Recently in Wayne Box Miller Category

15 and Won

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Well go ahead and say I told you so; UC loses to Villanova yesterday and have left the ranks of the unbeaten. So many people kept waiting for them to lose, to point to that loss as proof they're not for real. Well UC is victim number 45 for Villanova at their home gym meaning all the powerhouses of the Big East have succumb to the Wildcat confines. UC played hard and while they can play better, they should be given respect until further notice. They are 15 and one overall and 2-1 in the Big East. With another successful run in the Big East tournament and a solid league performance, the NCAA tournament is within reach this year.

I know you're now thinking now they're heading into the meat of their schedule, the losses will come like the previous set of wins. Here's an idea; judge them game by game and wish them well. Be optimistic and not pessimistic; celebrate the return of respectable UC basketball after the near death experience when Huggins then Kennedy left, as well as future players. 

UC basketball has people talking and watching again and its been a long time coming. You can't deny improvement and increased energy. You can't dismiss the effort being displayed on the court and you can't ignore they have one other thing in place that was lacking before; and that's depth and they'll need that when fouls stack up on the road in the league.

While you're wishing bad on UC, please don't break an ankle jumping on the bandwagon when they finally get over the hump and head toward the big dance. I think they'll make it this year but they have already won with they way they're playing. Losing because of a lack of effort is the only way this season takes a turn for the worse and would be considered a failure. But looking in the eyes of these kids, I don't believe for a minute they think they can't win. I don't believe they feel otherwise either. 

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.

14 Should Get You 25

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After UC's impressive win over Seton Hall and 2 Big East wins, they are now in first place in the hoops mega-conference. And that should now get them in the top 25 and a little more. UC has just won 14 straight games, and, along the way beat Dayton who always plays them tough; beat Oklahoma on the road, DePaul and now Seton Hall at home. Say what you want about them not playing anyone but they are winning by margins that top ranked teams win by and that's double digits.

I know people say they haven't played anybody but now that they're in the Big East and they have held serve, so give them some love; and with Xavier up next this will be the next "real" test. Xaiver and UC's records are irrelevant when they play because the rivalry fuels competition. So this is the final test of nay sayers, when they play the Musketeers, so let the wins fall where they may based on the outcome of effort not the game.

14 should get you 25 and 15 in a row should get you votes for the top 20. Through it all the one saving grace about college basketball is that in the end you play the Big East tournament and the NCAA tournament. We know they'll play in the first one and at this point they're certainly worthy of playing in the second one. You play the teams on your schedule and you beat them the way you're supposed to. The Bearcats have done that and you have to respect that, even if you're a hater.

So up next are Xavier and the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout; and up next should be their position in the polls; regardless of the score, effort notwithstanding.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat...

11 Reasons To Come Back Home

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So many of us have convinced ourselves that UC basketball is a thing of the past and after this year's disappointing football season we have started wishing on a star. Well while your head was skyward, UC basketball has reeled off 11 wins in a row including a always scary Miami of Ohio and Coach Charlie Coles.

Now I know, like you the majority of these teams were scheduled to win and beef up the record but they are beating them like they're supposed to and some teams who scheduled the "cupcakes" ended up losing to them so give respect to the process. Duke does the exact same thing for those ready to offer elite team comparisons. The bottom line is they're undefeated and they deserve some support from students and alumni.

We will find out how much fools gold we have but I have a feeling this team is pretty good; notice I didn't say great, which is THE most overused word in the sports dictionary as it now relates to one play or one season versus a lifetime of work. But when you are 11-0 and have beaten who you are supposed to by the margin you're supposed to I have to acknowledge that. Maybe you can acknowledge them by going to a game when time permits. I mean for what one Bengal ticket cost, you can have a family affair at a UC basketball game and be indoors where it's warm.

I can't make you go to a game and I can't make UC's schedule for them, but if I did I would leave it the way it is until they're ready to have a schedule like Kentucky's whose comes equipped with NBA in waiting players touring and passing time.

So check out a game, get to know some names and faces on this team and when they turn the corner you can say I know; I've been coming for a minute. And that's better than not at all. I always say these kids want to believe you care about them like you did when they were hot shot recruits. Where you faking then when you said we got your back? I wasn't and that's why I'm writing you with 11 reasons to come back the shoe.

