Happy New Year, Bearcats fans. Quite a great way to ring in the new year yesterday with another quality Big East win. UC picks up right where it left off last year.
In fact, they opened 2012 with a win at the Peterson Events Center and closed it the same way. Not sure how many can say they won twice in at The Pete in back-to-back season. Not many.
Of course, this team has proven its worth in Big East play the last three years. While we get so caught up in tradition when ranking programs within the conference, look no further than winning games when deciding whose the true beast of the conference now.
Here's a list of those with the most conference wins since the start of the 2010-11 season:
- Syracuse -- 29
- Notre Dame -- 27
- Cincinnati -- 24
- Marquette -- 23
--- Let's eat ...
--- Should we seem surprised that UC went into Pitt and won? Not at all. That said, considering the ragged state of the offense lately, doubt very much existed. A strong Pitt defense would seem to be a bad matchup as UC searches for consistent scoring. And again through the first 20 minutes the same problems of the previous four games prior to halftime showed up.
Not enough consistency finishing around the rim, not breaking the defense down enough with patience in sets and too much 1-on-1. It led to a 34-26 deficit. But yet another second-half surge changed all of that. Thanks to great play from Titus Rubles, David Nyarsuk and, of course, Cashmere Wright stepping up and hitting big shots, the attack opened up.
Consider this: Over the past five games here's the combined scores from first half to second half:
- First half: 125-134
- Second half: 199-142
In my head this has officially switched from an abnormality to trend. Placing the reason why only takes looking down the Bearcats bench. The depth and rotation Mick Cronin utilizes, particularly in resting players in the first half has proven time and again to wear down opponents.
I received a tweet questioning the rotation yesterday and only need to point to the second-half numbers as a reason why Cronin's rotations are working. The fresh legs, particularly with this pressing, pressure defense style the Bearcats use forces others in fatigue every game.
Look at yesterday's box score for example. Nine UC players logged at least 10 minutes. Only JaQuon Parker (36), Cashmere Wright (32) and Sean Kilpatrick (27) played more than 20 minutes. On the flip side, six Pittsburgh players logged at least 24 minutes. Combining the waves with the pressing style certainly showed itself yesterday. Hustling for loose balls and grabbing offensive rebounds -- particularly the two-minute stretch of three possessions that shortened the game -- alter the landscape.
"You can't simulate our quickness and depth," Cronin told Dan and Chuck on 700WLW yesterday. "We got so many winners on our team. To pick up full court the way we do is not easy. You got to recruit a certain type of kid and foster a culture within your program."
--- Tweeted out with about seven minutes left and a one-possession game that these would be a critical few minutes from David Nyarsuk. Little did I know it would become a defining few minutes for Nyarsuk.
He hustled for two critical offensive rebounds, hit three shots in the lane, blocked a shot and changed the dynamic with his inside presence. With minutes like that he makes a case for more minutes in the future and more of a split rotation with Cheikh Mbodj. Both own strengths and weaknesses, but Nyarsuk's touch around the rim for a 7-footer has been the most impressive aspect of his game from my angle.
--- Nobody changes the dynamics of the offense like Titus Rubles. When he's attacking under control and effectively penetrating to the lane, UC's offense hits another level. I really think this team can go as far as his level rises.
From the first few games of the season I wrote about the need for another offensive weapon to emerge beyond the Three Amigos. Obviously, the need for an interior offensive force is no secret. Relying too much on the 3 and outside shots will get you beat more often than not, but Rubles' three assists and five points broke down the defense in a way even the UC guards can't because of his size to finish in the lane. He's the type of player the Bearcats haven't had in recent years, the long, athletic 4-man scorer. His contribution may have been underrated because it didn't stuff the stat sheet, but he affected the game as well as anyone on the floor.
--- UC hits the boards offensively as well as almost any team in the country. They grabbed 14 of 30 missed shots yesterday (46 percent offensive rebounds). They currently are 8th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, pulling down 42.6 percent of their misses.
Pitt is the only team in the Big East with a better OR% number. UC held them to 41%, below their season average.
--- Jeff Borzello at CBSSports writes that people shouldn't underestimate UC despite their lack of style points. Of course, as seems to be the case at CBS these days, it came with a detracting, backhanded compliment at the end.
--- Boise State is apparently staying in the MWC, which opens up at date on UC's 2013 schedule and serves as the latest blow to the conference. That's the news, not much more that can be said about it.
--- New Mexico lost to St. Louis by 14?
Some randomness ...
--- Tweet of the day from Dan Hoard: "In 2012, the #Bengals, #Reds, #Bearcats and #Musketeers were 169-102 (.624) and all made the postseason. We've got it REALLY good."
--- My favorite headline of the day: "The odious tyranny of chain restaurant middle managers"
--- The creator of the Bill Cosby sweater speaks. What I would give for Jell-O to re-rack The Cos in commercials. Has Super Bowl spot written all over it.
--- Have to go into the U2 vault today. Happy New Year, everybody. Let's hope 2013 proves as prosperous for UC athletics as 2012 was.