Heard it From Hoard: Column 39
Can you say Mick Cronin for Big East Coach of the Year?
A tad premature perhaps, but if the vote were taken today he'd win in a landslide (unless another candidate sheds some tears at a news conference - that appears to sway voters based on the New Hampshire primary).
In truth, the only thing I can safely predict where the Big East is concerned is that hotel prices will be grotesque at the Big East Tournament in New York (it's nice to have to worry about that this year). Who would have thought that two weeks into conference play, the 16-team Big East would have no undefeated teams? Of the five teams tied for 1st place at 3-1, three are Conference USA alums - Cincinnati, DePaul, and Marquette - and the Blue Demons and Bearcats were picked by the coaches to finish 11th and 12th respectively.
It's probably not realistic to expect the 'Cats to finish near the top of the league standings, but did you really expect them to have wins over Louisville, Syracuse, and Villanova (combined record 35-12)?
I've said on numerous occasions that I though a reasonable goal for this year's team was to make it to Madison Square Garden in March. Well, based on their outstanding start, I have a new target for the Bearcats - a .500 or better record in league play. It won't be easy, but if the 'Cats win 5 of their 7 remaining home games and steal one more win on the road, they would be 9-9 in the Big East.
And Mick would be named Coach of the Year.
Time for some random nuggets.
The win over Villanova was UC's first over a nationally-ranked opponent since March of 2006 when it beat West Virginia in the famous "Huggs returns" senior day game at Fifth Third Arena. Prior to that win, Cincinnati had lost 13 straight to ranked foes dating back to a home win over Memphis is 2004. Something tells me we won't have to wait two years for the Bearcats to knock off another.
One of the things I love about doing play-by-play is the homework. Going into Saturday's broadcast, I went back through box scores and play-by-play sheets to determine that Marvin Gentry had made 14 straight free throws dating back to the November 16th game against Coastal Carolina. That bit of info proved interesting when Marvin went 0-3 from the line against Villanova.
Did you read about Kenyon Martin's 30th birthday party on New Year's Eve? He used three private jets to fly his Denver Nuggets teammates to Miami where he put them up at The Four Seasons. The birthday party was held at a private mansion with various celebs and big-name athletes in attendance. Somehow my invitation got lost in the mail. It must have been a good night - the Nuggets beat the defending NBA champion Spurs in their next game.
I spotted Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith at the Kingsgate Marriott over the weekend. Don't get excited Bengals fans, I know for a fact that his visit to the 'Nati had nothing to do with working for Mike Brown. Oddly enough, several years ago when UC was looking for a head coach after the dismissal of Rick Minter, I happened to informally discuss the subject with Cris Collinsworth who suggested that the Bearcats should go after Smith (then the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams). I passed the information along to Bob Goin who told me he put in a call to St. Louis, but was told that Smith was not interested in returning to the college game.
Hey, don't forget that it's not too late to compete for great prizes including a $1000 college scholarship at struggleforthesteak.com. It's fun, fast, and free.
Finally, I'm happy to report that 20-month-old Sam Hoard will be in attendance when the 'Cats host UConn on January 23rd. Enjoy this week's obligatory photo of the handsome lad.
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