Now if they can just change the name to the Big O-Rena in honor of Oscar Robertson...that's for another day

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.

It's On To The Orange

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Well the football season didn't pan out the way we wanted but we have next year and with so many returning players how can you not be optomistic about the future of UC football?

And with an 8-0 start how can you not have optimism about the future of UC basketball? Now i'm not proclaiming they're going to run the Big East table or even make the tournament but give them credit for beating the teams they scheduled by the margins you would expect. Yes their first true test witll be Oklahoma because it will be a team in a major conference who has major players and a major advantage with the home crowd; but it will also allow us to see how players who have had little trouble getting their shots, work to get them against like minded competition. Will Yancy Gates continue to rebound and deliver double doubles? Will Dion Dixon still contribute and keep his composure? Will Cashmere Wright run the point effectively? These answers will start to reveal themselves in the very near future.

I am not opposed to scheduling wins for two reasons; One, to get in the NCAA, it appears 20 something is the key regardless of other factors. When you look at teams who haven't had much success still get in the tournament, typically its because they've won 20plus games. So the 'Cats have 8 down and I'd estimate 15 to go to be a lock. Secondly, whatever isn't working or needs tweaking, you can fix with these games because it will show itself to the coaching staff. Now either the coaches fix the problem or replace the parts, and I don't think UC still has the depth to replace players with the same talent level so they can focus on the task at hand.

This is one of the most anticipated seasons in Bearcat basketball history because it will most certainly decide whether Mick Cronin is successful or not. I think they just have to win the games they're supposed to win like the first 8 and the rest will take care of itself. The bigger question is: Which games are they supposed to win in the Big East? The answer will come well after the question.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat...

Numbers Don't Lie

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There's an old saying that goes "everyone is number one at something; even if it's number one at not being number one." And so goes the University of Cincinnati football season. No bowl games, no Big East title; no win over top ranked teams and you say Box why are you reminding us of a season we're trying to forget?

The answer is simple: these numbers don't lie either; 100% of your starting defense was underclassmen. Over 4,000 yards in the form of Isaiah Pead and Zach Collaros return. The addition of red shirt freshman and the indication that some JUCO players will be brought in to sure up the apparent holes is a plus and will surely improve a team with 63 players at the sophomore or below level going into 2011. 

I know fan apathy set in like a Charlie Sheen meltdown and doubt followed you home but there is always next year and in this case, unlike maybe the Bengals, there is hope. When you look at the returning players, the experience and the additions the numbers say wins, bowls and trophies. I know most of us are in the "I'll believe it when I see it" category but I'll step out and say UC will bounce back next year and regain wins and fans. Check any school when it loses top players and lots of seniors, growing pains surface and the key is to build depth at every position; but here's the challenge: When you have depth at every position players to go to other schools to start right away and thus rebuilding at times is unavoidable. I offer you USC, LSU and Florida, who just a few years ago looked like dynasties of the gridiron. The problem was very good players said I can start at Auburn, Alabama and Oregon...(you should be having an ah ha moment now) and now they look like the kings of campuses.

So lets rebuild, lets regroup and lets prepare for 2011 today. If you're a fan shift your focus to an undefeated and seemingly improved Bearcat basketball team. With the recent attendance figures, if you migrated over to the shoe and filled it up, it could give the hardwood Bearcats and advantage over visiting teams...imagine that!? I imagine you might not because it's win first support second, alumni first athletes second; but that's for another column.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat...

Senior Moment

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OK the season is coming to a sad end with no Bowl in sight...lets move on and focus on the Pitt Panthers. The seniors from this football team had a great run minus this season. Big East titles, Orange and Sugar Bowl appearances and they helped to restore credibility and respect to this program. So how will you honor them? Hopefully by showing up this Saturday and paying homage to them for giving you reason to be UC proud again.

There's no question this is a season many of you want to forget but note this season as a bump in the road because this team will be better next year. They will have returning players, a recruiting class to add to the depth of this program and the hunger for payback after this year's rough and tumble results.

But lets get back to these seniors who came here when they had options; when they could have said what has UC done football wise? Or I'll go to an established college power regardless of the number of players at my desired position. Instead, they came here and won; and won consistently and raised the profile of the school as evidence by their appearance on ABC primetime and ESPN primetime. Yes this senior class has much to be proud of and when they look back on their time at UC it will be fond memories and lots of camaraderie.

