The time has come again to dip into the mailblog and answer the questions all you loyal readers have been firing at me. Following a weekend where Syracuse and Louisville both lost and Villanova shoots up the charts, I may have more questions than answers, but I'll do my best to shed any light on situations possible.
Of course, no topic is off limits and for a Monday morning, I'm especially amped to attack the day. I feel a little by like Marshall Henderson after hitting two game-winning free throws for Ole Miss against Auburn and then creating a gif that almost broke the Internet thanks to Twitter and Jeff Borzello's detailed breakdown of the top comedic players.
Want to remind everyone you can shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter at @pauldehnerjr and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Shoot any questions you can think of, including why do you include so many cat videos in your blog? Spoiler alert on the answer: Because I can.
Regardless, I'm ready like the entire Miami team going WoJo against assistant coach WoJo and Duke slapping the floor. Let's do this.
From Kyle W.: Big fan here! I was wondering if or when ESPN will decide who gets the College Gameday game on February 9th? I know it was between us vs. Pitt and ND vs. UoL(I think). But that's almost two weeks away and I haven't heard anything?
Kyle, ESPN announced two days ago they will be heading to Notre Dame on Feb. 9. The UC game time has been set for 6 p.m. on Saturday against Pitt at Fifth Third Arena. Like yourself, I think everyone would have loved having Gameday at UC, but without Pitt being ranked right now and UC still at the back end of the Top 25 it was difficult to deny the Irish/Cards matchup. Louisville has been a national storyline all season and they will always side with a top 5/10 team in these situations. I thought there was a chance with Pitt rising and Notre Dame plummeting the decision could change, but the Cardinals held the day.
As for that Pitt game, should be one of the best home games of the season. My boy KenPom and his efficiency ratings have been high on Pitt all year despite a soft non-conference schedule. He ranks them as the No. 8 team in the country right now. And if you look at the ESPN BPI, UC and Pitt are right next to each other at 14 and 15. They've now won four in a row, granted, through an easier run of their schedule (Nova, UConn, Providence, DePaul). We'll know more this week as they go to Louisville tonight and host Syracuse on Saturday. Thinking Jamie Dixon should place a call to Jay Wright at Villanova on how to handle that two step.
From Kyle: The halftime adjustments by the Cats this year have really been a thing of beauty and my hat goes off to Mick for the way he handles this team. He never seems overly panicked even though you can always see his enthusiasm and desire for growth as a team with each game played. I'm intrigued by his public mention of going about "the process" and how he has learned from the best including the more than credible Nick Saban (collegiate successes as his credibility, the NFL not considered) who clearly has mastered this approach ... I feel like Cronin does a great job staying the course.
Kyle, let me say from a scribe point of view, thank goodness Mick doesn't follow the Sabanator in every way of his approach. Whether it be Saban berating the media here for too much positive coverage of Alabama or just general ability to chill a room.
You are referring to Saban's take on the "process," and the coach explained it here.
"Well, the process is really what you have to do day in and day out to be successful," he said. "We try to define the standard that we want everybody to sort of by CouponDropDown">work toward, adhere to, and do it on a consistent basis. And the things that I talked about before, being responsible for your own self-determination, having a positive attitude, having great work ethic, having discipline to be able to execute on a consistent basis, whatever it is you're trying to do, those are the things that we try to focus on, and we don't try to focus as much on the outcomes as we do on being all that you can be. Eliminate the clutter and all the things that are going on outside and focus on the things that you can control with how you sort of go about and take care of your business. That's something that's ongoing, and it can never change."
I wasn't familiar with Mick referencing Saban's theory, but he obviously employs it. I've written about this a few times and believe it's one of the reasons Mick has done so well in rebuilding the program. He understand the roller-coaster of the Big East and knows the biggest key to improving as the season goes along is eliminate any of the outside forces influence on the locker room -- especially praise -- in keeping the team thinking about getting better every day instead of dragging after losses or pounding their chest after wins.
That's why outside of disappointment in what could have been, UC needed to focus on how well they played in having Cuse on the ropes last week rather than what occurred in the final two minutes. This team has pulled out too many games late to think that the blown lead was any kind of trend that they don't know how to put teams away. Quite the opposite when you look at some of their biggest wins this year (Marquette, Alabama, Pittsburgh) they've made big shots down the stretch to earn the win or pull away.
Point being, he does a great job of teaching perspective. He talked about how he coached like they were losing when he didn't think the team played well despite an undefeated record in December. And he talked about being happy despite defeat against ND and Syracuse. Winning is necessary, but in the long road of the Big East avoiding micro for macro view trumps it. Nobody knows that better than Mick.
From Jack M.: When you look at what has happened to Boston College, and very recently West Virginia and Missouri, I think teams (apparently not Rutgers) will think twice about committing to geographically challenged conferences. The BEast will not survive with its current makeup - for mostly geographical/rivalry reasons. No teams currently being speculated as going to the B1G will thrive, except in their bank accounts.
I frankly think the BEast and ACC should have considered and marketed their basketball value years ago, but ESPN, etc., have been able to turn all of the conversation/justifiocation to football. If this doesn't happen, I think the ACC will surely lose out to the SEC, after being raided by the Big 10 or 12. The BEast is already gone, leaving the northeast as a college sports wasteland. I'd appreciate your thoughts.
