The latest edition of the Fox Sports Ohio Podcast welcomes pod newbie Kevin Goheen, the newest writer for FSO based out of Southwest Ohio. He joins the FSO team after 15 years spent covering sports in the area, including the Bengals beat writer for the Post from 2001-07.
He's been tracking the Bearcats all season and especially since jumping on the job a few weeks back. We talk about the travails of being a prep cross country writer, how to UC can shake the current negative momentum, the Bearcats relative to the bubble, Kevin's sights and sounds from his time spent with Bearcats at the combine, George Winn=Alfred Morris, Travis Kelce=Rob Gronkowksi and we also break down the life and times of Lil' Dawg the most famous bobblehead in Cincinnati media.
If you are looking for a specific topic, the basketball convo ends around 18 minutes and the final 18 minutes flip to the football Bearcats conversation.
All I see and hear about following this string of five losses in six games for the Bearcats is how they are NIT bound. I continue to attempt to explain to people they are not even in the bubble conversation yet. Are they trending in a bad direction? Obviously. But to contend they are already on the bubble or not going to the tournament is refusing to look around at the rest of college basketball.
Most of the respected bracketologists have them in the 8/9 seed range. Here's their rankings from the various metrics used by the committee:
ESPN BPI: 31
UC (19-9, 7-8) still owns a number of quality wins -- Oregon, at Pitt, Marquette, Iowa State, Villanova -- and next to no bad losses.
The rest of the regular season schedule includes Saturday home vs. UConn (19-7, 9-5), at Louisville (22-5, 10-4) and home against USF (10-16, 1-13) then start by playing one of the bottom four seeds on Wendesday in the Big East tournament. Assuming at the very least they win one of these games, with USF a game the Cats will be heavily favored in, they will win 20 games.
Take a look at the Big East teams the last five years with 20 wins entering Selection Sunday.
Year: Teams with 20 wins (NCAA tourney status)
2012: 9 (Seton Hall out, 15th SOS in league)
2011: 11 (All in)
2010: 9 (South Florida out, played no teams in KP Top 75 in non-conference)
2009: 7 (All in)
2008: 8 (All in)
TOTAL: 44 (Seton Hall '12, USF '10)
--- If you play any type of schedule in the Big East (Bearcats currently 32nd SOS in RPI and fifth in conference according to KPom) and win 20 games you get in the tournament. Period. Fact.
Seton Hall didn't get in because they had the second worst strength of schedule in the league. Same was the case for USF, who didn't play anybody in KenPom's top 75 in their non-conference schedule.
UC challenged themselves, won games and while people will point to their struggles down the stretch they must also point to the close losses that show a team competitively keeping up with anyone. That's all part of the scenario the committee weighs when they rank the S-curve. That's why they only use everyone's favorite RPI as one of many factors in slotting teams, because the RPI doesn't take into account individual performance in games -- only W or L. Which is crazy, losing at the buzzer to Syracuse counts the same as being throttled by 21 at Notre Dame? But I'm not about to go on an RPI rant, if you want one, just check my archives here each of the past two years at this time.
--- Even further, let's take a look at the team's that are currently on the bubble and compare their situations. Here are the eight teams that were straddling the bubble by Joe Lunardi entering this weekend.
Cal (18-9, 10-5): Oregon 2x, Arizona -- rank 44 in RPI and 52 in BPI
--- These are your bubble teams, people. Southern Miss and St. John's are in the middle of the conversation. There is quite a bit of distance between where UC stand and where the likes of Temple, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Southern Miss and St. John's stand. (Villanova will certainly move to the correct side of the bubble with their win over Marquette)
This chart doesn't include bad losses, where it's hard to find many, if any on the Bearcats run. You could possibly count St. John's and Providence as bad losses, but both are middle of the pack in the second-toughest conference in the country.
These SEC teams need much better records to make up for the fact they only have two/three tourney teams in the conference. The Big East will have about 8 or 9. You can make a similar statement about CUSA and to a lesser degree the A-10.
Point being, look relatively at the competition before placing UC on the bubble with them.
--- The grander point is that this team needs to start playing better. Nobody can deny that. Sean Kilpatrick said as much himself to Bill Koch after Sunday's ugly loss at Notre Dame.
"There's a lot of things that have got to be changed quick because this season is going down the drain and we're letting it," Kilpatrick said.
