On the latest edition of the Inside the Bearcats Podcast we go national as I welcome back Rob Dauster, senior college basketball writer for NBC Sports' College Basketball Talk. Many of you will remember Rob and his partner in college basketball crime Troy Machir from last year when they ran the college hoops blog Ballin' Is A Habit and made an 18-day trek across the country to take in the best games/locations in the middle of January.
During that trek they sat down with me and while we recording a podcast talking basketball and eating lunch at Montgomery Inn Ribs. Without the draw of offering their first foray into the beauty that is Montgomery Inn, I was still able to bring Rob back today as we talked about his move from BIAH to NBC Sports, late-night West Coast tweeting, the national view of UC, ranking the Big East conference teams, why people need to stop talking about college basketball being "a" shambles and how watching six basketball games at once can place a strain on your relationship.
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.
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.
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.
--- 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.
--- 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.
--- Toledo hit a 3-pointerat 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.
A unique month-plus of recruiting essentially came to a close Wednesday and new coach Tommy Tuberville could finally relax after weeks spent sifting through the transition from Butch Jones.
CINCINNATI -- During a week of bowl practices in December, Tommy Tuberville stood along the sidelines inside the bubble. Coaches, administrators and even the occasional media type would come and go, but for the most part he stood by himself.
He watched and evaluated. Alone.
"Normally I've got 10 or 12 sets of eyes and knowing this is exactly what we need going into this recruiting class," Tuberville said. "It was me. I was really the only one here."
As the opening weeks of recruiting began he opened the process of seeking out who verbally committed to UC and who could be available as moving parts everywhere chaotically dispersed like fifth graders at recess. With much of his staff still assembling and finishing up bowl games, he took on the majority of the load.
The events of the last month and a half came to a calming conclusion Wednesday set to the ancient sound of the fax machine. All the typical National Signing Day buzz words laced Tuberville's press conference. He recruited speed, character, upside.
Nobody will know for a few years how many will flourish and how many will flounder.
All that is known about the class of 2013 was the collection took interesting roads to get here. For some, their heads are still spinning from the process. Certainly, Tuberville's would be among them.
"We were probably looking at about 10-12 players this time last week we
had no clue where they were going," he said. "We had to put a hard drive on the
last few weeks."
As far as filling the desires of class, the Tuberville administration made the most of their short time span.
"Usually when you have six or seven guys on the fence the last couple of
days you hope to get 50 percent," Tuberville said. "We got more than that this year."
No need to break down the hip swivel, pad level or quick twitch of all 22 new members of UC football. One trip through Signing Day Central will tell you all about the blur of WR Johnny Holton's top-end speed or special athleticism of TE Chris Burton. For Tuberville, this class would be about more than tangible 40-yard dash splits or vertical leap heights.
This winter whirlwind has been about filling needs and recruiting to a profile. Switching from a spread system to multiple pro style requires different fits and switching from the relentless personality of Butch Jones to calculated managerial methods of this man of the South bares different parameters.
Amid a slew of controversies far from unique to UC, the uneasy process of finding players and coaches that fit each other didn't come easy. Tuberville never expected it to. He never wanted it to. He's learned to trust nothing but his own eyes during decades spent unearthing talent such as finding Ray Lewis for Miami when nobody else offered him or tracking down RB Rudi Johnson for Auburn when they needed a running back.
The mentality of building a football program wasn't about to change now.
"I am not going to let other people pick players for me," he said. "The evaluation part of recruiting is the most important part. You can go
out and sign all these big-time high school athletes and they might not
be able to play. You make less mistakes when you go out and do your own evaluation, don't
take anybody's word for it, work with the coaches, work with the
counselers, work with the principals, everybody involved and try to get
the best person, the best athlete to come to your university."
The results of the evaluations?
UC needed more height in the secondary. Tuberville landed five DBs, three listed at 5-foot-11 and two more at 6-2.
He wavered over how many quarterbacks to sign with Brendon Kay and Munchie Legaux set to graduate after next season and a cast of unproven players behind them. He eventually stayed with only one QB recruit, Brent Stockstill of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Instead, he viewed junior college running backs with experience taking big hits as a more pressing need.
A defensive line without much disruptive height on the outside concerned the coach as well, so he sought out versatile linemen who can add weight later but have height now. Jerrell Jordan, Mark Wilson and Terrell Hartsfield all list at 6-3.
Searching for holes to plug so next year's team doesn't end up strapped at key positions, he added seven junior college players instead of a more standard four to five for immediate impact.
