Going to keep this to three primary points this Friday and let you all get on with your day. Reminder for the weekend: UC hosts Pittsburgh at 6 p.m. on Saturday, it's a white out for those of you concerned with color coordination.
Let's eat ...
Point 1 -- Met with Mick Cronin yesterday and, not shockingly, the conversation of offense came up. There no secret that the offensive efficiency of the Bearcats will decide how far they go. Of late, the concern has been an over-reliance on Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright. In the process, Wright has struggled since returning from his sprained knee.
The last four games, he's topped six points only once (17 vs. Seton Hall) and had nine turnovers with nine assists. Far from the same Cash we saw in the two weeks leading up to his injury where he essentially carried the team on his back. Wright is one tough amigo and is obviously playing through some issues right now, likely both physical and mental.
He needs to play better, sure, but he's far from alone. UC just doens't shoot a good enough percentage from the field right now. They've topped 37.5 percent from the field only once in the last seven games. For Cronin, he believes that problem stems from passing.
In the last five games the Bearcats have notched more assists than turnovers only one time.
"Shooting percentage to me is a direct reflection of passing," Cronin said. "That's been a struggle for us all year. The last five games our leading assist total guys are Justin Jackson, Titus Rubles and then JaQuon Parker. We have got to do a better job of doing things to get each other open. Whether it is the screen or the pass and understanding the importance of that and not relying on guys to save the day. That really reared its head on us (Wednesday) and has really been our Achilles heel."
The latest talking point revolved around SK and Cash trusting their teammates and not trying to be heroes. That was most evident in the final play Wednesday with Kilpatrick attempting to draw a foul against a double team instead of passing off for a teammate. It's a matter of believing that other players can score and setting them up more often to do so with the pass.
"You got two guys on you, if you are being pressured 20 feet from the rim and there is a guy open tbree feet from the rim, we got to get that guy the ball," Cronin said. "We've all struggled with that. No doubt about it. Too much dribbling -- sideways, too. Too much screening not enough passing."
Bill Koch similarly wrote on this topic today as well, if you'd like to read more.
Point 2 -- Teams lose. It happens. While addressing concerns is necessary and a bigger picture must involve improving offensive efficiency, take a look around college basketball.
Kansas falls against TCU. Florida lost at Arkansas. Indiana beaten at previously struggling Illinois. That's just in the last few days.
Lose a game, particularly in the fashion UC did and the national types love to bail. It's happened before and is happening again. Just take a look at the ESPN Power Rankings with UC all way down at No. 8. Surviving the attrition of the season will tell the ultimate story.
"At the end of the day if could call Bill Self and we could figure out how to make sure our teams don't have a bad night (it would) be a magic formula," Cronin said. "I could just be a coaching consultant. And then I'd be able to sleep. So, you never know. As a coach you are kidding yourself if you think you can win every game and always play well."
All that said, the Bearcats could certainly use a strong showing and victory against a quality PIttsburgh team on Saturday. The Panthers have won seven of their last nine and the only losses came against Marquette in OT and at Louisville. Plus, considering UC went into their building and ran away with a second-half surge for the victory to open Big East play, expectations are they will be coming in hot.
"They feel they should have won the game and we outrebounded them in the second half of that game," Cronin said. "I'm sure they are going to come in here ready to play. In fact, I would bet my career on it."
Pittsburgh Tribune points out how much J.J. Moore has improved since the first UC game.
Point 3 -- James White will be in the NBA Dunk contest next weekend. This is awesome on so many levels. White's been dominating dunk contests since he was in high school and even with his team overseas. Watching White sky was one of the greatest aspects of Bearcats basketball in the early 2000s.
With Gerald Green back, the competition will be tough, but once the patented free-throw line, through the legs dunk breaks out it should be goodnight. Funny thing is Green and White actually squared off in a dunk contest before -- Russia 2010 (last video below). You know, where all great dunk contests take place.
Of course, that only means we have to break out the White dunk highlight package. And there's a few of them.