He's right, the high hopes talked about through the preseason and into non-conference about Big East championship games and Final 4s look far off. But those that are dismissing the season as over haven't paid attention the last two years inside this conference.
Each of the last two years a team has played poorly in Big East play, particularly down the stretch, and gone on to the most successful postseason in their program's recent history.
In 2012, Louisville lost four of six to close the regular season and finished at 10-8 in the conference. They went on to win four games in NYC, take the BET title and advance to the Final 4 before succumbing to Kentucky.
In 2011, UConn went 8-10 in Big East conference play, including losing five of their final 8 before heading to NYC where Kemba Walker helped them win five games in five days and then they went on to win the national championship.
These are literally the last two examples in this conference following the exact same path as the Bearcats. Am I saying this will happen? No, and we can discuss a number of reasons why it can or can't, but for anybody to be giving up hope or considering all lost hasn't been paying attention to their surroundings.
I want to hear from you! Send me any comments, questions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter at @pauldehnerjr.
Another tough loss for the Bearcats last night. The frustration could be felt in the voice of Mick Cronin in the 700WLW postgame show with Dan and Chuck. Here is the interview. Mick typically does a good job staying analytic after games and breaking down the reasons for a win or loss while the temperature of the team and it's effort.
Yet, after another game where the buckets didn't come in the final five minutes, he couldn't help but vent over the concerning trend as four games remain in the regular season.
"Right now, we just don't know how to win," he said. "There is poor decisions and
dumb plays right now that are costing us games. There's just no way
around it. It erases all the good they we're doing."
This time, it was a six-point lead with 4:21 left that wilted away to force overtime. From that point forward the Cats were 1 of 5 with two turnovers. The recurring trend is the stem of the frustration for the coach whose now seen nearly every lose come in this heartbreaking fashion.
Take a look at each of the Bearcats losses, finding a way to close out a higher percentage of the games is the biggest difference between average and upper tier in the Big East.
Vs. New Mexico (55-54): Led by 1 with 2:47 left
Vs. St. John's (53-52): Led by 1 with 56 seconds left
Vs. Notre Dame (66-60): Tie game with 8:43 left
@Syracuse (57-55): Led by 6 with 3:47 left
@Providence (54-50): Down by 1 with 3:25 left.
Vs. Pittsburgh (62-52): Led by 1 with 4:55 left
Vs. Georgetown (62-55): Led by 1 with 6:25 left
@ UConn (73-66 OT): Led by 6 with 4:21 left
Much of the conversation I hear about this concept is that the final minutes is about whose stars show up. For UC, that means Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick. Since Wright's injury in particular, production from those stars has been inconsistent.
Thursday's game served as the perfect example. The Bearcats offense looked like a completely different group in the first half and really through the first 35 minutes of the game. JaQuon Parker took over as the third weapon UConn couldn't account for and the team's passing, shot selection looked as good as it had all season.
The struggles in the final minutes to recapture that magic leaves the bitter taste in all of these defeats. Particularly from a team battling with maximum effort every step of the way.
"It's just frustrating right now because
we got to win games and we got a chance to be a good team," Cronin said. "We
continually shoot ourselves in the foot ... it erases all the good they are doing."
The good news is, there is still time to figure it out. The bad news is, that time is running out.
Let's eat ...
--- Like any team that has lost four of five as the Bearcats have, they are trending in the wrong direction when it comes to the NCAA tournament. But the contention that this team is in danger of missing the tournament right now is false.
First, all those siting RPI number (UC currently 44) need to remember it's a completely flawed metric and the committee is increasinly aware of that and only uses it as a small measure of the team's spot on the S-curve. All the advanced metrics are considered.
Take a look at UC's rankings in those:
ESPN BPI: 24
Those are not the numbers of a team on the brink of missing the tournament. Are they a lock right now? No. But in as open of a field as we've seen in recent memory, very few are. The Bearcats are not in danger of missing the dance yet, so please stop with all the NIT stuff I've seen from the knee-jerk reactionaries after these losses.
--- Speaking of, I saw people actually tweeting that late-season spirals should be Cronin's trademark? Let's not let one rough patch erase all memory. Remember, this team won four of its last five each of the last two seasons, won three games in the NCAA tournament and advanced to the Big East tournament championship for the first time ever last year.