Instead of over-signing, the new coach
opted for the opposite leaving three scholarships open to reward
In the end, a few players Tuberville
desired to keep ended up at Tennessee. A few players Texas Tech
wanted to keep ended up in the C-paw. And a number of players nobody
knew who would keep, decided on Cincinnati. The musical chairs
continued for more than a month and the Bearcats feel they emerged
with the right types of athletes sitting in the red and black seats.
That's all that mattered to Tuberville.
Believing anything but his own eyes wasn't going to cut it, even if
that meant for a hectic first few months on the job.
doesn't take great players to win championships," he said. "It
takes a lot of good players that work together as a team.
Expectations of where we were at compared to what I thought we would
do a month ago is a lot better."
Every year the obsession over rankings, stars and grainy YouTube videos takes over the Internettings. I'm always here to tell you to slow down. So often the most stars turn out to have as much a chance at success as the fewest stars. Don't believe me, check out the research by the Post and Courier unearthing a 42 percent "bust rate" among even the top 100 recruits in the nation each year.
With so many teams, systems, coaches, players and more the variables on spotting a true predictor of success in high school are so many it becomes very difficult truly know who will succeed. For the Bearcats, finding the underrated diamond in the rough and developing them have been the key to five 10-win seasons in six years.
Here's my list of the top six underrated Bearcats National Signing Day steals of those last six years. Developing these players and extracting their potential more than any star acquisition produced four Big East championships. And look no further than the 2008 class, which should be looked back upon as one of the great diamond in the rough classes in college football the last five years.
6) Deven Drane Class: 2010 Stars: Rivals 2, ESPN Not Rated, Scout 2 Current Status: At UC, Senior Hometown: Plantation, Fla. Impact: 5 INTS last two years, tied for lead on 2012 team in passes defensed/break-ups, 76-yard fumble return for TD, two-year starter returning in 2013. Why he's here: Glossed over by most when running down that Class of 2010, he broke onto the scene midway through the 2011 season with key interceptions to secure wins, most notably late against South Florida. He's developed into one of the top corners on the team and should be the No. 1 CB on the depth chart come spring. Future: Drane has NFL potential and is among a group of of the returning players drawing some eyes from the league.
5) Ralph David Abernathy IV Class: 2011 Stars: Rivals 3, ESPN 3, Scout 2 Current Status: At UC, junior starting RB Hometown: Atlanta, Ga. Impact:
Last season compiled 69 rushes for 366 yards, 28 receptions for 341 yards, 25-yard average kickoff return, 7 TDs. This came after a freshman year where he broke onto the scene as a kickoff returner and had a memorable go-ahead TD in the Liberty Bowl. Why he's here: The potential. He averaged 7.3 yards per touch and established himself as the most explosive player on the team. On Signing Day in 2011 he was a distant third mentioned among the RB commits, but proven to be one of the steals of the day out of Atlanta and also one of the biggest keys to the next two seasons in Cincinnati. Future: Returns in what should be the primary RB role in 2013. After two seasons seeing touches limited by Isaiah Pead and George Winn his times seems to have come and the sample size of his results say they should be memorable.
4) Isaiah Pead Class: 2008 Stars: Rivals 3, ESPN 2, Scout 3 Current Status: RB/PR, St. Louis Rams Hometown: Columbus, Ohio Impact: Arguably the greatest RB in UC history. An impact player on the undefeated Sugar Bowl team and enjoyed one of the great senior years of all-time where he rushed for 1,259 yards, had 319 receiving and led the team in punt return average in limited attempts. Why he's here: He may have not been underrated in the Bearcats class of 2008, but he was underrated as a whole. To jump from a three-star prospect out of high school to the 45th selection in the NFL Draft and the type of career he churned out at UC, he can't be left off an underrated list. Future: Played in a surprisingly limited role with the Rams his rookie year, but he'll receive more opportunities as he picks up the NFL speed and Steven Jackson's career fades.
3) Armon Binns Class: 2007 Stars: Rivals 2, ESPN 2, Scout 2 Current Status: WR Miami Dolphins Hometown: Pasadena, Calif. Impact:Caught the pass in the greatest play in UC football history. It could end there, if necessary. It doesn't. Compiled 1,909 receiving yards his final two seasons at UC with 21 touchdowns. Why he's here: Only two stars and a relative unknown kid out of California, Binns developed into an NFL wide receiver and a central figure on one of the great offenses in schools history and undefeated Sugar Bowl season. Future: Officially broke into the active NFL players last year rising to a starter with the Bengals. He eventually was picked up by the Miami Dolphins late in the year and takes on a wide open receiver position next season.
