cronin's been sure to keep those in perspective as he said he's been "coaching like we're losing."
From my angle, the only improvement needed to elevate the Bearcats among the elite and on track to compete for a Big East championship is honing the halfcourt execution. When teams don't allow UC to jump out in transition and force them to work sets, they need to be more consistent.
At a time where teams everywhere have a mountain full of troubles, sitting at 12-0 needing to tighten up the offense is pretty enviable.
--- Apparently, the donors are invigorated to get behind the Nippert renovation project, according to The Enqy. Have to have them on fully on board or this concept will be nothing more than paper and canvas.
--- One final audition for the 2013 UC QB job for Brendon Kay this weekend. But, really, nobody knows what direction this personnel will go or how they'll be used.
--- The bowl game experience is fantastic. UC got to ride along in NASCARs at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The reactions of the players in the cars alone is worth watching this video.
--- Plus, a shopping spree through Belk wouldn't be a bad deal. Got to respect POD lining up a suit.
--- On to some randomness ....
--- What 31 other teams would be willing to give up for Mark Sanchez.
--- Got to hand it to Tarentino for releasing Django Unchained on Christmas Day. A nice touch. Finally saw Lincoln this weekend. Great stuff.
--- Guide to the best post-Christmas sales. This is the best day to get Christmas decorations for the house. Places will nearly pay you to take the Reindeer shaped serving dish off their hands.
--- Everybody be safe out there, especially those of you headed down to the Belk Bowl through this storm.
--- Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and received what they wanted, or a least a 12-month subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club. "That's the gift that keeps on giving the whole year round."