Just a daily reminder to keep some perspective amid the frustration.
--- JaQuon Parker since making a conscious effort to become the player to pick up the scoring slack continues to do just that. He's now averaging 16.3 points over the last three games. He finishes at the basket far and away better than anybody on the team.
I am flabbergasted as to how he doesn't get more calls scoring around the rim. Seems like 50 percent of his layups he's pounded to the ground without a whistle.
Past results: UC won the only game against UConn last year on a Sean Kilpatrick 3-pointer with less than three seconds remaining. UConn leads the overall series 7-3 with a 2-2 record as the home team.
Need to know: UConn finds itself in an odd predicament where they are ineligible for the postseason due to academic performance failures. They won't take part in the Big East tournament or any other postseason event. New coach Kevin Ollie has done a nice job keeping his team playing with a chip on its shoulder despite the lost season. They've won five of their last seven including a victory over Syracuse.
Game-changing stat: Connecticut struggles terribly on the glass. They rank in the bottom three of the conference in grabbing rebounds on both offense and defense. In fact, out of 350 Division I teams, they rank 331st in defensive rebounding percentage.
Take a look at the UConn losses and keep in mind the Division I average for offensive rebounding is 31.9 percent.
The Huskies have been far below the average in grabbing their own offensive rebounds in every single loss. And outside of the anomaly of the St. John's loss, they've allowed an OR% above the average in every loss. The worst came in their recent loss to Villanova where they let the Wildcats grab more than half of their misses. It results in more shots, more buckets. It's the common thread in how to beat UConn.
Even in their biggest win over Syracuse, the Orange got off 20 more shots than the Huskies due to rebounding discrepancy.
Meanwhile, the Bearcats lead the Big East in conference play in keeping opponents off the boards. UC holds a serious advantage in keeping the Huskies to one-and-done possessions. They must dominate that area as well as crush the offensive glass for putbacks.
"From my time coaching against UConn, they were always a big team," Cronin said. "Last year they had Andre Drummond, plays for the Pistons, and Alex Oriakhi, who starts at the 5 for Missouri. They have been big and strong and dominant all through Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrian. Now, they are a finesse team."
Who to know: Shabazz Napier. Bearcats fans should be well aware of the Huskies star guard at this point. He dropped 27 on them last year including a slew of 3-pointers in the final minute to bring UConn back to a 67-67 tie. Then SK dropped the game-winner.
He can shoot it (38 percent from deep) and can distribute it (2.35:1 assist to turnover).
After a hot streak where he was carrying the Huskies averaging 19.4 points per game during a five-game stretch of four wins.
The last two games, however, he's combined for 12 points including 1 of 9 from 3-point range. He also had nine turnovers over the time span.
Record watch: With a win the Bearcats would have 20 wins in three consecutive seasons. That would be the first time its happened since Bob Huggins from 2004-06.
By the numbers: How good has the Bearcats defense been? Of the 19 games against major opponents this year, every single team has scored fewer points than their season average. The difference has been at least nine points in all but three games and one of those was in OT against Marquette.
The Huskies are averaging 70.6 points per game.
Defining matchup: Wright vs. Napier. The Bearcats can't allow Napier to get going. When he struggles, UConn typically follows. That's one of the biggest reasons for their letdown against Villanova last weekend where he only scored two points. Wright, now UC's career steals leader, has the ability to create turnovers and Napier can be susceptible to that. UC needs to at least break even in this battle.
"They are great players," Sean Kilpatrick said. "We sensed that last year, we have been watching them a lot lately and they make a lot of shots. You are not going to just have me and Cash having to guard them. You are going to have the whole team having to guard them because we know they can make big shots and we know they can take over a game. It's going to be a tough task, but this is a time where we need all the wins we can get."
Road trip: The Bearcats won't come home after Thursday's game against UConn. They will fly to South Bend, Ind., and stay there leading up to Sunday's game against the Irish.
Quotent Quotables: Mick Cronin on the urgency necessary with only five games remaining and 7-6 in the conference.
"Right now, hopefully our veteran guys understand this is why you practiced. This is why you played all those other games, to get to March. It's time to do what we got to do to solidify our position in March. Try to go on a run. All those other games become really irrelevant. You can erase a lot of close losses, a lot of mistakes if you can get to the Big Dance and go on a run. That is beauty of college basketball. As a coach, you have to try to make sure your players understand that. That's the key."