2) Derek Wolfe Class: 2008 Stars: Rivals 2, ESPN Not Rated, Scout 3 Current Status: Starting DL Denver Broncos Hometown: Lisbon, Ohio Impact:
His senior season he rose up NFL Draft boards thanks to a college football high among DTs, 21.5 tackles for loss. That went with 9.5 sacks and as disruptive as a DT could be. Why he's here: Wolfe came in as an Ohio-recruit afterthought with just two stars and minimal fanfare. For much of his first few seasons he was just that, but turns out he developed into a game-changing defensive lineman and the first pick of the Denver Broncos and No. 35 overall in the 2012 draft. Future: Bright. He broke onto the scene with six sacks and 40 tackles as a rookie for Denver and stalwart on a stingy Broncos defense.
1) JK Schaffer Class: 2008 Stars: Rivals 2, ESPN 2, Scout 2 Current Status: Practice squad Cincinnati Bengals Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio Impact: Three-year starter at linebacker and recorded 100-plus tackles to lead the team for each of those three seasons. Undeniable team leader, heart and soul of the 2011 shared Big East championship. Why he's here: Schaffer hasn't had the biggest impact in the NFL or been a high-profile star, rather, he was the epitome of the under-the-radar player on NSD. He received a scholarship at the last minute and was not highly recruited in the least out of LaSalle. Yet, upon arriving at UC he made an instant impact. While a guy like Wolfe could be placed No.1, he didn't have the long-term impact on the program as Schaffer did with his three years manning the linebacker spot and becoming an engine in the defense. Future: Should be in the mix to make the Bengals next year, likely in a special teams capacity.
Honorable Mention (Rivals rank): 2011 -- Parker Ehinger (2), 2010 -- Eric Lefeld (2), Arryn Chenault (2), Adrian Witty (2); 2009 -- Patrick O'Donnell (2), Maalik Bomar (3); 2008 -- Dan Giordano (2), Travis Kelce (2), Cam Cheatham (2); Walter Stewart (3); 2007 -- Drew Frey (2).
I want to hear from you. Send any comments, questions or tell me why I was dead wrong in my rankings to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter at @pauldehnerjr.
Entertaining, informative media session with Mick Cronin yesterday, as always. The more of these I enjoy the more I think Cronin may have a future in standup comedy when he decides to retire. Of course, we learned Monday that may not be as far off as you would think for a 41-year-old coach who just earned win No. 200.
After researching the comparisons and looking at the big picture of win 200 here yesterday (you can read that here), I was asking Cronin a bit more about that. He couldn't help but continue to laugh at the concept of being mentioned in the same comparison breath as those like Coach K or any of those among the active leaders in career wins. Most of those surpassed, 700, 800 and 900 wins. Cronin doesn't expect to see those types of numbers, mainly because he doesn't plan on coaching that long.
"I started young which means I'll be able to retire young," he said. "That's the
goal at least, I hope you guys understand that. People start comparing
me to guys that coach in their 60s, they are barking up the wrong tree."
He went on to point out his father, Hep, retired from coaching hoops at age 50 and became a successful baseball scout. Cronin's followed in his dad's footsteps thus far, it would be hard to imagine it stopping now.
Mick lives, eats, breathes basketball and raising his daughter. But he also sees a bigger picture in the long run.
"There are other things to do," Cronin said. "I got a period and a window where whatever I am going to get done, I am going to get it done."
This wasn't exactly the Pitino-style announcement of a future retirement date, but also not the first time we've heard Mick talk like this. He's mentioned other time he wants to coach at UC for 20-25 years. He's been here for seven. Placing him at 25 years here would place him at 59 years old. Obviously, he's not planning on coaching into his 60s, so there you go.
Having conversations about when Mick might retire or even speculating to what his feelings could be in the year 2031 are beyond laughable at this point, but found it to be an interesting concept he brought up.
I don't know who will be the Bearcats basketball coach in 2031, but I do know there better be a Back to the Future hoverboard by that point in time. We've waited long enough.
Let's eat ...
--- Mick had a great exchange as Bill Koch brought up the joking suggestion made by Mick to Hep after Saturday's game, that he should receive $200 for his 200th career win.
Cronin could only laugh about the concept he would ever receive that cash. (To be fair, Hep did show up at the radio show last night at Montgomery Inn with a cake for him) "You know what happens nowadays, they say the relationship comes full circle in parenting," Mick said. "They take care of you, you grow up, then you take care of them. Let's just say we're in the latter stages of that relationship."
All joking aside, Hep never misses a practice and is there with Mick every step of the way. Add that to the reasons Mick feels this is the perfect setup and why he never would want to leave UC.
--- More expounding on the 200-win comparisons I made yesterday, was curious what Mick felt most legitimized a coach. The truly great ones do it year in and year out, not just a few fluke tournament runs. The elite are cloaked in consistency.
