Brendon Kay has already earned a bachelor's degree
in health education and is working toward a master's degree in business
education.But right now, the Bearcat
quarterback is also studying a foreign language - as in the offense of new head
coach Tommy Tuberville.
"We're teaching them a different language on offense
and defense and when you do that, you have to start from ground zero and work
up," said Tuberville.
"You've got to live it," Kay told me."You've got to be in the office and the film
room.Before you go to bed, you've got
to study and get this terminology down because you're learning a new language."
But the changes on offense aren't strictly limited
"The plays are a little bit different too," said
offensive coordinator Eddie Gran."We're
more of a pro-style, multiple set - but there is a lot of carryover.They have to learn the terminology and understand
where we're coming from and where we're trying to go offensively."
"We've kept as much in common with the past offense
as we could, but obviously there are a lot of different things," said
Tuberville."So when you change just one
or two things it throws everything into a spin."
Tuberville said he was pleased with how the offense
functioned at UC's first spring practice on Friday, and added that it is helpful
to have experienced quarterbacks in Kay and Munchie Legaux.
"You couldn't ask for two better guys," said
Tuberville."They come to my office and
talk, and they ask about the quarterbacks that I've coached before and what
they can learn from their experiences.
"I've had fun talking to both of them about life,
and football, and leadership, and little things that can help them be better."
After starting the final five games last season and
passing for 332 yards and 4 touchdowns to earn MVP honors in the Belk Bowl victory over Duke, Kay
is the odd-on favorite to be the starting quarterback next season, although
Legaux will be given the opportunity to win his old job back.
"It feels good, but at the same time, I have to go
out and compete every day," said Kay."The
big thing about competition is that it keeps you on your toes.You have to stay ready and can never
relax.That's going to help me and
Munchie get better."
Kay didn't know that he would be on the team this
year until December 17th when he was granted a sixth year of eligibility
by the NCAA after suffering multiple injuries that limited his participation in
2008 and 2011.
"I got the news during our bowl prep," said Kay.I talked to (trainer) Bob Mangine beforehand
and he was pretty sure that I would get it.Then (compliance director) Maggie McKinley came down and gave me the
news.I gave her a big hug, celebrated a
little bit, and then told my family.Everything
happens for a reason, and God has a plan for everything."
"He's a sixth-year senior and he's a guy that has all
of the leadership qualities," said Gran."I'm excited about how he comes in and wants to learn.When we first started with him we had to say,
'Hold on, hold on...we still have to install.'I'm excited about it because the guys at that position have bought in to
what we're trying to do."
It's only a matter of time before they're speaking
the same language.
Over the course of time, the perception of UC football has changed dramatically.
Several years ago, if I mentioned I was coming to UC football spring practice, I might have been asked, "Why?", or "I didn't know they had spring practice."
This March 1, a full media contingent was on hand. There were possibly more total media in the Sheakley Athletic Center (a/k/a "The Bubble") for the opening of practice than there have been at some spring games/Bearcat Bowls in the past.
A high profile coach and a few bowl wins will do that.
Today, I get to show you some of the fancy formal training the Gannett folks have put us through. We now shoot videos, voice them and edit them on our phones. This little number was put together in my car in the Corry Garage.
Here's a brief look at today's practice. I will have some more interview-type videos, etc. and I'm no match for young Video Shane and company, but this is mildly tolerable for a guy that used to bang out quite a bit of his work on an IBM Selectric.
Nearly important as breaking down film at this point in the season is breaking down the exterior pressures building on college athletes grinding out spots in the NCAA tournament. For few teams right now is this more important than the Cincinnati Bearcats.
CINCINNATI -- This time of year, as bracketologists construct the hopes and dreams of 20-year-olds on a weekly basis and plaster successes and failures on the Internet for a thirsty public to judge, coaches and players search for any means necessary to rise above the noise.
At Minnesota, Tubby Smith called in a sports psychologist as they spiraled from No. 8 in the country to losing eight of the next 11. At Illinois, John Groce banned Twitter attempting cut off detractors while losing six of seven. At Kentucky, where John Calipari's latest collection of future NBA All-Stars cascaded from defending champs to outside The Dance, Cal called for a game of dodgeball to lighten the mood.