Looking ahead: Get used to seeing the Huskies, after Sunday's game at Notre Dame, UConn will come to Fifth Third Arena on Saturday March 2. I want to hear from you. Send any questions, comments or your thoughts on the Bearcats to my email at email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter tonight @pauldehnerjr.
When I did a podcast this summer with Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick, we touched on a wide range of topics. Cash's fixation for Waffle House, addictions to chicken fingers/fries and surprising loves for watching golf. But among the topics SK delved into was his favorite moment of last year and his career: the game-winner to beat UConn.
All that said, SK and the Bearcats return to Connecticut on Thursday, though this time they will play in Hartford instead of on the Storrs campus.
Still, Kilpatrick doesn't hide what going back means to him.
"That whole game it will probably still be playing in my mind," he said.
Only, this year, the game changes a bit for SK. Even as he took over as the leading scorer last year, he never really viewed himself as the depended upon leader in those situations. As a sophomore he deferred to the likes of Yancy and Dion Dixon. You can tell in the way he talks about it how much he takes the pressure on of carrying this team more than he did last season.
"Now is going to be a little different," he said. "Now I am one of the key guys that's in the situation where I need to make more plays like that this time and be able to come up big on the defensive end because we know they have great guards."
I've seen some people reacting saying he's complaining about refs limiting UC's scoring and I certainly didn't view it that way. He was speaking generally about the "epidemic" of scoring being down across college basketball. It certainly serves detrimentally to a more finesse scoring team as the Bearcats are this year, but benefits their physical style on the defensive end.
--- SK touched on the fouls topic, but more about the biggest differences as a recognized premier scorer this season. Publicity and gaudy numbers can really be a pain in the Musburgers.
Asked how the grabbing and holding he experiences this year under defensive attention compares to last year, he didn't hold back.
"It's 10 times worse," he said.
He wasn't put off by it, he said he understands it happens because both teams will do whatever they can to win. Although, a few refs "look out for you."
The change didn't come as a surprise.
"That's something I've been adjusting to all throughout this summer because coach told me those types of things are going to be happening." --- If you didn't see my story yesterday on the importance of JaQuon Parker's offense, here it is. I can't stress enough how critical this could be for UC down the stretch. Really think he could be the difference in the extra 3-5 points a game UC needs to get over the hump against elite teams. We shall see.
--- Marquette (10-3) takes sole possession of first place by beating up on Seton Hall last night. Though, it might not last long as the Cuse and GTown can tie with home wins tonight. Watching the Orange against a hot Providence team should be interesting. Look out for PC to provide some nervous moments to the Carrier Dome folks.
--- For those that didn't know, it appears Jameel Poteat is transferring. The RB fell down the depth chart and never found his drive at UC. He entered as a big name and four-star recruit. Just the latest reminder to stop drooling over signing day stars. Seriously, stop it.
In case you haven't seen the Nippert renovation video. Here you go.
--- Some randomness ...
--- It's the Ghostbusters HQ in legos. Which is awesome. By the way, if you want to a real-life replica of the outside of Ghostbusters HQ head to Covington and check the building across from Molly Malone's. All that's missing is Ecto1 out front.
--- The RPI isstill bogus. As if you needed more proof.
The Bearcats need JaQuon Parker to take over more of the offensive load for UC to make a run in the postseason and of late he's shown he could be the difference-maker needed.
CINCINNATI -- After games you won't find JaQuon Parker scouring the box score for his point totals or seeking out his highlight on SportsCenter. In an era dominated by a quest for stats and stardom, Parker represents a throwback in that respect.
Long dedicated to executing Mick Cronin's gameplan Parker will be defined by a toughness unparalleled in recent Bearcats history when honored on Senior Day in two weeks. He eschews points for small details, splash plays for gritty rebounds. It will be his legacy at UC.
Only, over the next month-plus, Parker knows he must drop the unselfish act and start worrying about his stat sheet. In many ways, fulfilling the expectations of UC's season depends up on it. The Bearcats need more points. Nobody fits the mold to supply them better than Parker.
"I got to help him with that and put him in situations to where he can be aggressive, he's thinking offense, he's thinking shot, he's thinking attack," Cronin said. "For us to win, let's just be honest, he's got to play that way. For us to be a high-level team he's got to be a double-figure guy."
