Feels almost out of place not having a game to discuss today. This is the first weekend without some type of UC game to preview since the Sept. 22 bye week. Over Christmas we had New Mexico/Belk Bowl on Thursday and Pitt on Monday, but that was so busy I lump it into the weekend.
So, it's been four months and three days since we went with a Bearcats football/men's basketball-free weekend. This is the point where the message board folks would post a little emoticon guy with tears flowing from his eyes. I'll pass on that.
Fear not! UC women's hoops hosts national power UConn on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Fifth Third. Get your Bearcats fix and see Dayeesha Hollins and company try to spring the upset on the Huskies.
Let's eat ...
--- Cool UC news came out yesterday. Apparently DE Walter Stewart has been invited to the NFL Combine, according to his father via Twitter. Stewart's been cleared to train for the NFL despite his neck condition and the hard work paid off as he'll be in Indy with the best prospects for the draft.
Still don't know about if he will be cleared to play football again, but the possibilities remain open and he's taking every step to make it happen. Not that anybody would be surprised by Stewart's effort or drive, but the concept of him overcoming being told his career is over to still reach the NFL would be one of the great stories in Bearcats history. And couldn't happen to a better guy.
--- While I'm on football and Twitter, great tweet from my ticket guy Greg Harrell yesterday, did you know UC is 25-4 at Nippert Stadium over the past five years? Season ticket renewals are on the way across the country, including here, but I can guarantee few schools can make that claim. (Disclaimer: Finding the home-road splits of every team in college football surprisingly difficult to track down. I'm disappointed in you, Internet.)
--- Bill Koch wrote a blog yesterday on the attendance increases from this point in the season to last year. I've written about this a few times here since we were given the numbers during the Marquette game, but I'll do it again.
The student sections have been phenomenal and much credit goes to Brad Wurthman and his marketing staff who have done a great job making it a place to be and giving students incentive to come early and stay late with the student loyalty program.
I wrote about the student section improvements at this link back in October, feel free to refresh your memory.
Overall, attendance figures are up and Whit Babcock attributes some of that to better non-conference schedule and some to the creative marketing. The biggest area of need for UC to take the next step attendance-wise would be keeping the lower areas filled consistently and adding layers to the loyal folks in the upper deck.
There isn't much else to ask for when it comes to a premier college basketball product, especially this season.
- Fans begged for a more competitive non-conference schedule and we saw the likes of New Mexico and Alabama come to 5/3 this year.
- Fans begged so long for a winner and Mick has rebuilt the program into one of the elite in the current Big East structure. Period. There is no debate, look at the win totals the last three years in conference.
- Fans begged to find a price point. If you want to go to a game and claim there's no deal in your price range, you aren't tying or should be considering going to see CYO games instead for $3. Check CatsTix.com and you'll see all the deals you can get, and the promotions come out on a weekly basis. You can get tickets to the Big East games starting at $15. Premier Top 25 college basketball at that price just doesn't happen.
- Fans begged for excitement. Alabama, New Mexico, St. John's, Marquette all came down to the final shot. This has been as tense/exciting of a season in Clifton as i can remember.
- The timing worked out with three Friday/Saturday games still left on the schedule.
- Oh, and there's fire. It nearly burns my eyebrows every pregame. I swear I'm not scared of it.
The students have come out, the incentive seems to be there for the rest of the older fan base to follow suit to an even higher degree. Those that have filled the building certainly have kept it rocking, I know the atmosphere for the Marquette game ranked up there with some of the best we've seen.
Still remember Rick Pitino calling it the best home-court advantage he's faced after losing at Fifth Third last year. That may have been the rowdiest basketball atmosphere I've seen in Cincinnati or otherwise.
--- While I'm on this topic, little-talked about event going on with alumni for a pregame indoor tailgate before Georgetown with AD Whit Babcock. Here are all the details which include a ticket to the game, Montgomery Inn dinner and Q/A with Whit.
--- Cashmere Wright was on 700WLW last night along with Darren Savino with Mick out of town recruiting. As expected the nine-day break has been great for his knee so far. Said it's getting better. Also mentioned he proposed to his girlfriend two weeks ago. Congrats, Cash. Insert bad "finding Mrs. Wright" pun here.
--- I hear people talk all the time about how the bubble is sitting there without getting used often enough. I don't think people realize sports other than football use it all the time. For instance, baseball was practicing in there yesterday getting ready for their season which is right around the corner. In fact, Pittsburgh Pirates all-utility everything Josh Harrison was there working out with the team a few weeks before he reports to spring training.
Tommy G caught up with him for an interview.
--- OK, so no UC men's hoops to watch this weekend, there are still a few worth checking out. Here's my top three games to watch:
1. Louisville at Georgetown, Saturday, noon: What's going on with the Cards? And is there a more schizophrenic team in all college hoops than the Hoyas?
2. Michigan State at Indiana, Sunday, 1 p.m.: Still not entirely sold with Indiana as capable of winning it all. This will be big for them.
3. Syracuse at Villanova: Nova with momentum coming off Louisville win, could they pull off the unthinkable double-whammy?
--- Big Foot in Oregon. They claim it's possible because strange sounds are coming from the swamp. Nothing good comes from investigating strange sounds coming from a swamp. I've never been more sure of anything.
--- Star Wars without George Lucas. #Fail #NerdOutrage
--- Our good friend Josh Katzowitz is really excited about rekindling his love affair with Led Zeppelin. You should read about it (even though he wavered and I never did). I mean, he wrote Bearcats Rising for crying out loud. This is the point where Josh would like me to point out plenty of good copies are still available.
--- This dude hit a halfcourt shot to win a car. Did his foot cross the line, though?
--- Sports Pickle collected Katie Couric's best skeptical faces in her interview with Manti Te'o. A truly versatile journalist.
--- It's the weekend. It's cold. Huddle up near your fire and play some Boyz II Men with the significant other in your life. Try to do the deep-voice guy impression. It's a great past time. Yeah, I'm going with B2M today. Feel free to judge.
Reemember, I want to hear from you so shoot me any questions, comments or your thoughts on why you do or do not attend games to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter at @pauldehnerjr.