Bearcats Breakfast 2.7.13

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The Bearcats were caught in the ultimate trap game Wednesday night. A team that's played well on the road all year concluding a stretch of three winnable games in which they found a way to grind out the first two. A Saturday game against Pittsburgh becoming a bigger tilt by the day. Facing a team coming off a big win and looking to show off at home.

UC got caught in the 54-50 loss to PC. They played poorly and nobody on the coaching staff would claim otherwise after the game whether it be assistant coach Larry Davis speaking with Dan Hoard and Chuck Machock on 700WLW or Mick Cronin with Bill Koch and the rest of the media after.

ShaqT.jpgSo often these first-half offensive funks have put UC in a hole, but they charge out of it to pull off the win. I documented that in detail here on Friday. The struggle cost them Wednesday.

The culprit continues to be an offense that has struggled to find consistency. As March begins to draw closer, the urgency to find an answer grows.

Of course, everyone will forget about this loss and be back on the bandwagon should UC take down Pitt Saturday at 6 p.m. at Fifth Third. That's life in the rough and tumble Big East.

Let's eat ...

--- Cronin said before the game Wednesday he thought his team needed to score 70 points to win the game. In actuality, as consistent as the defense has been this season, the line of demarcation between win and loss stands at 60. If they can find a way to top 60 points, they will rarely lose. Easier said than done, obviously, as UC has only topped 60 points six of the 10 conference games.

  • Scored 61+: 6-0
  • Scored 60 or less: 0-4

No secret there, right? Score more points you win. It only goes to show how close UC is from winning almost every game it's played in. The defense has done the job most every night no matter the style or opponent. Improving offensive efficiency even minimally would seem to be enough to take the Cats to the next level.

Should there be any reason to expect that happening? Well, yeah, actually. It happened last year. Take a look at the average point totals dividing conference play in half last season.

  • First 9 games: 65.3
  • Last 9 games: 68.9
Much of the 3.5-point differential came from the offensive ascension of Yancy Gates down the stretch. The challenge will be to find who will be this year's Gates that puts a run together to lift the scoring. The year before that, the Bearcats found something defensively in the second half of the conference season. Here were their defensive points allowed for the conference season in 2010-11.

  • First 10 games: 62.8
  • Last 8 games: 59.3
Yet another 3.5-point swing, this time on the defensive end. Think about it, UC has lost five games this year by a total of 14 points. Only Notre Dame kept them from a shot in the final seconds. For this team to reach its lofty goals, some improvement needs to happen down the stretch. The good news being, the last two years it has done exactly that.

--- On the bright side last night, more quality minutes from Shaq Thomas. He'll probably remember the layup he missed that would have tied the game in the final minute, but he played well and kept UC within striking distance. He finished with 6 points, 4 rebounds (2 offensive), one block and one steal in 16 minutes.

The steal was a critical pick-pocket under the basket for a layup in the final minutes.

Many nights Thomas can't stay on the court, but when he does he always leaves you wanting more. And you have to love his aggression in taking a big shot driving to the bucket at the end of the game. The Bearcats have to hope the miss doesn't suppress any of the confidence he played with.

--- In case anybody was bumming wondering how UC lost to 11-11 Providence, take a look at No. 8 in the RPI Kansas losing to No. 279 in the RPI and winless in Big 12 play TCU last night. The Horned Frogs were 270 spots below Kansas in KenPom's numbers. Crazy stuff. Upsets happen, especially this year in college hoops.

On Twitter after the game last night a follower was talking about how this loss could hurt in March. Yeah, maybe in seeding, but really it doesn't. This tournament will be as wide open as any in recent memory with no great teams. The more the season goes on the more we realize seeds will be less and less important. Whoever gets hot will be very capable of beating the team across from them whether a 2 seed or an 11 seed and everything in-between.

Many years you can't say that.

--- Rob Dauster at NBC Sports writes about how Providence is no longer a pushover. Remember that name, by the way, I'll be having Rob on the podcast which should be up later today. You should remember him from the Ballin' Is A Habit Tour last year where we recorded a podcast as he and his partner in basketball crime Troy Machir downed Montgomery Inn ribs for the first time.

--- Rush the Court with their thoughts on the UC offense.

--- Luke Winn's Power Rankings in the Florida section include an excellent look at 3-point reliance on offense and success in the NCAA tournament. UC isn't quite shooting 41 percent of their shots from deep on the season, but they are actually shooting 42.1 percent of their shots from 3-point range in conference play. It leads the league. Winning six games in March shooting that many shots from deep has proven to be a difficult proposition over the last five years.

He also breaks out Cheikh Mbodj Twitter trivia with UC at No. 16.

--- Thankfully no Bearcats fans are making videos like this guy whose coined the Cooley World Order for Providence.

--- Hope everyone flipped over to Signing Day Central on the main site at some point yesterday. Tommy G and the crew had all the goods for you on the 22-player signing class of Tommy T.

Highlight videos, bios, coach interviews and much more. Fantastic stuff as always.

--- In case you missed it, I had a couple of Signing Day posts yesterday. The first listing the top six most underrated Signing Day Bearcats in the last six years. Almost all of UC's best players were afterthoughts on NSD.

Also, talked about the crazy month and a half finally calming down for Tommy Tuberville.

--- The NFL Combine invitee list was officially released with four Bearcats headed to Indy: DE Walter Stewart,TE Travis Kelce, RB George Winn and WR Kenbrell Thompkins.

I have a hunch KT could be this year's Adrien Robinson who comes from off the radar to a draft pick.

Randomness ...

--- Toledo hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Miami by one. Cool enough, then consider the shot was made by a freshman center for his first triple of the year. Sidenote: Only thing missing from the analyst reaction was a Boom Goes the Dynamite.

--- Have to admire the plumage on the mullet of Coyotes goalie Mike Smith.

--- I would have had to leave the room if I was on the jury when this guy's eye popped out.

--- When you watch a victory parade, isn't the best case scenario of entertainment somebody falling off a float unharmed? Thank you, Ray Rice.

--- I only wish I was at this Signing Day ceremony, so I could have yelled the phrase, "mother on the lam!"

--- That story inspires some old school LL Cool J.

I want to hear from you! Shoot me any comments, questions or whatever else you got to or hit me up on Twitter at @pauldehnerjr. Have a great day everybody.

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