Finally, we can start talking about a basketball game again. As much as I love digging into random topics and hitting the mailblog, the games make us go. Not to mention they keep the fodder fresh. A scribe without fresh fodder is like a computer without an Internet connection. After a while, playing Solitare gets pretty darn boring.
No worries today, though, Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick and Mick Cronin met with the media yesterday in preparation for Wednesday's home game against Rutgers, the first following an eight-day layoff.
For those of you looking for TV coordinates, it will be on FoxSportsOhio for 7 p.m. tip. Here's a link to the FSO channel finder for your neck of the woods. You can also check it out at WatchESPN.com, which I talked about in the mailblog yesterday.
As for Wright, he's only three away from passing one of my favorite all-time Bearcats Darnell Burton for second place on the schools all-time steals list. Dude could fire it, and can we please get a throwback jersey from these days. Love these.
Time to dig in, let's eat ...
--- Quick update from Cash on his sprained knee. He says he wasn't quite 100 percent and still isn't to the perfect triple digit mark, but obviously the long layoff helped him quite a bit.
He gave a laugh when asked what percentage his knee was against Syracuse, suggesting it was a process to get in the lineup.
"I was able to play so I had to be good enough," Wright said.
He'll be the player to watch on Wednesday to see how close he returns to the level he was playing before the injury. Watch for cutting, attacking with purpose and those diving defensive steals we've become so used to. More than shooting percentages, those are the intangibles he needs to regain along with confidence in his knee.
--- For a deeper look into Wright, his injury and what the last few weeks have been like for him, read Bill Koch's piece in today's Enqy.
--- Much of the conversation became about playing this Rutgers team for the second time and Cronin pointed out how difficult it can be and the lack of success teams in the Big East and the country have had pulling it off.
Which, of course, sparked my inner stat nerd wanting to take a deeper look at the trend. Mick mentioned Cuse losing to Nova the second time around, Creighton-Drake splitting along with Rutgers-St. John's.
I decided to take a look around the Big East and Top 25 and find the teams who have played a team twice and how the results fell:
Rutgers 58, @St. John's 56, St. John's 72, @Rutgers 60
@Syracuse 72, Villanova 61, @Villanova 75, Syracuse 71 (OT)
Indiana 74, @Penn State 51, @Indiana 72, Penn State 49
@Florida 77, UGA 44, Florida 64, @UGA 47
Wichita State 69, @Bradley 63, @Wichita State 73, Bradley 39
Ole Miss 92, @Tennessee 74, @Ole Miss 62, Tennessee 56
@Creighton 91, Drake 61, @Drake 74, Creighton 69
@Minnesota 69, Northwestern 51, @Northwestern 55, Minnesota 48
--- Both Big East games saw a split and two of the six repeats in the Top 25 saw the score flip. And both of the score flips came after 18+ point victories.
--- Last year, in UC's regular season double-ups, two of the three saw the scores flip and both dramatically:
- @UC 82, Villanova 78, UC 72, @Villanova 68
- @Marquette 95, UC 78, @UC 72, Marquette 61
- St. John's 57, @UC 55, UC 76, @St. John's 54
--- The results of the last few years and this season across upper-echelon college basketball prove there's no reason to believe UC 68, Rutgers 58 should have much if any bearing on Wednesday's game.
"We have to play Rutgers Wednesday night like it's the national championship," Cronin said.
--- All the rankings updated yesterday, wanted to give everybody a look at where UC currently falls in the major metrics:
- AP: 24
- Coaches: 23
- BPI: 16
- RPI: 24
- KenPom: 17
- Sagarin: 16
--- Been talking all year about the leadership of the top three players on this team and what it means, Mick's talked about it quite a bit but what he said when discussing the big three yesterday I thought reiterated a point everyone should be focusing on going forward right now:
"We've had a real chance all year because those guys care," Cronin said. "The leadership of our team these guys are on a mission to try to have a great year and make a run in March. Whether it happens or not, who knows, but it won't be for lack of effort and caring on their part."
--- Forbes ranks Mick ninth among all college basketball coaches in value. Interesting read and love for Mick.
--- Pittsburgh did a nice job hanging around last night, but was generally outclassed by Louisville. The game seemed to be a pretty good representation of where these two teams are at right now. The Panthers shooting 3 of 12 from the FT line didn't help.
As Tim Sullivan writes here, Russ Smith might have to carry short-handed Louisville down the stretch.
--- Kansas broke out their version of the single color jerseys UC has been wearing. I know it's just cranky scribe talking, but any jersey that makes names and numbers nearly indecipherable lives in my doghouse.
--- Akron was trying to wear Twitter handles on the back of their jerseys. Love the concept, but the NCAA didn't agree with me. What's wrong with adding some freedom and creativity? Allow some of these smaller schools a way to stand out, even if a small one. Now, if they were putting each players Twitter handle on the back of the jerseys, that would be one thing, but promoting the school basketball handle shouldn't step on any toes. Thought it was great when UC put #Bearcats on the court, would like to hear what the major difference is.
Of course, nobody was happier than Fox Sports Ohio's Zac Jackson, who now has a jersey with his Twitter handle on the back so rec league teammates can tweet at him to pass the freaking ball.
--- Commish Aresco trying to add a 12th team and keep the Big East name. Andrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna debate the topic at ESPN.
--- My guy Mo Egger is concerned about the watchability of college basketball. Great points and thorough. Despite the wide gap in execution between the NBA and college, I'll take the energy and intensity of college kids caring about wins over the six-month malaise with the periodic two minutes of effort trotted out by the Association.
--- Coachella tickets go on sale today. Lineup is strong with Chili Peppers the major draw. I think they should hologram in eight Fleas and let them loose on stage.
--- Cakes have come a long way. I remember being happy when they would spell the name in cursive.
--- Next slate of ESPN's 30 for 30 coming in March. The topics aren't as intriguing as others they've done. Much prefer more unknown, off-the-beaten-path storylines. The '83 Draft has been discussed ad nausem over the years. That said, I'll be watching.
--- Going with The Hold Steady today. The Swish seems fitting for basketball season.
Remember, I want to hear from you. Shoot me an email at email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr with any questions, comments or your record for most games of solitaire played during a single 8-hour work shift. Have a great day.