Not surprisingly, Cronin could have cared less about any of those types of comparisons.
"I don't think about that stuff," Cronin said. "I don't think about where you would rank
as coaches; all that stuff is very, very hollow to me. I really don't
think twice about where people view me in the rankings of college
coaches. I view coaching as the minute you are a head coach every year
they tie you to the railroad tracks. By the time the train rolls around
in April, you better have gotten off. That means you get to keep your job
another year. You survive March and April with your job, just remember,
come March and April, they tie you to the tracks again."
Love that analogy. I think most of us who work(ed) in the newspaper business know what it feels like when the train starts tooting the horn.
--- Sean Kilpatrick was named to the Big East honor roll again this week. This is his sixth appearance as either a Player of the Week or spot on the honor roll. He's now tied for second in the league in points in conference games. He's averaging 18.1 points per game.
Only person averaging more points against him will be his matchup Wednesday, Providence's Bryce Cotton (20.7).
"I seen him play the other night, he's a great player," Kilpatrick said. "He can make big shots. That's how it is all around the Big East, though. You have palyers like that that can make big shots and any play, but he's pretty good."
He plays quite a bit like SK, actually. He loves to fire up the 3 and will do it often. Only once in conference play has he not shot at least seven triples in a game.
Here's the leaders in 3-pointers made during conference play thus far:
1. Bryce Cotton 35
2. Sean Kilpatrick 27
3. Shabazz Napier 22
4. D'Angelo Harrison 20
Both SK and Cotton stand in the top 15 of the nation in 3-point attempts per game. Just don't expect for Kilpatrick to be tracking the individual battle.
"I'm always one of the guys that's able to take on anybody," he said. "That's just what my mentality is. I don't care who it is and I don't care who I play. As long as we win by one that's all that matters to me."
--- There are seven Big East teams ranked in this week's Top 25. Seven.
--- Don't expect Mick to pay much attention to the rankings and he does his best to keep his players from doing so, as well. He believes rankings and hype are a big reason for the lull which occurred in last December/early January.
"When we were Top 10 we got ahead of ourselves a little bit and started
thinking about what could happen. And what we are capable of, our
standing on the national scene, and we learned real quick that will get
you beat. Not that we weren't playing hard I just think that our
attention to detail cost us 10 points which cost us being 22-0. We all
have the same problem with kids. With any sport, pros or college, it's
just trying to stay game by game, day by day. It's such a long season
it's almost impossible for the guys at points not to start looking ahead
to when it gets really exciting in March." --- For those that don't know, the baseball team is holding its First Pitch Reception at Great American Ballpark on Friday. It will be extra special this year as Whit Babcock, Reds CEO Phil Castellini and coach Brian Clearly will be announcing a partnership between UC baseball and the Reds. You'll want to hear about this. Here's your details on event, though, unfortunately it is sold out. I'll be bring you more information as it goes down this weekend.
--- Tomorrow is National Signing Day. Tommy G and the crew will be churning out all the details for you right here at GoBearcats.com. This officially includes the return of Fax Cam, aka, the Bruce Springsteen channel.
Interview with coach Tuberville and both coordinators will be up in the morning. Indications are there are huge numbers for the Signing Day Dinner Event later tomorrow night. Here's the details.
--- Today is Bobby Brown's birthday. Don't live like Bobby, but feel free to dance like him.
I want to hear from you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter (@pauldehnerjr) with any questions, comments or whatever else your heart desires. Except videos of you dancing to My Prerogative, you can save those.
Nobody came here in search of Super Bowl analysis, so I won't bore you with any. I will say that may have been one of the most entertaining, memorable Super Bowls of a recent run of entertaining and memorable Super Bowls. Only a more dramatic finish would have placed it at the top.
Oh, and CBS didn't exactly enjoy their finest hour amid the chaos. Many will remember this game as Ray Lewis' grand moment or Joe Flacco's official arrival. I'll remember it as the night Steve Tasker led millions through the darkness.
Great weekend for UC, of course. Bearcats beat Seton Hall, 65-59, after building a 20-point lead early in the second half. Also, received good news for the future off the court as well, which I am not allowed to delve into here.
I'll only say this generally about recruiting. It's an inexact science, to be sure, but Mick Cronin likes to talk about recruiting as being like the cafeteria in high school, you are constantly trying to set closer and closer to the cool kids table. Where he started seven years ago was outside of the building. He's gradually moved closer and closer with every year. He took one step closer to the popular table this weekend.
Let's eat ...