Mick Cronin desired to keep the atmosphere light and the pressure lighter this week on a Bearcats team attempting to regain form prior to losing five of six. Although, he didn't bring in a sports psychologist or dial up a game of dodgeball. Self-promoting gimmicks don't fall in his wheelhouse.
"I've never seen either one of those," Cronin said. "I think people believe in different things ... I have the job that I want in my career, so, I don't feel a need to promote myself. It's just really not the way I operate to brag about 'look at this genius thing I came up with to do in practice.' So, we kind of do what we do and keep it quiet."
Maybe he's never been around a coach whose broken out those unorthodox motivational ploys -- not saying he doesn't wonder how they might have unfolded.
"I'd have liked to seen dodgeball in '97 with Danny Fortson with a chance to throw the ball at Huggs, that would have been interesting," Cronin said of his former boss Bob Huggins. "I'd have made sure that I was on Fortson's team."
Dodgeball and shrinks were dismissed for intermixed games and laughter this week. It's that time of year for all teams in college basketball where the focus on mental begins to outweigh strategy -- for no team more right now than the struggling Bearcats. Cronin uses a mixture of analysis and prep, while attempting to insulate his players as much as possible from negativity that creeps up during a rough stretch in the rugged Big East.
In the end, however, the players must be the ones to keep their minds straight and play free. Playing with the weight of an NCAA tournament bid blanketing the body doesn't make hitting a jump shot any easier. Actually, it makes it nearly impossible. Even the fans play a significant role in molding the mental state of a team chasing a sweat-free Selection Sunday. When offensive shooting and struggles come at a premium, any backlash from the home base only exacerbates the fragile mental state of a team already dealing with dozens of exterior pressures.
"If you are coming Saturday, please help me," Cronin said, pleading. "We have to make sure our guys are worried about one thing, that's defense. We can't control whether shots go in. Most teams make one out of two, on a bad night you make one out of three, but you can control your effort and your energy and your hustle. That's what we have to make sure that we do and we don't need to have a nervous breakdown or the crowd have a nervous breakdown any time we miss a shot."
If ever calm nerves and leadership fall onto seniors Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker, now is the moment.
"Us, as the core, we are kind of old," Wright said. "We really don't, the pressure, we just got to stay mentally together. Everybody got to realize that and be on the same page and get back on the page of playing for each other like we was at the beginning of the year."
Nobody understands the effect of an altered mental state more than Wright, whose averaging only eight points per game in the nine contests since his knee injury against DePaul. He believes his health has finally turned the corner. The key to becoming the dominant player he was prior to the Chicago trip is believing in the recovery process. He feels closer now than ever before.
"I'm getting better, I'm getting way better, physically, now it's the mental part," said said. "I realize [the difference between] thinking that you are OK and knowing everything will be all right once you move."
The quest to refuel confidence resumes Saturday at 2 p.m. at Fifth Third Arena against UConn, a team that delivered a brutal overtime blow to the psyche only nine days prior. Cronin said his team was devastated in the locker room following the loss. As whispers begin to grow regarding tournament standing, the devastation with each passing defeat becomes more and more difficult to brush under the rug.
Cronin preaches an important message to his players this week, whether this team won five of six or lost five of six, none of those results matter on the first day of the NCAA Tournament. Continue grinding out a way to get into The Big Dance and nobody will remember this valley in retrospect of the season in the same vein nobody remembers the regular-season peak of No. 2 seed Missouri who was upset by Norfolk State in the first round.
"A lot of it is staying mentally fresh, not doubt about it," Cronin said. "At the end of the day you got to get to March. You don't get to carry wins with you when you do get there ... It's an interesting world, college basketball."
We want to hear from you. Send me any comments, questions or your obscure motivational tactics to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
CINCINNATI -- As a freshman, UC third baseman Devin Wenzel spends most days adjusting to the high level of college baseball compared to Fleetwood Area High School in Pennsylvania. Maybe that's why when he hit his first collegiate home run Feb. 17 against Florida Atlantic, he described the moment precisely.
"Surreal," he said.
The UC baseball team started the season 1-5, but considering they boast 15 true freshmen on the roster and six of them in the starting lineup, including Wenzel, their youth just might be one cause for this slow start.
As the season opens the home portion of the schedule Friday for the first of three against New York Tech (4 p.m., Marge Schott Stadium), one of the ongoing adjustments for incoming freshmen will be the difference in pace at the college level.
