Heard it From Hoard: Column 77
On Saturday morning I heard a fellow media member call the Louisville game a "must win" for UC.
For starters, the expression is overused and almost never true. A win over the Cardinals wouldn't have clinched an NCAA tournament bid and the loss certainly doesn't kill UC's chances. If fact, you can make the case that a road win at Syracuse next Sunday would be more beneficial to the resume than a home win over Louisville.
The bottom line is pretty simple. If the Bearcats win three of their last four regular season games to finish 20-11 overall and 10-8 in the league, they're on the bubble going to New York and would probably need a couple of wins in the Big East tourney to have a shot at March Madness.
If they win all four to go 11-7 in the Big East, the Bearcats would probably go to New York as a team projected to make the field of 65, depending on developments in conference tournaments around the country.
Don't get me wrong. The Louisville game was a tremendous opportunity to improve their chances and the Bearcats didn't take advantage. Fortunately, the next two games offer similar opportunities.
And let's give the Cardinals some credit. They won the game by being relentless on the glass (17 offensive rebounds). That's exactly how Louisville won on the road at Villanova (13 offensive rebounds) and Syracuse (21 offensive rebounds).
I don't know about you, but heading into March with a legitimate shot at the NCAA tourney is basically what I was hoping for at the start of the season - especially after Cashmere Wright went down.
If you take an objective look at the season to date, the 'Cats lost one game they probably should have won (Providence at home), and won one game they probably should have lost (Georgetown on the road). If I could choose a mulligan, I'd like another shot at Xavier at home because the Musketeers were more of a finished product than the Bearcats at the time.
Still, it's great to be in the bracketology debate heading into Thursday's "Return of Huggs" game at Fifth Third Arena.
I've written about my feelings for Coach Huggins before, and I'm looking forward to his return. He's a tremendous coach, a guy who would do anything for his closest friends, and one of the funniest people I've ever met. Doing the TV play-by-play on Fox 19 during Kenyon Martin's senior year when UC was ranked #1 in the country was one of the highlights of my career, and I'll always appreciate how great Huggs was to work with during his years at Cincinnati.
I have similar feelings for Mick Cronin and the two of them are more alike as coaches than most people realize. They are both extremely smart, fiercely competitive workaholics, who value toughness in their players more than any other quality. They are the sons of legendary high school coaches who could have been successful in other professions but chose to get into the family business.
Let's hope both of them are coaching in the NCAA tourney in a few weeks.
In last week's column, I proposed a draft made up only of Big East players and invited you to compare your Top 10 picks to mine. I received quite a few e-mails and none of you agreed with my final choice of Providence's Geoff McDermott.
That's OK, I don't agree with it anymore either.
After watching Terrence Williams yesterday, it's impossible to leave him off the team.
Finally, there's a story in the current edition of Sports Illustrated called "The Big Brutal". It's about how difficult the Big East is this year and includes this exchange from the Syracuse locker room following a recent loss to Connecticut.
"We're 6-6 in the league," SU coach Jim Boeheim told his players. "We'd all like to be better, but our whole purpose is what? Paul?"
"Get to the NCAA tournament," mumbles Paul Harris.
"Right," says Boeheim. "The important thing is to get in."
Change the names and numbers and the same exchange could have taken place in the UC locker room after the Louisville game. Well, at least before the players got kicked out.
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Enjoy this week's photo of the handsome lad.