Easier said than done for Parker. To flip from a mentality of attacking the offensive glass and making the extra pass to selfishly creating his own shot requires stepping out of the instinctual way he's always played basketball --- and the instinctual way he implanted his footprint on UC.
"Especially for me, I don't really care about that much (scoring) offense," he said, "but I think when I actually make a conscious effort to do it I can do it."
Such will be the key. Cronin began the latest push to force Parker to think about his offense more following a Pittsburgh game where he only took four shots where one or two buckets would have easily swung the tide to Cincinnati.
Although Parker's thought of as a third option behind Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick, he's actually become the most efficient of everyone.
He leads the team in shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. During conference play, he paces the bearcats in field goal percentage, also 42 percent.
Yet, he's taken 80 fewer shots than Kilpatrick and 43 fewer than Wright in 13 conference games.
The hesitancy to find shots stems from a number of reasons in Cronin's opinion. The most notable concept Parker's desire to follow through on what coach preaches in practice, much of which centered around making the extra pass. Also, a constant desire to pull down offensive rebounds often pulls him out of positions where he could spot up for a kickout from a teammate's offensive board. The coach showed Parker film of those situations specifically in an effort to create more looks. Of course, to tell Parker not to grind after every rebound would be like telling Cronin not to coach. It's what they do. It's who they are.
"I got to make sure I don't allow him to slip into a mode where he's just trying to go to offensive rebound; where he's looking to be an integral part of our offense," he said. "That's big for us as we go forward. It's going to have to continue to be that for him."
Somewhere along the course of the season, the aggression faded. During the toughest portions of the non-conference schedule Parker stayed involved offensively. Looking at the seven non-cupcake games prior to the Big East slate (Iowa State, Oregon, Alabama, Marshall, Xavier, Wright State, New Mexico), he took significantly more shots than during conference play.
Time period: FG-FGA per game // Avg Points
Legit non-conference: 4.4-11.7 // 12.1
Big East play: 3.2-7.5 // 10.3
Prior to playing Villanova, Cronin placed a renewed effort to keep Parker thinking about attacking the basket. The difference has been noticeable. The last two games he's 10 of 19 from the floor, averaging 17 points. He earned a spot on the Big East Honor Roll for the first time this season.
It didn't come without a friendly reminder at halftime against Georgetown when he'd only taken two shots during another sluggish offensive half for UC.
"I don't know who they think is going to check in and get 20," Cronin said after the game. "I had to yell at him at halftime, he won't look at the rim. I love him but he's got the ball over his head. Sometimes it's everything I can do to get him to look at the rim."
The response showed exactly the type of impact Parker can have. He reeled off 11 consecutive points, the last of which closed a double-digit deficit to a 51-50 UC lead. Unfortunately, he would only be able to get off one more shot over the final 6:53 where the Bearcats went without a field goal until the game was already decided. This came one game after he poured in 19 points against Villanvoa, his highest point total since Dec. 22 against Wright State.
"I was coming into the game thinking I'm going to actually take more shots and try to get better shots and try to drive the ball more and get myself shots in the lane and get my teammates kickouts," Parker said.
Parker understands the importance of adding attack to toughness as his defining characteristic. As UC heads down the critical final five games of the regular season and into postseason play, he plans on continuing his crusade as difference-maker for a team only two baskets per game away from ranking among the elite in the Big East.
"I know my game is basically driving," he said. "On the 3-point if I'm set I can definitely hit that shot and so I just try to drive more and get more pull-ups. I definitely think I can (add more scoring) and from here on, I'm going to try to do that. Get the offense rolling and get it started."
I want to hear from you. Send an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or hit me up on Twitter (@pauldehnerjr) with any comments or questions.
You know how Monday morning really sets the tone for the week? Well, I'm currently experiencing a tone-setting much like Johnny Cueto hurting his back eight pitches into the playoffs. Only, gloomier.
Went to write this blog today and my computer didn't turn on. Just won't. Anyway, much thanks to the folks at Best Buy who were able to figure out the problem and stop all the nightmare scenarios from running through my head.
--- Time to take stock of the Big East landscape as we enter the final few weeks of the regular season. With five games remaining, the Bearcats are 2.5 games out of first place, two games back of Louisville for the fourth spot (and final double-bye in Big East tournament) and one win shy win No. 20.