"The speed of the game is so much different than what they're used to in high school," coach Brian Clearly said. "For every player, I would say, this is the first time in their baseball career they've had to actually show up and play with skill. Most of their success to this point in their career is due to the fact they're more talented than the guys that they're playing with and against."
Despite his team's slow start, Cleary is pleased with the way the collection of newbies are contributing early in the season.
"I think they're doing a great job," Cleary said. "That adjustment doesn't happen in the first game or the second game or the first weekend. It happens over a period of time."
Cleary compared the process to growing grass. Someone can water the grass, feed it, and do whatever they want to do to make it grow, but it's still going to take time.
"You can only speed the process so much," he said.
From playing both fall baseball and six games already this season, the freshmen also understand the step up from high school.
"It's night and day, definitely," Wenzel said. "Just the speed of the game, the quality of the pitching, [and] the way the game is played is so much more business-like."
Wenzell has been taking care of business as he's tied for the team lead in hits (6) and RBI (4). Classmate Colin Hawk leads the team with two doubles, but agrees finding his footing at the next level has been a process.
"The biggest adjustment I would have to say, for me, is just the speed of the game," Hawk said. "Everything moves so much faster, the pitchers throw harder, the runners are faster, more talented."
The Bearcats freshmen could be starting to make that adjustment to college pitchers. They beat Western Carolina 7-6 in 10 innings on Sunday for the first win of the season. The offense collected 10 hits altogether, with the freshmen collecting seven of those 10.
"I think all we have to do is just build our confidence," Hawk said. "And that confidence is key when it comes to hitting."
Cleary isn't too worried about the offense. Through six games this year they've belted four home runs, averaging .67 home runs per game. Last year, they only managed .41 home runs per game over the 18-38 season.
"I think we've got a fair balance of speed and power and I think we've got some guys in the lineup that can hit some home runs," he said.
After six straight games on the road, the team is eager to get back to Marge Schott Stadium and continue their offensive surge. They're looking for more than just a win against New York Tech on Friday night. These freshmen are interested in a few more "surreal" moments.
"I hope not only that we get a win on the home opener, but that we get a sweep and improve our record to 4-5," Hawk said.
We want to hear from you! Shoot any baseball-related questions, comments or observations to Ashley Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
When Sean Kilpatrick watched footage of Sunday's lopsided
loss at Notre Dame, he felt like he was watching the wrong guys in the Cincinnati
"It didn't look like us at all," Sean told me."It didn't even feel right.Honestly, it didn't even feel like I had a
Bearcat jersey on - it just felt like I had a shirt on."
The Bearcats only scored 41 points - their lowest total
in Mick Cronin's seven years as head coach - and JaQuon Parker was the only
Cincinnati player to finish in double digits with 12.Kilpatrick scored a season-low 6 points, and
Cashmere Wright failed to score for only the second time in his last 113 games.
"We've really played one bad game this year," said
Coach Cronin."Our three best players
average 41 points a game and they got 18.When that happens, you're going to be in trouble.
"We need to get our main guys healthy and playing
well because they're the answer.I get a
lot of questions about production from Cheikh Mbodj, or David Nyarsuk, or this
guy or that guy - we have to make sure that we're getting Cash, JaQuon, and SK
open and getting the ball where they can make plays for us.That's the answer.For every team in basketball - high school,
college, or pro - your best players have to play well or you're not going to
win.So that's my focus.I have to do everything that I can to help
them play well."
Kilpatrick's scoring ability is especially vital to
Cincinnati's success.Sean is averaging
19.4 points in the Bearcats' wins this year, but only 13.6 in their
losses.The junior guard is fourth in
the Big East in scoring at 17.6 per game, despite being the focal point of
every opponent's defensive scouting report.
"It can be frustrating but then again, I like it,"
said Kilpatrick."It's making me a
better player and it means that people respect me for what I do on the
court.But it's tough.It's one of the hardest things that I've ever
had to overcome because this is the highest level of basketball that I've ever
played and to have two or three guys guarding you is really difficult."
Despite the constant defensive harassment,
Kilpatrick has managed to deliver.This
week, Sean was named one of 30 candidates for the
2013 Naismith College Player of the Year award and ESPN's Jay Bilas selected
Kilpatrick among his six "most clutch players" in college basketball.
"That's a strong statement coming from someone like
him," Sean told me."I thank my team for
that because they put me in those types of situations where I have the ball at
the end of games. I just try to make the
right plays and whatever is open is open."