What I don't want is for them to look back and see empty seats on their last game and wonder where all the people were who claimed they were fans. Remember these players can still influence younger players in their hometown to follow them here and one of the selling points can be: "The fans showed us love, even in our last but not so successful year". As the argument goes: look at the total body of work and then respond accordingly.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.

Perfect Pead Performance

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Isaiah Pead proved that next year he should be mention with the list of Heisman hopefuls before the season began. With 5 touchdowns and 213 yards in their rout of Rutgers, you can't ignore he's the best back in the Big East and with a 7 yards per carry average, he is a first down waiting to happen. 

UC football resuscitated itself yesterday because prior to last night's game many people had given up on this team. I said lets wait; a hard thing for fans to do, but they did deserve to see the kind of offensive performance the Bearcats showed last night as a reminder of their potential. 

But the credit goes to Pead and the offensive line who made the Scarlet Knight defense look high school-ish. They were sliced, diced and shredded like cheese and Zach Collaros and his receiving corp, like Pead, had a ball. Someone tell Carson Palmer if Zach can throw it up for Armon Binns, he should try it with his crew but I digress. If this offense can finish up the season firing on all cylinders they can build momentum going into next year and the fans will have hope. As this young defense matures they could bolster the other side of the ball and this team will then return to the Big East prominence they've enjoyed the past few years.

I am so glad I was able to enjoy this game because we'll all look back one day and reminisce about Isaiah Pead and his performance of a lifetime; our lifetime. It was Heisman worthy and worth repeating. So as they hit the road and face UConn we have to have faith they will carry the success of this game into next week. 

So Coach Butch Jones I backed you last week and your team came through. I'm still on board and I hope the fans are too. Give them another reason to stay on the bandwagon because as you've learned in Cincinnati, the weather and fan loyalty both change daily.

That's the way I see it sitting in The Box Seat...

Plenty of Wiggle Room

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Well the hard thud you just heard was people jumping off the UC football bandwagon and the Butch Jones bandwagon too. Few thought UC had a chance of beating West Virginia in Morgantown but I think everyone just wants to see this team compete game in and game out. I use the Oklahoma game as exhibit a; they loss BUT they competed less a few plays and player lapses. Now comes the Mountaineers game and we're asking ourselves why aren't they playing hard and seemingly going full throttle? 

I can't answer those questions directly but I know one thing to be true; if UC doesn't come out fired up and ready to pounce on Rutgers this week, they will lose all the momentum Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly created because this town is composed of bandwagon fans. They will start thinking UC basketball and high school sports. The Bengals are history this season for the most part and baseball season, minus Reds Fest, is next year. I want to see what coach Jones can create in the form of a rebirth of this team and I want to see what these players are made of with respect to having short term memory loss putting the last game behind them. It's up to the football program to get the respect of the fans back. It's up to the fans to give them another chance. 

UC football, the day of reckoning his here come Saturday. You have to make a statement about yourself and whether you're worthy of fans, even the bandwagon variety. The true fans will stay but the problem is there aren't as many of them as you think. Whether we agree or not with the philosophy of I'm on board as long as you're winning is irrelevant. The important fact is none of the players and coaches should be contributing to that belief or buying in. Internal demise will show outwardly and its toxic to boot.

Somebody will be wearing Bearcat uniforms this weekend; The question is who? Winners fill in the blank.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat

Homecoming Back To Reality

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This could be the homecoming that brings UC Football back to reality, back to earth. The somewhat embarrassing loss to Syracuse brought several things to light and only a fortune teller can predict what's next.

What was disappointing to start was the heads pointing south, not north on the UC sidelines. UC football teams of the last few years never worried about the score or how far behind they were going into the fourth quarter. They allowed us to believe that no mountain was unscalable, no score insurmountable. The team I saw, showed me otherwise on Saturday and I'll say for now it was an aberration.

Secondly the fan base that booed and ultimately left prior to the conclusion of the game showed how spoiled they have become in such a short period of time. Wasn't it just around 5 years ago that this stadium was devoid of a winner? this football team was an after thought? and now that Mark Dantonio, Brian Kelly and now Butch Jones have brought this team back to a level of respectability, their reward is for us to boo and run? 