--- Big weekend for Cronin all around as the victory against Seton Hall was his 200th as a head coach. He went 69-24 in three years at Murray State and is now 131-92 in seven years at UC. To average 20 wins per year in your first 10 as a head coach doesn't come easy, to be sure.
To earn 200 wins as a head coach by the age of 41 stands even more difficult. Take into consideration he did so at a program left with no scholarships and requiring a complete rebuild and it sounds near impossible.
Researching the list of notable coaches and their career progression places Cronin in the same arc. Such is not to say the arc will conclude in the same fashion as this list of the game's great coaches. That would be more than unfair to Mick, only pointing out the reference point of how well he's done at this point in his career.
Coach (age earned 200th win): First 10 yearsin total
Mick Cronin (41): 200-116
Mike Krzyzewski (39): 158-124
Jim Boeheim (41): 230-77
Bob Knight: (35): 195-70
Jim Calhoun (42):160-103
Bob Huggins (38): 206-98
Roy Williams (45): 282-62
Rick Pitino (39): 230-105
Those are how some of the greats have done, but many of those endured slower starts as well. Here's a list of the fastest coaches to 200 wins as of the start of this season (according to NCAA Division I records book): I'll only list the coaches who have accomplished the feat since 1980:
Coach: record at 200 wins
Mark Few: 200-47
Roy Williams: 200-52
Denny Crum: 200-54
Thad Matta: 200-61
Jim Boeheim: 200-66
Many times fans can lose perspective as to how difficult it can be to win in college basketball. Plenty of you reading this blog likely at one point or another did give Cronin a chance to make it to the 200-win milestone. Yet, here he is, not only winning 200 games but off to UC's best start in conference since joining the Big East (6-3), a half game out of a tie for first place.
Indeed, life is good today for Mick and Bearcats basketball.
Of course, don't expect Mick to be doing somersaults in the hallways of the Lindner Center over 200. As he told the AP:
"All I care about is 18 (wins)," he said. "We have 18 and nine to play."
--- Schedule this week is UC playing at Providence on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. then back hosting Pittsburgh Saturday night at 6 p.m.
Now NINE teams are within one game of first place in the conference. Nine.
The Panthers host Seton Hall this week then should come to UC with
another win and setting up the best game of the weekend slate in
--- Of note: according to Bill Koch, Cronin said Jeremiah Davis III will redshirt this year. Mick said that would be the case, "barring a disaster." Essentially meaning if two or more players go hurt, the situation might change. This has been the suspected path most of the season. Tough to endure this type of year for JD3, but probably will be best for him in the long run.
Brief randomness ...
--- Keeping it quick today, we will have a media availability with players and coach this afternoon so expect more coming out of that. As always you can send me emails with any questions, comments or whatever at email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter for updates on all that's going on @pauldehnerjr.
--- Community is almost back.Here's a new promo. --- A buddy of mine told me he thought Mystikal was the best rapper ever this weekend. The end. --- There was Beyonce and the Destiny's Child reunion at halftime. Can't believe they didn't sing Bills, Bills, Bills.
Watching UC's offense change dramatically the after halftime the last two games, I was curious about the trend of UC
struggling offensively in the first halves then exploding after the
break. Plus, I never miss an opportunity to break out an unnecessarily analytical math post. So here we go.
"Stop worrying about the scoreboard and just play the game," Cronin
said. "We have a tendency to do that at home. That's my theory, whether
it is right or not we could all flip a coin, your theory might be
better. Mine is, we play with stress at home like we are supposed to win by 30. It takes us a while to just get lost in the game and just play.
We think we are supposed to be perfect at home. It's not realistic, for
This makes sense and holds water, personally I'm on board with the theory, but that has been a trend
both at home and on the road in Big East play. And it's more than just
foul shots at the ends of games, there is a dramatic difference in
efficiency from one half to the next.
Consider this, in Big East play here are the Bearcats first half/second half average points splits:
First Half: 26.5
Second Half: 36.6
Pretty remarkable. Some notable turnarounds, too.
Opponent: First half/Second half
St. John's: 21/31
sees the difference as not as much a UC problem, rather a college
basketball problem. He called it "an epidemic." He had some theories on
it I hadn't thought of before. They most definitely make sense.
would say it's a common thread in college basketball," Cronin said.
"The way the games are officiated has something to do with it. The way
the benches are configured where we can call out the other team's plays.
We are on defense in front of me so we can hold teams down. We held
them to 15 last time and Marquette to 13. It goes both ways. They are
calling out every play we run on their bench. Scouting report has a lot
to do with it, size, strength, physicality. There are no secrets."
