Another tough loss for the Bearcats last night. The frustration could be felt in the voice of Mick Cronin in the 700WLW postgame show with Dan and Chuck. Here is the interview. Mick typically does a good job staying analytic after games and breaking down the reasons for a win or loss while the temperature of the team and it's effort.
Yet, after another game where the buckets didn't come in the final five minutes, he couldn't help but vent over the concerning trend as four games remain in the regular season.
"Right now, we just don't know how to win," he said. "There is poor decisions and
dumb plays right now that are costing us games. There's just no way
around it. It erases all the good they we're doing."
This time, it was a six-point lead with 4:21 left that wilted away to force overtime. From that point forward the Cats were 1 of 5 with two turnovers. The recurring trend is the stem of the frustration for the coach whose now seen nearly every lose come in this heartbreaking fashion.
Take a look at each of the Bearcats losses, finding a way to close out a higher percentage of the games is the biggest difference between average and upper tier in the Big East.
Vs. New Mexico (55-54): Led by 1 with 2:47 left
Vs. St. John's (53-52): Led by 1 with 56 seconds left
Vs. Notre Dame (66-60): Tie game with 8:43 left
@Syracuse (57-55): Led by 6 with 3:47 left
@Providence (54-50): Down by 1 with 3:25 left.
Vs. Pittsburgh (62-52): Led by 1 with 4:55 left
Vs. Georgetown (62-55): Led by 1 with 6:25 left
@ UConn (73-66 OT): Led by 6 with 4:21 left
Much of the conversation I hear about this concept is that the final minutes is about whose stars show up. For UC, that means Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick. Since Wright's injury in particular, production from those stars has been inconsistent.
Thursday's game served as the perfect example. The Bearcats offense looked like a completely different group in the first half and really through the first 35 minutes of the game. JaQuon Parker took over as the third weapon UConn couldn't account for and the team's passing, shot selection looked as good as it had all season.
The struggles in the final minutes to recapture that magic leaves the bitter taste in all of these defeats. Particularly from a team battling with maximum effort every step of the way.
"It's just frustrating right now because
we got to win games and we got a chance to be a good team," Cronin said. "We
continually shoot ourselves in the foot ... it erases all the good they are doing."
The good news is, there is still time to figure it out. The bad news is, that time is running out.
Let's eat ...
--- Like any team that has lost four of five as the Bearcats have, they are trending in the wrong direction when it comes to the NCAA tournament. But the contention that this team is in danger of missing the tournament right now is false.
First, all those siting RPI number (UC currently 44) need to remember it's a completely flawed metric and the committee is increasinly aware of that and only uses it as a small measure of the team's spot on the S-curve. All the advanced metrics are considered.
Take a look at UC's rankings in those:
ESPN BPI: 24
Those are not the numbers of a team on the brink of missing the tournament. Are they a lock right now? No. But in as open of a field as we've seen in recent memory, very few are. The Bearcats are not in danger of missing the dance yet, so please stop with all the NIT stuff I've seen from the knee-jerk reactionaries after these losses.
--- Speaking of, I saw people actually tweeting that late-season spirals should be Cronin's trademark? Let's not let one rough patch erase all memory. Remember, this team won four of its last five each of the last two seasons, won three games in the NCAA tournament and advanced to the Big East tournament championship for the first time ever last year.
Just a daily reminder to keep some perspective amid the frustration.
--- JaQuon Parker since making a conscious effort to become the player to pick up the scoring slack continues to do just that. He's now averaging 16.3 points over the last three games. He finishes at the basket far and away better than anybody on the team.
I am flabbergasted as to how he doesn't get more calls scoring around the rim. Seems like 50 percent of his layups he's pounded to the ground without a whistle.