First off, let's open with essentials. Tonight's game against Notre Dame starts at 6:30 p.m. That time has been moved from the original time of 7 p.m. so the ND basketball game doesn't overlap the national championship game tonight.
Also, tonight's game against Notre Dame is a blackout. We need everybody in black and I'm sure DJ Magnificent will be breaking out some Johnny Cash if Mick comes out like he did for the last blackout. (h/t TG on the photo)
Personally, looking forward to Jay Bilas, Bill Raftery and Sean McDonough on the call. Not officially a Big Monday tilt, but the Big Monday team will be in the house.
Here are a collection of Raftery's finest sayings from last year's Big East tournament. Latest chance to scratch off bucket list "hearing Raf make an Onions call live." I'll only be three seats down tonight, so crossing the fingers on the way in.
Let's eat ...
--- Tough home loss to St. John's on Saturday. That team continues to give UC fits. Some of the most frustrating losses of the Mick's UC revival have come at the hands of the Johnnies. The Rashad Bishop last second turnover heave came at STJ. The lane violation game, the buzzer tip in last year and the one-point loss Saturday.
Not going to rehash it, if you want to please read Ashley Davis' take from the blog this weekend. She looks at what Mick felt the team needed to work on going forward.
Also, Scott from Bearcats Blog did a nice job analyzing some of the offensive issues.
--- Bill Koch writes about Cronin's message as well: Choose to be great.
--- One element to her piece I wanted to expound on was the shooting woes of Sean Kilpatrick lately. Mick went forward talking about how the last thing he's worried about is SK's offense. I can say I live in that same boat. Of all those to worry about, he's not one. Shooting percentages fluctuate but the water typically rises to about the same level.
I took a look at his advanced stats compared to previous years and saw only a few major differences that can help explain the biggest difference, which is his dip in 3-point percentage from 37.6 last season to currently 32.7 percent.
Most of his dip came from a recent slide since the Marshall game where he's made just 11 of 47 from deep for 23.4 percent. As rare an event as we've seen since SK showed up in Cincy.
An argument I've heard is that SK needs to attack more. Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows that used to be a constant topic of conversation. He's actually doing a better job of attacking the basket vs. shooting 3s this year.
Last season he shot 245 3-pointers to 187 2-pointers.
This season he's shot 104 3-pointers to 114 2-pointers. He's actually dribbling in and attacking more than last year. Also, his FT rate has jumped significantly (with much help from 16 for 16 against Iowa State). He's done a better job of drawing contact.
Outside of the fact shooting slumps happen, one of the biggest differences would probably be the Bearcats low assist rate as a team. They rank 231st in the country in percentage of points that were assisted. There's a lot of 1-on-1 and, typically, when the shot clock gets low and 1-on-1 time comes, the ball funnels to SK to make something happen. Hence, a high number of contested 3-pointers as teams now guard him much closer to force him to attack the basket.
Remember, his reputation arriving at UC was as a slasher. Since his emergence as an offensive star last year the scouting report changed, we are partially seeing a residual of that in his numbers.
--- I'd also like to point out I fully expect a hot streak to offset this cold streak and when it comes UC will be as tough to beat as any team in the country with the way they play defense. This defense now ranks third nationally in efficiency.
--- Taking a look at Notre Dame tonight, this will be UC's toughest test to date.
Consider: Since losing to St. Joe's on Nov. 16 for their sole loss of the season, the Irish beat every team they've faced (11-0) by double figures. That includes BYU, Kentucky, Purdue, Seton Hall.
They have been steamrolling folks.
--- They do a fantastic job on offense of moving the ball, working from inside-out with intimidating bigs. Jack Cooley leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and is as beastly scoring down low as any player in the conference. He's had at least 14 points and 8 rebounds in every game except for one this year.
Cheikh Mbodj, Justin Jackson and David Nyarsuk will have their hands full attempting to keep ND off the glass. Keep an eye on OR% tonight. If UC can keep ND under 35 percent that would be a big win.
"We better become a really good defensive team again and a really good rebounding team or we will be in trouble Monday night," Cronin said.
--- How about Cashmere Wright. He's become UC's most efficient offensive scorers and doing a much better job of finding the balance between assists, scoring and not turning the ball over. That's a hard transition to make to go from primarily a facilitator to primarily a scorer. His more aggressive offensive style endured some growing pains with turnovers earlier in the season, but is flowering lately.
He hasn't committed more than two turnovers in a game since Dec. 6. Also, he's 23 of 47 from 3-point range over his last seven games (49 percent).
This ESPN story called him one of the most underrated players in the country. No doubt.
--- Shout out to my #unigeek crowd. Here's a look at the special Adidas Blackout Uniforms UC will be sporting tonight against ND.
--- After tonight's game President Ono will be shaving his head to pay up on a bet when he said he would do it, ala Marty Brennaman, if the football or basketball team won 10 straight games. It's clipper time tonight. Proceeds will go to the DragonFly Foundation and you can donate while at the game or through text. All your details are here. Please think about donating to this fantastic cause.
--- Not that UC is worried about the luster of beating Pitt, but the Panthers losing at Rutgers didn't help. Of course, UC needs to go to Rutgers on Saturday. The RAC is a tough spot to play, especially against this gritty, veteran team. That will be no fun.
--- Still wondering how D'angelo Harrison's heave found net.
--- Some randomness ...
--- Few things boil the blood quite like a ketchup confrontation, apparently.
--- UC fans should keep their head up after Saturday, hey, you could be North Carolina. Yikes.
--- Not sure why Alf would be a Redskins fan, but they must have only been able to tune in to Washington from planet Melmac (kids, ask your parents).
--- Arcade Fire with a new album coming out. I'm in.
--- Don't know if any of you took my recommendation and watched Jerry Seinfeld's web series "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," but it's coming back for a second season. Watch it, you'll like it.
--- Bill Cosby and Tempsett Bledsoe reunited on Jimmy Fallon. Wonder if Cos is still mad about The Wretched concert.
--- What if the NHL lockout ended and nobody even knew. Congrats, NHL, you've managed to somehow make yourself even more irrelevant.
--- Remember, 6:30 tip tonight, wear black, rebound. See you there. Here's Johnny.