UC may be a part of a trend, but in the Big East they are also leading the charge of it. By taking a
look at the breakdowns, it shows that in Big East conference play only
this year they are tied with Marquette for the largest differential
between first-half and second-half scoring at +10.1.
Here is the entire list:
Team: First half average/Second half average -- difference
Cincinnati: 26.5/36.6 -- +10.1
UConn: 32.1/37.6 -- +5.5
DePaul: 33.5/36.2 -- +2.7
Georgetown: 30.6/29.6 -- -1.0
Louisville: 33.3/33.8 -- +0.5
Marquette: 27.1/37.2 -- +10.1
Notre Dame: 31.8/35.0 -- +3.2
Pittsburgh: 32.9/34.0 -- +1.1
Providence: 29.3/37.9 -- +8.6
Rutgers: 25.9/34.1 -- +8.2
Seton Hall: 29.0/33.0 -- +4.0
St. John's: 31.3/34.6 -- +3.3
Syracuse: 30.3/36.1 -- +5.8
USF: 24.0/29.1 -- +5.1
Villanova: 31.6/31.9 -- +0.3
Average: 29.9/34.4 -- +4.5
Only four teams own a margin greater than six and UC has more than double the league average.
the Bearcats average the third fewest points in the first half and
third most points in the second half among all Big East teams.
The 4.5 is about the typical difference you would expect to account for free throws late in games. The other 5.6 points per game difference for UC comes from other factors. Part of that could be any number of the theories Cronin mentioned above. I would place halftime adjustments in there as well. That's been particularly obvious in games against Syracuse and Rutgers lately.
Despite his team's disparity, Cronin calling the problem an epidemic also holds water when you look at the overall numbers in college basketball the last few years. Looking across Division I, the median average first-half score gradually declined, and done some significantly when you date back a decade.
Year: Median First Half Points
the last four years alone, the median team in Division I has seen the
first-half points decrease every single season. Look back 10 years and
the first-half points have decreased by nearly a point and a half from
the median team. That's reflective of the decrease in scoring generally
in college basketball, but obviously there's something to the fact the
numbers have steadily declined in recent years.
So, to answer the question in the headline, is UC's second-half surge part of a national trend? Yes and no. Clearly, the scoring before halftime has gone down, but few teams are seeing as wide a difference as UC this year when comparing an even Big East playing field. The best part about that is, no matter what happens before halftime, there's always a feeling the Bearcats are never out of it. Of course, if you haven't learned that during a season where only one game have they not won or had a shot to win at the buzzer, you just aren't paying close enough attention anyway and likely gave up on this post after the first set of bullet points.
I want to hear from you! Shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr with any questions, comments or your theory on the difference between first half and second half. Or just a long email about your disdain for unnecessarily analytical math posts.
The Podcast returns as I sit down and chat with Tommy G following UC's 62-54 victory over Rutgers. One of the more entertaining podcasts in the history of the ITBP. Really, I can explain the podcast all I want, really this incredible artist
rendering of all the topics covered by our guy Shane Harrison explains
As for my attempt to explain, we flip the script on Mr. Gelehrter as we take the questions he's been peppering to the freshman and sophomore players in his Know Your Bearcats series and play Know Your New Media and Broadcasting Director. Before that we touch on the stress of buying new glasses, the #JustinJacksonMeanFace Twitter contest/subsequent prize package the wild goose chase for a bike on Wednesday night and, of course, Fred Savage.
We also talk plenty of Bearcats, we hear from Mick Cronin while talking about mentoring players, the first/second half debate, Cashmere Wright and plans for National Signing Day including the possible return of critically acclaimed Fax Cam!
If you aren't interested in all our delightful, witty banter you can scroll to the 6:40 mark when we delve into UC hoops, though, I can't think of a reason you would want to do so.
I have to start off by giving a second run for one of the quotes of the year that came out of last night. We see a string of the usual suspects typically after games. Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker are all old pros at the game. They are typically pretty relaxed talking to us cranky scribes and will go on and on if the question begs it of them.
Justin Jackson is a quieter guy in general, at least around most of us. He's delightful, just not as loquacious as others. Never has been. And that's absolutely fine. That's why when I asked him last night about how getting a block energizes him and he started by saying he just can't explain the feeling, I couldn't have seen the next line coming.
"It's like getting a new pair of shoes."
Just a great line. And considering the source, was even greater. Jack is such an interesting character on the court and really embraced by this fan base for how he plays the game. To see him let some of his personality out with us and deliver a gold line like that made me smile. Hard not to like the young man.
Oh, by the way, Jackson played his best game of the season. Reminded me of the way he played regularly at the end of the last year when UC made its run to the Sweet 16. He clearly turned a corner in the eyes of Mick Cronin, who gave him his first start since he sat him down for the Notre Dame game and gave his starting spot to Titus Rubles. If we're seeing the return of the old Justin Jackson, it could be a huge development for the Bearcats already stingy defense.