As far as seeding and the NCAA tournament goes, most places have UC currently sitting around a 7 seed. As far as the Big East Tournament goes, they only need to avoid being caught by Providence, who is one game back, or they could end up playing on Tuesday with the different tournament breakdown this year.
There will be two games on Tuesday in New York, the 14 vs. 11 and 13 vs. 12. With UConn ineligible for postseason play, there are only 14 teams in the tournament.
More than likely, it appears UC will be somewhere in the Wednesday mix of teams seeded between 5 and 10. And games between all of those teams have been a crapshoot all season.
--- UC plays at UConn on Thursday at 7 p.m. Two of the next three games will be against the Huskies (17-7, 7-5) who surprisingly lost at home to Villanova this weekend.
The road has been a comfortable place for UC and perhaps what they need after losing two of three at Fifth Third last week.
At 5-2 in true road games, they lead the Big East in road winning percentage. Throw in the perfect 3-0 record in neutral site games and the lead grows even more.
A successful road trip, which has been at the core of the rebuild of this program the last few years, feels like a great remedy for the sting of Pittsburgh and Georgetown. --- People need to stop suggesting to me UC change the offensive style at this point in the season. Stop it. You can't learn an entirely new system with five games to go before the postseason. Find a way to get better at what you are doing and create more shots.
--- Mick Cronin Show tonight at 8:05 from the Montgomery Inn and on 700WLW. Should be a good listen. You've obviously got questions, Mick always allows thoughtful answers.
--- Tough weekend for the baseball team. They were swept in their opening series by Florida Atlantic, Sunday's finale being of the extra-inning walk-off variety. Justin Glass made his presence known though with a home run and RBI double to start off his anticipated junior season.
Cincinnati struggled from the free-throw line and 3-point arc Friday night and it cost them a quality win. Against the top teams which grace the schedule the rest of the way MIck Cronin acknowledges effort won't be enough, shots will need to fall.
CINCINNATI --- Often when analyzing a difficult loss, coaches and players point to a lack of intensity or a lull in the team's focus that allowed the opposing team to rip off a critical run.
That wouldn't be the case Friday night in the 62-55 loss to Georgetown. A charged atmosphere of a season high 12,842 mirrored the intensity of the home team as they blocked shots, created steals, dove on the floor and broke out all the signature hustle plays necessary to pull off a victory against a team ranked No. 15 in the country.
Only, on this night the Bearcats would need more than effort. They would need more than hustle. In fact, barrelling down a brutal stretch the rest of the season they will need more than try hard. At some point against a team that has now won seven in a row and stand alone atop the conference like Georgetown, a shot will need to fall from 3-point range and free throws will need to drop.
Friday night, they didn't. Thus, the Bearcats are left digesting a signature win that slipped away.
"We tried with maximum effort to do it but we didn't make enough shots and we didn't make enough free throws," Mick Cronin said. "Effort can only get you so far."
Most times problems made complicated in the minds of many can be simple in the bottom line. Particularly in a first half filled with open looks and a parade of free throws, the Bearcats witnessed shot after shot fall in and out or carom off the mark.
Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright combined to make 3 of 15 shots from deep and the team hit 17 of 30 free throws.
In a game that was within one possession until fouls in the final minute, figure if UC only would have shot 25 percent from 3-point range - still five percentage points below their conference play average - the storyline instead would have been of the latest emergence of a Bearcats group again circling the wagons for a late-season surge.
If Justin Jackson connects at the 63 percent he's shot from the line in conference play or Titus Rubles the 73 percent he's done since the Big East began, UC's comeback would have been complete and stories about the remarkable 11-point run by JaQuon Parker to pull UC ahead would fill the Internet.
Instead, the shots didn't fall. And the Bearcats are dealing with a third loss in four games and frustrating 7-6 record in conference.
Such will be the axiom for this team. Due to their makeup of perimeter scorers, the offensive swings will come and go and be enough to add wrinkles to the face of the head coach or loyal supporters. They will ultimately decide if this team wins or loses against the elite teams in the country. Their level of superb defense has been established and rarely wavers. When 12 of 25 from deep against Villanova happens, turn out the lights. When 4 of 24 from 3-point land happens against Georgetown, the dark nights will drench the basketball offices.