Jack, many would argue thanks to realignment all of the country has turned into a college sports wasteland. Yet, I digress. Everyone wants to talk about conference realignment and understandably so, it's the biggest issue hovering over UC athletics and in turn the entire university right now. You talked about no teams being mentioned to the B1G will thrive, except in their bank accounts. Are there any other places anyone cares about thriving these days? Unfortunately, for those of us who care about what happens on the field instead of in the pocketbooks, that's how all success in the current situation is measured. It drives every single move and don't kid yourself if you hear any other reason. That's the landscape created.
One fact we know: Realignment is not over. Most are sitting back waiting to see what becomes of the Maryland lawsuit to avoid some/all of the $52 million exit fee. When that settles expect the next domino to fall. When/where that will be, nobody knows. And anybody who says they do hasn't followed the illogical, surprise moves we've seen every step of the realignment way.
At some point somebody will need another program for their conference, very possibly the ACC. UC will be the top free agent on the market waiting with open arms and proactive administration. I know preaching patience is about as popular as preaching the Wing-T, but it's necessary here. Let this all play out before anybody thinks they'll be taking road trips to Tulane and Tulsa every year.
From Jux: I know most of the fans are older - and then we have the student sections and the top of the arena is rarely filled. But man, it just seems so quiet in there.. like the fans wait for something to happen first.. and then once UC starts struggling, you hear groans and it just adds to the pressure...Am I off base here?
Possible solutions? What about doing some sort of program with local area high schools where they set aside some tickets for the upper area and allow the kids to buy them for a couple bucks and encourage them to be loud at the games?
Jux, thanks for the email and ideas. I've heard this thought before and actually delved into it Friday on the blog. You can read those thoughts on the rising attendance here. As far as it being quiet in there, I can only say from my spot on press row by the court I disagree with you. Is it the level of Hinkle or Cameron? No. Few are. When these games have gone down to the wire lately (I'm beginning to think there is a mandate all 5/3 games require buzzer-beater attempts) the place has been rocking the final 5-10 minutes.
Bottom line on the top levels, attendance is up 26.7 percent. They'd like that number to rise even more, but significant progress has been made there.
As far as energy goes, that falls on the student section and this has been one of the best years for the student section since I have been covering UC. The loyalty program and 179 percent rise in attendance has really upped the decibel level.
You mentioned an ideas for tickets, I can only say the marketing department at UC comes up with more creative ticket packages, particularly of the affordable variety, of any I've been around. If you swing by this site even periodically you know that. I'd like to see the lower levels more consistently filled as would the administration, but trust me they are working on that as well and there will be details about a way to help make that happen coming very soon. I'll have that for you when it's released.
From Matt: Enjoyed reading about Shaq's background in your article. I noticed you said his sister has to follow the games on game tracker because of her location. I spent the past year working as an architect in the middle east (Doha, Qatar) and used espnplayer.com to watch all the bearcat football and basketball games. Its only available oversees. Please pass this along to Shaq so he can inform his sister.
Great info, Matt. Thanks for the tip. Also, if you don't already have it, the ESPNWatch app is a must have for UC fans. All the games on ESPN3, which is a good majority of them, can be watched live on your mobile device or tablet through that depending on your Internet provider. Also, you can go to ESPN3.com and watch replays of any game they had on their network. I love going back and rewatching the ends of these close UC games and seeing in detail what went right/wrong or checking out portions of other games that I missed during the day.
From Linda: What do we know about the recruits, there seems to be a lot of movement going on there?
I can't talk about recruits here until they officially sign a letter of intent. So, officially, no comment. However, Signing Day is only 11 days away and all your delicious, recruiting tastes can be quenced. UC is holding a Signing Day Dinner event in conjunction with the 1200 Club and UCATS. Here are all the details where you can hear all your heart desires about the next generation of Bearcats.
From Kevin: is the UC football coaching staff finalized? Kaufman now off list and still no OL or TE coaches listed?
The list of coaches can be found here and, yes, three are missing. I can assure you they are in the house, but they are grinding through some paperwork in becoming official. The NCAA makes life a joy in situations like this. No worries that they won't be on staff, just for now they haven't officially been announced until the paperwork all goes through.
Here are the current coaches officially on staff:
HC Tommy Tuberville, OC Eddie Gran, Associate HC/DEs Robert Prunty, Passing Game/QBs Darin Hinshaw, DBs John Lovett, WRs Blake Rolan, DL Fred Tate, Strength/Conditioning Joe Walker.
From Doug: Did I miss the story on the "300" carving in Rubles hair? Good bowler? Movie buff?
Doug, I can only say this is at the top of my priority list when it comes to unanswered questions. If you know anything about this blog it's that oddities in facial hair and general appearance among UC athletes is my wheelhouse. I don't know at this point, but I will have it for you soon and announce it to the world. In fact, some grander ideas are being kicked around. Stay tuned. That's all I'll say.
Thanks again to everyone for reading and engaging. Love all the emails and Tweets I receive and look forward to seeing more are the road to March draws closer. Only 48 days until Selection Sunday.