After dropping five of their last six games, the
Bearcats are desperately in need of a win on Saturday vs. UConn to solidify
their hold on a NCAA Tournament berth.But Kilpatrick says he is not the least bit concerned with "bubble"
"All we can control is what happens in the next game
and that's what we're focusing on," said Kilpatrick."We're not worrying about the tournament or
anything like that.
"We know exactly what we're capable of.When things aren't going right, a lot of
people aren't going to be behind us, but we have each other and that's the best
thing about this team."
Hopefully, we'll all recognize the guys in the
Cincinnati uniforms on Saturday.
So much going on Saturday at the Varsity Village will be hard to keep up. Here's all the details on the men's/women's basketball doubleheader and baseball game all happening in a span of four hours.
You can get into the baseball game for free with your basketball ticket. Baseball should be throwing out the first home pitch of the season as those leaving the men's game walk along the outfield wall. Hey, it's free, might as well stop in. Don't forget your blankies, though -- mid to high 30s.
Plenty coming tomorrow on the blog including a story on baseball, I'll be hanging with Tubs as spring practice opens and have plenty of reaction from today's basketball media availability with Mick. For today, though, the fodder bucket is a little low.
We shall see, but he's been fighting some pain lately. Of course, he looked pretty painless in OT against UC. Regardless of health, there will be plenty of attention paid to 'Bazz on Saturday considering his last two games against UC he's dropped 27 each time. As Mick said on 700WLW earlier this week, "he sees us coming."
2. Isaiah Pead in line for more opportunities in St. Louis. Talked briefly with my guy in the St. Louis media trying to figure what was going on with #BestPlayerOnTheField last year and he said that was a matter of being beat out by seventh-rounder Daryl Jackson early in the season and never could jump back ahead of him. But, expectations are for plenty more chances for Pead next year as Steven Jackson looks to be on his way out of town.
Running backs are the most difficult position to project from college to the NFL. They are so reliant on factors out of their control when it comes to success on both levels, you never know who will be a stud and who will be a dud.
The two I believed to be the most sure-fire RBs for NFL success I covered were Knowshon Moreno and Pead.
I haven't been proven completely wrong on both yet, but neither off to the start I expected. Heck, maybe it's me, which certainly isn't out of the question.
Hoping to have @iPead on the podcast some time this summer. Love to talk to him not just because his NFL experience has been fascinating to this point, but, well, I just love talking to the dude -- he's got personality oozing out his high-top fade. He's perfect for a long pod.
3. The transformation of this offense is my No. 1 storyline entering spring football. Talked to TommyT a little about this on signing day and he inferred the switch from spread to pro style won't be as drastic as one might think. Says they'll be "multiple" in what they do. And, really, when you think about it, the Bearcats were more pro style than spread by the end of last year anyway. TE Travis Kelce was always on the field and they were pounding a heavy-hitting RB behind a tough offensive line the majority of the time. Still, different personnel pieces are necessary for what OC Eddie Gran and Tuberville have in mind. Look for plenty more on that topic in the coming weeks.
--- Had a long debate about this song last night and it's been stuck in my head ever since. One of the all-time classics.
Enjoy the day everybody and shoot any questions, comments or opinions on "Let's Get It On" as one of the most beloved opening five seconds of an R&B song ever to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter at @pauldehnerjr.
It'll be a busy seven days for UC women's athletics as we wind down women's basketball and crank up women's lacrosse. In the middle, women's tennis is on a nice three out of four win streak as they take a break before they face Louisville in a BIG EAST matchup on March 9.
First, the week of goodbye as the women's basketball program as the Bearcats hold Senior Day on Saturday in a men's and women's basketball doubleheader at Fifth Third Arena. The Bearcats will face Rutgers having won three of their last four as well. It's the last home game of the season for the Bearcats as they say goodbye to senior Lesha Dunn. After a rough first half of the BIG EAST season, the Bearcats have found their rhythm toward the end of the regular season. Here's hoping that can carry them into the conference tournament in March. That thrilling win over Marquette at home a couple of weeks ago seems to have given this team new life.
By the way, the men's team plays UConn in the first half of Saturday's doubleheader. If you have tickets to the men's game you can stay for the women's game for free. Take a few minutes and hang around for the women's game, watch the newest member of the 900 win club, C. Vivian Stringer from Rutgers, and say thanks to Lesha Dunn.