The margin for error on the superb defense is forced into nearly impossible situation otherwise.
"Got to be great on defense when you were struggling on offense," Cronin said. "We were good, we weren't great."
Complaining about free throw shooting will get you about as far as complaining about the weather. No amount of worrying about it or researching will change the fact some days it will rain. Some day the sun will shine. It's all about how you deal with it. Friday it rained.
"It happens to everybody," Cronin said. "You got to make sure your team doesn't let it affect them and focus on defense."
Now, the focus turns toward a game Thursday at Connecticut and five more games before the Big East tournament to catch the type of roll that can carry them back to the Sweet Sixteen. Taking the next step won't be a matter of try-hard, it will be a matter seeing enough shots fall down and critical mistakes avoided. Concerns over the current position in the league and overall are being shelved by the players in exchange for perspective.
"We are disappointed, but as an older team we realize all you got to do is get to the tournament," Wright said. "We just got to get there. All that will take core of itself and get rolling when the time comes."
When the time comes, they'll need to make shots. It's the undeniable truth with many teams, but rarely more so than with this particular group. I want to hear from you! Shoot me an email (email@example.com) or hit me up on Twitter (@pauldehnerjr) with your questions, comments or whatever else you come up with in the aftermath of the Georgetown loss.
Since graduating the University of Cincinnati with the record for most steals in a career in 1981, David "Puffy" Kennedy didn't spend much time keeping up with his alma mater. For the last 32 years his 189 steals stood untouched atop the record books and Puffy stopped even tracking contenders after Darnell Burton fell five steals short in 1997.
He'd certainly been unaware Monday when three steals by Cashmere Wright tied him with Kennedy, needing but one more to steal the all-time mark.
When this reporter attempted to track down the number for Puffy, the conduit ended up being his son, former St. John's point guard D.J. Kennedy, now playing in the NBADL. D.J. caught wind of the reason and provided the assist with a phone number. Only, D.J. wanted to be the first to call.
"Guess what," D.J said to open the conversation with his father. "I've got bad news."
From there, the news broke of a record destined to fall Friday night against Georgetown at 9 p.m. It'd be hard to imagine another scenario considering Wright's gone only three games this season without a steal for the Bearcats (19-6, 7-5).
"I said, well, it's about time," Puffy said. "I had it for three decades, what can I say? Sooner or later somebody was going to get it."
Barring disaster, that somebody will be Wright, who coincidentally arrives at this point in a similar mold. They both rely on their quickness from the point guard position and base the art of the steal on anticipation. Puffy held Marquette's Butch Lee, one of the nation's top point guards on an eventual national championship team, to just four points in Kennedy's freshman season. By his sophomore season he found himself guarding Magic Johnson in the Pontiac Silverdome and even added a few steals to his total at Earvin's expense.
"I was a defensive point guard," said Puffy, who also scored 1,002 points in his career, including 14.5 a game his senior season. "I was real quick, played for Ed Badger, we basically played man to man most of the games. I used to bring my man up and watch the ball and when guys would pass it I would just shoot in front of them."
Sounds familiar to any current fan of UC basketball whose watched Wright swat at passing lanes and dive at bobbled passes for four years. The closest Bearcats fans got to seeing the two styles go head to head was when Wright played against D.J., in 2009 and 2010. In three games, Wright managed but one steal. Son did his part protecting dad's record.
Unfortunately for Puffy, he couldn't stave off Wright, who fully understands the enormity of breaking a record three decades standing. Make no mistake, this record matters.
"That means a lot," Wright said. "Means you came here, you actually accomplished a goal. You did something people are going to remember you for maybe five or 10 years down the line. You put yourself in the top with those Van Exels and all the other point guards that were here."
That, of course, includes Puffy, who promises he'll be watching Friday and wants Cash to know his message.
"Tell him congratulations, best of luck," Kennedy said. "If I would have known I would have tried to get down there. That would have been something; that's a heck of an achievement. He'll probably have it for the next three decades."
That sounds like a plan for Wright, though, like anybody who accepts the passing of a torch, he'd love to advance the story.
"Hopefully it can stand up as long as the previous record, 32 years," he said. "Maybe double that to 64. It will always stick with me."
I want to hear from you! Shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or hit me up on Twitter (@pauldehnerjr) with any comments, questions or Puffy memories from my older generation of readers.