--- The theory of why the Bearcats have struggled at home some this year came out from Mick during his presser. It's been an interesting phenomenon we explored deeper a few weeks back as the Cats were coming off a three-game home losing streak. They've since beat Marquette and Rutgers, but the sluggish first half brought out some analysis from Mick. At least, the best he can come up with. Certainly from fans to media to coaches to players, we've all taken our shots at it.
"Stop worrying about the scoreboard and just play the game," Cronin said. "We have a tendency to do that at home. That's my theory, whether it is right or not we could all flip a coin, your theory might be better. Mine is, we play with stress at home like we are supposed to win by 30. It takes us a while to just get lost in the game and just play. We think we are supposed to be perfect at home. It's not realistic, for anybody. You got to just play the game. You don't get the win because you are at home. It's going to be a close game, all these games are going to be that way. I think that's a big factor, we play with way too much pressure on us at home. In the second half you could tell the guys forgot where the game was at, what was going on, what the score was and they were just playing. Shots start falling, guys were on the attack."
The numbers for the Big East have evened out a bit, but home teams still struggling to win as much as they typically do. The home team is now 30-25.
--- Cronin at one point had words with Cashmere Wright on the bench Wednesday. It came after a turnover that led to Cronin pulling Cash for Ge'Lawn Guyn early in the second half and Wright eventually moved down the bench after the altercation.
Something that happens occasionally in games, but I found it newsworthy since Cronin delved so in-depth to the incident and how it reflects on his coaching theory. I think it's a big part of what has made him an effective coach and mentor. The disciplinarian always mixes with the guy looking out for the players best interest, both on the court and in life.
"You talk back, you bring that on yourself," Cronin said. "I wasn't really in the mood to hear anyone's answers. Whether it was him or (assistant coach) Larry Davis, whoever said whatever they said. Today's player is no different than 20 years ago. The only difference is people let the kid talk back too much. That's not acceptable. My job is to help these guys understand how to handle themselves and deal with a boss and hold a job and be a productive member of society. Your opinion doesn't matter in the workplace. The bosses opinion matters. I try to talk to guys about that stuff every day. If Whit calls me in or President Ono, they got an opinion on something, I have two choices: deal with it or get another job. Talking back is not going to work. I try to teach my guys that all the time."
Always refreshing when a coach talks about basketball being about more than the games and practices, rather preparing kids for the real world as college students.
As for Wright's play, he endured a tough night. Though even in a tough night he hit the 3-pointer that gave UC the lead.
"He was frustrated with the way he was playing," Cronin said. "I would have been frustrated if I was him as well. He mentally did some things tonight that he knows better. He had a
couple of passes that were beyond my comprehension, and a couple fouls
where I thought an alien abducted his body."
--- Kilpatrick continues be on a nice roll. He went on a run early in the second half where he threw the team on his back on their move from 10 down to taking the lead. Not that we haven't seen this movie before.
When UC needs scoring, there's no secret where they turn.
"That was something we were lacking in the first half and scoring," Kilpatrick said. "It was
very hard to score because they were in every gap that we were trying
to punch through, and coach kept telling me, 'don't force
anything just let game come to you and everything will work out,' and
that's what I did in the second half."
Over the last four games, SK's numbers are spectacular: 23.5 points, 17 of 41 from 3-point range (41.4 percent), 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
From the angle of Mike Rice, Kilpatrick played up to his reputation Wednesday.
"He showed what an All-Conference Big East player looks like," Rice said. "When they needed it, they kind of looked to him. There were a couple of shots that he hit that I thought we had the shot challenged and we were there, but he was just better."
--- Speaking of looking forward, even
in the moments following the win against Rutgers, Cronin already moved
on to Seton Hall in his mind. With an 11 a.m. tip in New Jersey facing
him, there's no time to relish in the latest win. They guy has mastered
the day-to-day focus.
"All I care about now is Seton Hall," he
said. "That's all that matters. Our position in the league, where we are
ranked, where we're at this time of year, is all irrelevant to me. We
got to make sure we get rest and get ready to come out playing on
Saturday at 11, if you're not, you will lose."
--- Remember when the St. John's defeat was looked at as a bad loss? Not anymore. The Johnnies have run off five in a row and a half game up in third place of the conference. Looking more and more like UC, Notre Dame, St. John's, Pittsburgh, Marquette and Georgetown will all be battling for the third and fourth spots in the BE tourney. I expect MU to drop back and Louisville to rise up.