The 'hello' in the headline refers to women's lacrosse, and new head coach Gina Oliver. She comes to Clifton with quite a pedigree, as a member of the US women's national team. The lax team is 1-1 so far this young season and will have its home opener next Tuesday, March 5. If you haven't taken in a lacrosse game, stop by for a few minutes. I think you'll really enjoy the game.
So it's goodbye to senior Lesha Dunn, hello to new head coach Gina Oliver and a deserved week's rest for the women's tennis team. Busy few days ahead so make plans to take in one (or more) games over the next few days.
The uni-geeks and sports fashion aficionados are all freaking out ready to go all Joan Rivers on the release of the new Adidas postseason jerseys. That includes UC who last year wore the infared jerseys during their postseason run along with Louisville and Baylor.
The release of these at UC are set for Thursday, the Adidas Twitter folks are releasing one small piece at a time depending on how many retweets they get.
I'm not sure how I feel about this, but my opinion could not mean less, nor should it. Do the players like it? The end. They are the only ones that have to deal with it. For instance, they love wearing the current bleed-out black jerseys because they are so light and fit well. Meanwhile, cranky scribes like myself and the eight people still without HD TV hate it because it makes it difficult to make out names/numbers from afar.
As for what these sleeve jerseys will look like, likely they'll be some variation of these Adidas McDonald's All-American Jerseys.
So, there's that. Expect for the full UC look on Thursday. Follow me on Twitter for photos from the unveiling (@pauldehnerjr).
Let's eat ...
--- Must start this post out with a warning: These numbers talk about Final Fours and national championships. I am in no way stating that UC will make it there, rather, pointing out their method of winning games is one that holds water in March.
I found some interesting stats and thought they were worth sharing and piggybacking to the next step which applies to the Bearcats and their specific style of basketball this year.
Jason Lisk at The Big Lead may love crunching basketball numbers more than I do, which is concerning for his personal life. He broke out an interesting look at predicting Final Four teams yesterday I found particularly relevant to the Bearcats.
It shows that one of the most sure-fire predictor of making the Final Four is KenPom's defensive efficiency ratings.
* 9 of 20 (45%) have been in Ken Pom's Top 5 for defensive efficiency * 16 of 20 (80%) have been in Ken Pom's Top 20 for defensive efficiency * 18 of 20 (90%) have been in Ken Pom's Top 30 for defensive efficiency
For the record, UC has ranked among the top 20 in defense all season and currently is stationed at 18th in the country.
This is not me standing on the mountaintop professing, "Book your tickets to Atlanta!" Not in the least.
Although, I will continue down this train by pointing out a conversation Ken Pomeroy himself had about what he believes to be the stat that most predicts success in the tournament and he specifically mentioned offensive rebounding percentage. Mainly because when trying to win consistently, handling poor shooting nights is imperative. Hence, defense and rebounding.
Take a look at the last five years and where the Final Four teams fell in offensive rebounding percentage:
Ohio State: 43
West Virginia: 2
Michigan State: 10
North Carolina: 21
Michigan State: 5
North Carolina: 1
The correlation in the numbers aren't as strong as defensive efficiency, particularly the last two years, but they sure aren't weak. Consider 55 percent of Final Four teams finished in the top 25 of offensive rebounding percentage. There are significant outliers, but clearly defense and rebounding is not a lost art in winning games in March.
--- Each of the last five national champs were in the Top 25 in both offensive rebounding percentage and defensive efficiency. Here's the list of Final Four teams in those categories:
2012 Kentucky (nat'l champ), 2011 UConn (nat'l champ), 2010 Duke (nat'l champ), 2010 West Virginia, 2009 North Carolina (nat'l champ), 2009 Michigan State, 2009 UConn, 2008 Kansas (nat'l champ), 2008 Memphis, 2008 UCLA, 2008, 2008 North Carolina.
So, knowing what we know now, kids, let's take a look at KenPom's stats this year and find out who is in the Top 25 in both offensive rebounding percentage and defensive efficiency:
If you believe what's happened over the last five years would happen again in the sixth year, there are your national championship contenders.
Want to reiterate here, I am in no way saying UC is going to win the national title or fans should be thinking along those lines right now, only pointing out that defense and rebounding are the key components to winning consecutive games in March.