Outfielder Justin Glass emerged as the Bearcats premier player last season without ever truly being at full strength, feeling as healthy as any point in his career expectations are through the roof for the junior as UC baseball opens the season today.
CINCINNATI -- With the return of baseball season today for the University of Cincinnati with the opening game at Florida Atlantic comes the return of the Bearcats brightest young star, Justin Glass. Yet for the young outfielder the start of the season isn't just about the beginning of baseball, it's a chance for personal redemption.
An odd thought for anyone whose followed UC baseball the last two years. What could there be to redeem? After all, Glass led the team in runs, hits, RBIs, batting average and stolen bases last season while being named first team All-Big East.
Well, he earned all those accolades without playing at full strength. In fact, despite turning in two of the better freshman and sophomore seasons in recent memory around Marge Schott Stadium, Glass is yet to do so with a clean bill of health.
That is, until now.
"My expectations are really high," Glass said, promptly repeating it for emphasis. "Really high."
The redemption theme that has been building for Glass since 2010 when he graduated Carroll High School in Fort Wayne, Ind. Glass came off a season in which he shattered many of the school's all-time records, named a Louisville Slugger All-American and accepted a scholarship to UC. With his arrival on campus came lofty expectations. This is where luck began to unravel a bit for Glass, as injuries derailed the perfect start many hoped for Glass' career.
In an average college baseball season you can expect to play about 60 games, and when you consider the players are taking the field three to four times a week, it is easy to see the game can quickly become a war of attrition. Glass knows this all too well, spending the last two seasons battling through those injuries, while trying to live up to the tremendous expectations.
In his freshman year, Glass was able to start all 57 games for the Bearcats despite being hampered by a torn labrum. While he hit .326 with 45 RBI, 14 doubles and was named to the All-Big East Second Team, he knew production was far under what it could have been.
Coming off the labrum injury, and with high hopes for his sophomore season, Glass suffered from preseason appendicitis and consequently missed the entirety of the offseason. While the injury didn't physically hinder his play like the torn labrum of his first year, it did cause him to mentally lose his edge.
"I had no timing or anything," explained Glass.
Timing or no, Glass was a reliable force in the Bearcats line up, and despite missing the entire offseason; he started all 56 games in the outfield. He hit .366 with 21 doubles, 26 RBI and 15 stolen bases.
Glass' ability to perform at a high level while dealing with injuries thrust him into the national spotlight, and all eyes are on the Bearcats outfielder now that he will finally be playing in full force. Having been held back from his potential for two years, Glass is finally ready to get the monkey off of his back.
"I'm pumped," says Glass, "It's the first time I have been healthy in my entire career, so I'm more than happy to finally show everyone what I'm worth."
He's already proven to be a consistent force in the middle of the lineup. To play every game in his college career in spite of injury is one thing, but playing to the level he has is what makes Glass an centerpiece of the team.
"He's the type of player that can anchor your line up," Clearly said. "There aren't many guys that can hit third and he's one of them. When healthy, he can change the course of a game with his power and speed."
The team shares their coach's high regards of Glass, electing him their first team captain since the 2010 season.
"He has the overwhelming support of his teammates, and he takes the position very seriously," said Cleary, "This team means a lot to him."
Yet all the praise hasn't gotten to Glass' head, as he still feels he has a chip on his shoulder, and much more to accomplish. Going into this season, Glass has been named the sixth best pro prospect in the Great Lakes League by Baseball America and eighth best by Perfect Game. There is a growing sense that if Glass can stay healthy, and continue his tremendous performance on the field, he could be getting big league offers come draft time.
"It's kept driving me everyday," Glass said. "My family and friends are excited about the possibility, but I have to focus one day at a time and hopefully it will come. I just want to bring us the Big East championship, all the personal stuff that comes with winning is just icing on the cake."
While the young outfielder is focused on the upcoming season, he does have the occasional daydream of playing in the majors.
"It would be a dream come true if my name gets called this June," he said. "I'd be happy as heck."
The personal accolades and MLB possibilities shine in the distance, but what brightens this Friday under the Florida sun is for the first time in his collegiate career, he's been unshackled from injuries that plagued him.
"I feel great," he said. "It's the strongest and fastest I've been, mentally and physically, since high school."