Those games down the stretch: ND2, Pitt2 and Georgetown will hold added weight for the Cats.
--- In case you haven't seen this, props to UC for this well-done video from Shane Harrison addressing the open, excepting culture at UC athletics. Would be cool to see more programs taking a proactive approach like this.
Junior Justin Jackson stole the show of a 62-54 victory against Rutgers on Wednesday with acrobatic saves, thundering blocks and energy nobody else on the floor could replicate. If this breakout becomes a trend, his fervor pushes the UC defense to the next level.
CINCINNATI -- For a moment, Justin Jackson disappeared. Not theoretically, as in from the offensive rhythm or from the rotation. Rather, from view. Of most everyone.
In a second attempt to improbably save a ball off a rebound, he ended up somewhere between the hallway leading to the visitor's locker room and Nippert Stadium.
As his teammates recovered to retain a valuable possession late in the 62-54 victory against Rutgers on Wednesday night Jackson finally emerged, trotting out from deep behind the stands with a smile stretching ear to ear.
This player who trends for #MeanFace ironically plays his best glowing with happiness. So do the Bearcats. In a sport now gauged by advanced metrics of every pass, shot, dribble and move, the value of energy doesn't register in percentages or shot charts. As Jackson and the Bearcats know, energy the junior provides not only affects the game, it changes it. For much of this season the effect of his shot-blocking, ball-saving, rebound-grabbing, mean-facing mentality fell to the background.
Not Wednesday, though.
"I'd say today he played the best game ---" Sean Kilpatrick began to say in the postgame media room, before Jackson broke in to finish the sentence himself.
"All year," Jackson said.
Can't deny the self-assessment. Jackson finished with seven points, seven rebounds, six blocks, three assists and one steal. His 26 minutes were the most since Wright State and the blocks a season high, one short of his career high of seven set against Marquette last year.
"He got back to the old Justin Jackson and that's blocking everything, saving everything, jumping in the crowd and being the energy guy that we need him to be," Sean Kilpatrick said. "That's something he's been working on and today it finally showed."
When Jackson plays with the intensity and effectiveness of Wednesday night the Bearcats defense morphs from excellent to elite. It was a staple of last year's Sweet Sixteen run and needs to be a staple if UC plans on returning.
So much of Jackson's game revolves around channeling attitude. An exciting block like his patented trailing rejection off the backboard on a fast break or sending a shot near Tony Pike sitting in the second row brings out the mean face and alters not only his mood but the atmosphere surrounding him.
The Rutgers win felt like a breakthrough moment in the season for a player who suffered through a demotion from the starting lineup and not playing a minute against Notre Dame.
"He was tremendous," said Mick Cronin, who gave Jackson his first start since the benching. "He got his teammates fired up, he obviously got the crowd into it. He earned a start the last couple days in practice. He was great in practice; I knew he was going to play well tonight. It's not that complicated in basketball. You can tell when guys are focused. He's hungry to get more minutes."
Cronin doesn't buy the concept Jackson played with more energy Wednesday than he has this season. Rather, the cumulative factor of staying out of foul trouble that so often plagues him. Truth, certainly. Yet, outsiders clamor for the nostalgia of a Jackson they remember who stole the hearts of a fan base that appreciates hustle and scrap more than skill or science.
This UC team clamored for that. Jackson, himself, clamored for it.
"(It came from) inside of me," Jackson said. "Just building up in me, it just came out, I hope it just stays out. That's my game. Just be the energy guy and do all the little things and do all the dirty work. "
Jackson led the way, but Kilpatrick and a cast of the usual suspects finished the job Wednesday. Rutgers coach Mike Rice said Kilpatrick "showed what an All-Conference Big East player looks like" en route to 19 points. The Bearcats found ways to run in transition much more after halftime and rode what's become a standard second-half surge for this team.
The push began with a defense that allowed only one field goal between 8:51 remaining and under a minute when the game was all but salted away. Forced turnovers and blocked shots played like a skipping CD.
At the center of it all was Jackson and his contagious shot-blocking that leaves the crowd smiling and cheering back at him.
What does it feel like to block a shot and feel the energy rise inside himself and 11,024 inside Fifth Third Arena? Hard to explain, he says.
When pressed to give an attempt, Jackson slyly slipped out his comparison.
"It's just like getting a new pair of shoes," he said.
Only, when Jackson gets a new pair of shoes, everyone on the team gets a new pair of shoes. Suddenly, the Bearcats bounce forward with a fresh hop in their step.
I want to hear from you! Shoot me an email to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter at @pauldehnejr with comments, questions or photos of your own #JustinJacksonMeanFace impressions.