--- Upon posting a few of those numbers on The Twitters yesterday, I was met back that I should look at the offensive efficiency numbers of past Final Four teams. Here are those:
Ohio State: 7
West Virginia: 11
Michigan State: 28
North Carolina: 1
Michigan State: 20
North Carolina: 1
Offensive rebounding is, obviously, a part of good offense, but yes, clearly you need to be efficient on offense to reach the Final Four.
Remarkable, however, the close connection between last year's Louisville team and this year's Bearcats. Louisville ranked 103rd in offense. The Bearcats are currently 103rd in offense. Last year's Louisville defense was the top defensive team in the nation, the Bearcats are 18th, but spent most of the season in the top 10. As I wrote earlier this week, Louisville also struggled mightily down the stretch last year, losing four of their final six before the Big East tournament.
Again, not saying UC will do what Louisville did, only the intriguing correlation between the two teams.
--- Sean Kilpatrick turning it up would also go a long way for UC to turning the negative momentum around. He's on the list of Top 30 candidates for the Naismith award for a reason, because he belongs there.
Before hurting his right knee against DePaul on
January 15th, Cashmere Wright was playing as well as any guard in
the Big East.
The senior from Savannah, Georgia had scored
20-or-more points in three of his previous four games and for the season was
averaging 15.1 points on 47% shooting - including 44% from 3-point range.
Since returning from the injury, Wright has been
mired in the worst shooting slump of his career, going 23-for-95 overall (24%)
and 12-for-60 (20%) from 3-point range, while averaging 8.0 points in nine
In Sunday's loss at Notre Dame, Wright did not
attempt a shot in the first half and finished the game 0-for-2 in 23 minutes.
"He's lost his confidence," said Mick Cronin on his weekly
radio show on Monday."If you go five,
six, seven games and shoot 20%, you would lose your confidence too.
"It's a mental thing and I have to do a good job of
making sure that his mind is in the right place.Internal pressure that players put on
themselves and external pressure that players feel from family, friends, and
fans - some let it affect them more than others.He's a sensitive kid and there's no doubt
that he lost his confidence."
So how does Cronin plan to help Wright get it
back?By reminding Cashmere that he
doesn't have to make every shot to help the Bearcats win.
"I have to do a better job of making sure that his
mind is on defense and leadership," said Cronin."He's got to lose himself in the game and
give us everything that he can with his steals.He's not the all-time leading scorer at Cincinnati.Or the all-time assists leader.But he is the all-time steals leader and he
can give us that.That's what he has to
focus us because if he doesn't give us that we're in trouble.
"My goal is to get him to realize that he did have a
great game (after the injury).He was
3-for-14 from the field in that game, but he had a great game.It was the Villanova game.He had 14 deflections and his energy and
defense inspired his team to get 46 deflections and beat a NCAA Tournament team
by 18 points."
Over the next month, Wright is almost certain to set
Cincinnati's all-time record for games played.After watching his senior point guard play through knee and shoulder
pain for much of his career, Cronin wants to see Cashmere relax and finish
"He's a conscientious kid who wants to play well,"
said Cronin."He's unlike me, because I
am oblivious to other people's opinion.If I have one gift, it's that I have tunnel vision on doing my job.Whether your opinion of me is great or whether
your opinion of me is poor, it doesn't really affect me.Unfortunately, kids can be affected a lot
more than you think this day and age.He
is a very conscientious kid who is putting a lot of pressure on himself.
"He's trying as hard as he can to help his team and
I just have to make sure that he does two things:Worry about defense and stay aggressive.You can't worry about making mistakes.I have to get him in an aggressive mindset on
both ends of the floor, and whatever mistakes he may make we have to live
with.But he has to be on the attack and
he has to be aggressive or we're not going to be a very good team.
"I'd like to get us to where we're playing well, and
helping Cash get his confidence back is probably the number one thing that I
have get done as a coach."
Always a great listen to take in the Mick Cronin Radio Show with Dan Hoard and Chuck Machock. Was again last night where we were given the fortunate telling of the story behind Chuck now being known as Tip Jar Machock.
Last night, Mick spent the first 15 minutes or so talking about Cashmere Wright and the difference in breaking the current slump. Good insight from the coach.