Don't get me wrong I wasn't happy with their performance either but I had to remind myself: Chazz Anderson was playing in his first real game this season; so did you expect him to play as if he had 20 starts under his belt? D J Woods has apparently been battling the fumble bug and hasn't shaken it yet, so once again he has to look inside himself to find the cure. I say watch film of Tiki Barber before and after the same challenge he had. It is fixable; and finally and very easy to overlook is the youth of this defense. They have underclassmen across the board in every down and distance situation and like the teams we rolled over because of youth and inexperience over the past few years, there is a cost to replenishing starters.

With that being said I know some are saying so what; you have the right to say that and I grant you your opinion. But you also have an obligation to stay and give them a visual vote of confidence by sticking it out. Like you did last year's team; and the team the year before and you'll find out that when kids look up in the stands and see people there until the very end, they know those fans are really behind them and not there because it's fashionable. 

So here's the reality; this team may not go to a BCS game and a bowl game that sounds sexy but there still your team...aren't they? If they are, finish the game strong as a fan and trust me I believe the coaches are telling them to finish strong as a team. If we both do that then we'll find out just how good we both are. If this becomes a consistently tough place to play, advantage our kids; if not advantage visiting team. That won't be the fault of UC football, it will be the fault of the fans. So lets see who we are for the rest of the season; winners who stick it out and cheer until the very end or losers who hit the exits at the first sign of fourth quarter adversity. Being a fan isn't easy, especially when winning makes you complacent. Lets get use to being real fans regardless of the outcome; the kids came here based on how you acted when they were being recruited not how some of you are acting now.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat

Wading in the Waddell

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This past weekend was the last one for Senior Associate Athletic Director Mike Waddell, who accepted the position of athletic director of Townson University in Maryland. Mike was one of the 3 headed Mike's who has really made the University of Cincinnati sports landscape more appealing not only to the fan base but to the city and the national media. Mike Thomas brought Waddell with him from Akron and then Mike Harris came via Miami of Ohio and they have really made UC accessible to all media. I remember being on a local station (1230 WDBZ) not part of the broadcast rights, and they made it clear: everyone matters to us. They didn't just talk about  it or even, as some had done before them avoid it; They lived it. Players, coaches, information and partnerships have become the norm. With Ryan Koslen on board the respect continued and although I am not in the mainstream media as much, blogging for the University of Cincinnati has been a blessing thanks to these gentleman and Mike in particular. When I announced the UC basketball games, it was Waddell who said let's get this place excited and he allowed me to do that in a style that the players loved (unfortunately some of the stiffs and starched ones disapproved). Mike Thomas even used my style of intro's when he mentioned his lovely wife Je-Je-Je- Je-Je-Jenny after the start of one game.

I'm going to miss Mike Waddell, who I introduced to Sugar & Spice as well as the other two Mikes because we always communicated away from the campus as well as on campus; and when he had an idea or thought, or even thought something wasn't right, he wasn't afraid to ask. Imagine that: getting feedback and input irrespective of your position. That is the Mike I know; I also know the military influenced Mike who was passionate about success and pushing the envelope. As long as you understand him, you'll enjoy working with him. Ask anyone from CSPN, Cincinnati's sports professional network and Mike was on board; coaching kids, even his own, he was engaging and getting better academically he was trying.

I know this isn't the last of Waddell we'll see; I'm sure he'll be back and in Baltimore rooting for the 'Cats, especially since they're no direct competition for UC. I would neither be surprised to see them on the basketball schedule as a means of a financial boost to their school and as a complimentary trip back to the Nati'. I look forward to seeing him again and I'm sure many others will too. We often have trouble with personalities that don't mirror ours and when you don't accept people for who they are you stymie your own growth. Mike and I have grown because we accepted each other, plain and simple. Mike Waddell, I accept the fact you're leaving for a chance to be in charge and to deploy the best practices you've learned along the way. If you share with Towson what you shared with us and what you learned while you were here, they will win by default. 

I have won because I have a new friend, a new found respect for a job that is under
appreciated and a new school to root for. If Mike is there then I wish them well and I'm sure he feels the same about me and the University of Cincinnati.

All the best my friend and remember the words of Andrea Jung "If you feel like it's difficult to change, you will probably have a harder time succeeding."

Mike Waddell, changing you have done; succeeding you will always do...

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat