Heard it From Hoard: Column 58
If Cincinnati beats USF this week and West Virginia next week, the Bearcats would likely be in the driver's seat for winning a BIG EAST title and playing in a BCS bowl game.Go ahead, call me delusional, but I think it's possible. Admittedly, the prospect of winning the next two seems formidable after Saturday's loss at Connecticut, but what were the odds of Rutgers' beleaguered QB Mike Teel throwing 6 touchdown passes at Pitt? How 'bout USF finishing with 8 rushing yards in its loss at Louisville? My point is that the BIG EAST (with the notable exception of my woeful alma mater Syracuse) is impossible to predict, and the loss at UCONN was not nearly as ugly as the final score indicated. With a rusty Tony Pike in the game, the Bearcats led by three at halftime and had the football coming their way to begin the third quarter. Unfortunately, the offense sputtered when Pike was replaced by Chazz Anderson, and the Huskies turned a 7-point lead into a 40-16 win in the last 5:47. It's important to keep in mind that Pike got the bulk of the practice reps with the first-string offense over the past two weeks and the game plan was tailored to his strengths. That undoubtedly contributed to Anderson's struggles - Chazz is 2-0 when he practices as the starting quarterback. The bottom line is that the Bearcats are capable of winning with either as the starter. As for the defense, as far as I'm concerned it did a great job against the nation's leading rusher Donald Brown. Sure he finished with 150 yards, but 70 came on UConn's final drive when the game was out of reach. Before that, Brown had 80 yards on 24 carries - an average of 3.3 yards per rush. The bottom line is that the Bearcats, despite being forced to use four quarterbacks, are 5-2 with losses to a team with a 21-game home winning streak (Oklahoma) and an 11-game home winning streak (Connecticut). I fully expect the Bearcats to rebound with a great performance in front of a packed house on Thursday night at The Nip. Come Early. Be Loud. And Wear Black! Last week was certainly a tough one for Bearcat fans with the Connecticut loss coming on the heels of Thursday's news that freshman point guard Cashmere Wright will miss the entire season with a knee injury. I met Cashmere for the first time when he attended the St. John's game on February 13th. Two things immediately caught my eye; his megawatt smile, and how comfortable he seemed to be with the players on last year's team. "His parents have taken the time to drive him up to Cincinnati several times on their own where he can be around the guys and get himself acclimated," Coach Cronin told me at the time. "They know how badly we need him to be a factor right away for us, and they're committed to doing everything they can do to help him join in." Cashmere estimated that he and his parents made the 10-hour drive to Cincinnati four or five times after he committed to UC, and said he already considered himself a Bearcat. "Even when I'm not in Cincinnati, the guys call me all of the time to see how I'm doing and what's going on in my life," Cashmere told me in February. "They're trying to help me out. It's like we're brothers already." It's a shame he won't be able to play this season, but at least it happened early enough to give the coaching staff a chance to make adjustments. While Wright's injury was depressing, here's something that might help you feel a bit better. If Mike Williams gets an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA (see the end of column 56 for why I think that's possible), the Bearcats aren't likely to lose a single key player next season. Compare that to the 10 teams picked to finish higher than UC at BIG EAST media day. UConn: Seniors Jeff Adrien and AJ Price, and possibly junior Hasheem Thabeet (projected first round pick by NBAdraft.net). Georgetown: Senior Jessie Sapp, and possibly junior DaJuan Summers (projected first round pick by NBAdraft.net) and freshman Greg Monroe (projected first round pick by NBAdraftexpress.com). Louisville: Seniors Andre McGee, Terrence Williams, and possibly junior Earl Clark (projected first round pick by NBAdraft.net) and freshman Samardo Samuels (projected first round pick by NBAdraftexpress.com). Marquette: Seniors Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, and Jerel McNeal. Notre Dame: Seniors Kyle McAlarney, Zack Hillesland, Ryan Ayers, and Luke Zeller. Pitt: Seniors Levance Fields, Tyrell Biggs, and junior Sam Young (projected first round pick by NBAdraft.net). Providence: Seniors Geoff McDermott, Jeff Xavier, and Randall Hanke. Syracuse: Possibly sophomore Jonny Flynn (projected first round pick by NBAdraftexpress.com). Villanova: Seniors Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark, Dante Cunningham. W. Virginia: Senior Alex Ruoff. I am certainly not writing off this season - in fact, I can't wait to broadcast this Saturday's exhibition opener against traditional Canadian powerhouse Carleton University. Still, when you look at BIG EAST rosters, it appears that Cincinnati will be in tremendous shape next season. I'd love to hear from you. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy this week's photo of the handsome lad enjoying one of his favorite activities.