The moral of the story, he believes Cash lost his confidence and the coach's top priority is bringing that confidence back. I don't think anybody who watches UC basketball would dispute Cashmere Wright playing as he did in the weeks before the injury when he was the best player on the floor every time out would solve the majority of UC's problems.
"He's lost his confidence," Cronin said. "You go five, six, seven games, shoot 20 percent you would lose your confidence, too. And he's a conscientious kid who wants to play well ... Internal pressure players feel, external pressure from family, friends, fans some people let it affect more than others. He's a sensitive kid and there's no doubt he lost his confidence. He's trying as hard as he can to help his team."
The best way to help Wright is to allow him to play outside of his own head and strictly on instinct. That means focusing on doing what he does better than any player in UC history -- steal the basketball, play defense. When focusing on defense, deflections and activity he can relax and let his natural skill override any mental block. (By the way, this is a big reason Mick doesn't talk about offense being the problem all the time, like so many fans wish he would)
Cronin pointed directly to the Villanova game when his 14 deflections inspired his team to an absurd 46 deflections on the night and beating the Wildcats by 18 points.
"I got to do a better job making sure his mind is on defense and leadership," Cronin said. "Lose himself in the game getting us steals."
Anybody that has followed this team and the career of Wright wants to see him regain his form down the stretch. The guy in so many ways defined the great teams of the last few years with his grit, hustle and defensive ability pacing this team. Still time left to make it happen.
Everybody remembers the guy from this highlight video. Maybe Mick showing him some of this will refresh the mojo.
The bigger point of the post, however, involved a point Mick talked about last night with Dan and Chuck. The focus shouldn't be as much about if this team is getting into the tournament or not, but rather about finding a way to make a run when they get there. Getting to The Dance makes a man feel nice, but that's been done here before and the expectations are higher than that.
Here's Mick on the topic:
"Getting in is great and I know that's what everyone wants," Cronin said. "To me, you want to be playing well or what's the point. I don't believe in playing in tournaments for funsies. Whether the Big East touranment, NCAA, preseason NIT, I don't believe in playing in tournaments for funsies to say hey we were in it. I'd like to get us to where we are playing well."
--- Jay Bilas ranked the six most clutch players in college basketball and slotted Sean Kilpatrick as third. Here's the video.
--- I went on with Lance McAlister last week and when I posted for people to listen on Twitter I came off the interview to see a bunch of angry mentions in my feed. I don't know exactly why UC fans have such a problem with Lance other than he's doing his job to keep people talking. I thoroughly enjoyed being on his show and think he cares about his job and local sports about as much as anybody in any media business around here.
If you have a year at your job that is considered among the top 25 percent or better in your business, do you expect to be fired? Should you be fired? If UC makes the tourney this year, that would mean since 2010, 7 of 9 seasons of Reds, Bengals and UC hoops would end in the postseason. Yet, all we hear about are the need to fire all three. Certainly an odd development.
--- Just when you start to jump on the Villanova bandwagon they lose in insane fashion to Seton Hall, who hadn't won in 33 days. Devastating blow for the schizophrenic Wildcats. The result was actually good for UC's chase for seeding in the BET. If they can end up tied with Nova they would own the tiebreaker head-to-head. They are currently 1 1/2 games back.
--- Really tough news out of the combine yesterday as Walter Stewart was red-flagged because of injury and not allowed to participate. He's hoping to participate in UC's pro day on March 14. A situation that has been in the air since the initial diagnosis midseason endures the latest odd turn.
--- UC Spring Practice begins Friday in the bubble. The first practice of the Tommy Tuberville era is nearly here. Keep it locked here at GoBearcats.com for all your spring ball information and storylines.
--- Big weekend for all sports on campus, actually. UC hoops home game Saturday, followed by women's game for a doubleheader. First home series for UC baseball with games Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
--- BTW, the women are heating up. They earned their second-consecutive win and have taken three of four. Saturday was their first blowout of Big East play as they throttled Providence by 19.
--- Michigan State Community Coalitionis begging students not to burn couches. Somewhere, West Virginia points and laughs with gasoline in one hand and tear-stained ticket stubs from another Big 12 loss in the other.
--- I'm not sure how Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z will be on tour, but they are playing some massive arenas. I'm sure it won't be cheap, but I'd pay double if I could have been at Hova's Unplugged performance back in the day. Heart of the City is still one of my favorites since that show.
Enjoy the day everybody and remember to shoot and comments, questions or your own freestyle raps to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.