It's Friday, three-day weekend ahead and a measuring stick one for UC as they host No. 25 Marquette at 7 p.m. at Fifth Third and then travel to the Carrier Dome for a 3:30 tilt on Monday against No. 6 Syracuse.
Limited tickets still available as I type this for Saturday's game, but I know last night's Happy Hour sale put a series dent in available tickets for the rest of the year, so you may want to move fast.
While I'm on the promotion train, you should definitely check out the Inside the Bearcats Podcast I recorded yesterday with Dan Hoard. Informative and fun, as always. Had a blast dissecting where we are at in the season as well as the specifics of making short leading Hollywood men look tall in the movies. Next time Dan comes on, though, I may have him play my James Brown open with his alto sax from his Syracuse pep band days. Stay tuned.
Also, make sure you subscribe to the pod on iTunes. Now it comes to you instead of needing to come here for it.
For a little Friday Rewind fun, take a look back 11 years ago when UC beat Dwyane Wade and Marquette for the Conference USA Title. Steve Logan poured in 26 while Wade only had 16. Crown 'em.
OK, let's eat ...
--- Spending some time up at practice and around the building yesterday, the only real news to come out of the day was Cashmere Wright was held out of practice, which is no shock. Mick Cronin didn't offer more of an update on Wright's situation, calling him, "John Rambo, day by day." That's now as much a Rambo classic as it is a Cronin classic these days. One of his favorite lines to use.
Saw Cash briefly before practice. Seemed to be walking around fine, had some type of wrap around his left knee. Still unsure if he'll play Saturday or not. If he doesn't, Cronin seems likely to turn to a bigger lineup and play to those strengths. Here were his thoughts on the possible changes.
"There's minor adjustments that we'll make that are some plusses some minuses," Cronin said. "We'll probably become a bigger, physical team when he's out of the lineup. When you really evaluate the film we played a lot of quality minutes without him. Minus the last minute and the barrage of missed free throws and giving up second-chance points when the game was over, but we did good things without him on the floor and have enough veterans and talent."
You'd love to have Wright for both these two games, but keep this in mind: the Bearcats have a nine-day layoff following the Syracuse game. If there is any doubt about his injury sitting him these two would essentially give him 15 days of rest from the injury and he would have to be feeling great for the final two months of the season by that point. Just another option to weigh for Cronin.
--- I want to discuss the recent trend of winning on the road and struggling at home. The Bearcats have won 12 of 14 away from home and now lost three in a row at Fifth Third Arena. As Mick said yesterday, most of his opinions on the matter are "probably baseless and pointless."
Indeed, any opinions offered today won't mean a thing once the ball is tipped Saturday night. Then it becomes about slowing Junior Cadougan and Davante Gardner. But, because us media folks are inquisitive types I wanted to look deeper at the topic.
Consider this: Big East road wins have been more prevalent this year than in any in recent memory early in the season. Typically, during the first few weeks of conference play BE teams struggle to win on the road. Theories I've heard on this usually revolve around young teams learning how difficult it is to win away from home in this conference. It takes time to develop that skill.
Not this year.
Big East Conference record on this date home vs. away the last four years:
- Year: Home-Away
- 2012-13: 14-19
- 2011-12: 31-17
- 2010-11: 30-14
- 2009-10: 26-15
Fourteen of the league's 15 teams own at least one conference road win already.
So, before we go pointing fingers at this being a UC problem, know that it's a league-wide problem this year for whatever reason. The Bearcats are hardly the only team seeing an disproportionate number of home losses.
That said, theories exists as to why UC has struggled at home with losses to New Mexico, St. John's and Notre Dame in comparison to road wins at Pitt, Rutgers and DePaul.
"That's something we've been harping on the last couple of days," Sean Kilpatrick said. "We don't know (why), a lot of teams is taking slumps and a lot of teams in this league is coming up with wins and coming up with losses that you may not think that they'd come up with."
Cronin believes the mental mindset does play into it.
"The biggest mistake teams make is thinking, well, we are at home we are going to win," he said. "We made the adjustment the last few games in taking each game separately and not looking at the totality of the schedule ... if you don't have that type of focus because you are at home it would probably be because you are relaxing mentally and your energy level and focus and alertness isn't where it needs to be."
He went on to say, much credit probably needs to be given to the opponent and while UC didn't play great against New Mexico or St. John's, Notre Dame played one of its best games all season to beat UC. Whereas, Pitt, Rutgers and DePaul are a combined 7-8 in conference play.
Moral of the story: Why is this happening? Who knows, part matchups, part energy. But one element we do know -- for whatever reason, it's happening to everybody.
--- Mr. Hoard posted this blog on the increased production from Jermaine Sanders of late. Good stuff, as always.
--- The conference power rankings at SI are topsy-turvy this year, but the Big East holds as second behind the B1G. I'd concur, but seeing the Mountain West in third made me double take, not that I disagree with that, either.
Oh, by the way that New Mexico team UC lost to is now 16-2 overall and perfect in MWC play.
--- Marquette is 4-0 in the Big East, but it's still fair to wonder how good the Golden Eagles actually are. Remember, they won twice in OT (Pitt, UConn), beat Georgetown by one point and topped a Seton Hall team dressing only eight players by seven Wednesday.
They've beaten Wisconsin and Georgetown, but outside of that don't own any signature wins. KenPom isn't a huge fan, ranking them all the way back at 41 (UC is 16).
Loved this quote from the always comical Buzz Williams talking about his team with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
"I don't think we are great and I honestly don't know what we are good at at times," he said. "But if we can get good at winning, maybe that can be enough."
The Golden Eagles spread it around, with four players averaging at least nine points per game, but nobody averaging more than 14. They don't shoot many 3-pointers, never has been their style. Out of 345 college basketball teams, only 15 gain a lower percentage of their points from behind the 3-point line than Marquette. Of course, one of those is St. John's, who just beat UC at home, so go figure.
--- Always a trip when Buzz comes to town. Funny dude. Here he was on Wednesday reacting to what he called the first charge drawn by Vander Blue in 88 games.
--- The Eagles have been receiving great contributions from guard Todd Mayo lately, the JS writes. They haven't lost since he returned to the lineup following an academic situation.
--- Great warmup for the UC-Marquette game will be watching Syracuse at Louisville at 4 p.m. There's those two teams in the BE and everybody else right now. Russ Smith and Peyton Siva are defensive nightmares. Will be fun to watch Cash and SK face up against them later this year at The Yum.
--- Randomness ...
--- Have to agree with Rolling Stone in their list 10 of most annoying concert behaviors: It's fine to take a few pictures so you can let all your Facebookers know you were there. Taking 100 is just being a jerk.
--- The thinnest watch ever made looks more like a hospital bracelet.
--- Since this has been the week of the cat video on the blog, I have to assume this guy has become a new fan of Bearcats athletics.
--- Predicting right now Chip Kelly will bomb at Philadelphia. If you are an Eagles fan you can't like hearing, "Kelly doesn't care about the salary cap, contracts or the waiver wire." Toss in Michael Vick at QB and all DCs spending an offseason plotting against the read option and you might as well call this the Steve Spurrier Reboot. Which is an excuse to cue my favorite slo-mo replay in MNF history.
--- Since I opened this reracking the UC-Marquette conference title game from 2002, why not bring back the regular season finale, otherwise known as The Donald Little Game. His game-winner comes at 3:24 mark. Have a great weekend and see you at Fifth Third.
Remember to send any questions, comments or your own memories of those great games in this series to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter at @pauldehnerjr.