Heard it From Hoard: Column 78
Anybody still think a Bob Huggins tribute was a lousy idea?
Kudos to my former Fox 19 colleague David Ashbrock for putting together a great video, and to UC's Ryan Koslen who designed the "Thanks Huggs!" sign. The pregame tribute was terrific and the game was even better.
I suspected the Big Fella would be moved to tears (in fact I called it Thursday afternoon on ESPN Radio), and it was obvious Coach Huggins was thrilled to see so many former players in attendance and grateful for the lengthy standing ovation. I was reminded of Jim Valvano's famous speech at the ESPY's when he said there are three things we should do every day - laugh, think, and cry.
Despite his intimidating presence on the sideline, Coach Huggins has always worn his heart on his sleeve and he wasn't the only person in the building fighting back tears before tipoff.
Mick Cronin was not only in favor of honoring his former boss - he pushed for it.
"I'm not done either," Mick told me before the game. "I think there are some things coming down the road. Coach Huggins needs to have a banner somewhere in this arena. I'd like it to be in a new arena since we're on topics of the future, but he's the all-time winningest coach here and wherever you go, usually the all-time winningest coach is honored somewhere in the arena. Obviously we already have Ed Jucker Court, but someday I'd like to get a banner in the rafters."
However, Mick disagrees with the notion that this year's game brought closure to the entire saga.
"No I don't, and I don't worry about it," Mick said. "I think the answer to the whole situation is to just keep building our program. The story will gradually be focused more and more around our team if we continue to recruit better players and become a better team as we have each year since I've been here."
It was a memorable night and a huge win for Cincinnati - especially considering the absence of Mike Williams who missed the game with a sprained knee. An MRI showed no structural damage and Mike has the green light to return as soon as the pain subsides. Let's hope that's Sunday at the Carrier Dome, because his ability to shoot and pass from the free throw area would be extremely useful vs. Syracuse's 2-3 zone.
I hate to complain about officiating and try to keep it to a minimum, but I still can't believe Larry Davis got hit with a technical foul with 1:30 to go in a 2-point game. OK, maybe Larry said something he shouldn't have to the official, but he didn't get in his face, and wasn't screaming or making wild gestures. I think most officials would have looked the other way.
Then again, most officials don't eject mascots.
Much has been made over the fact that the Bearcats did not have a win over a RPI Top 25 opponent before beating West Virginia. Did you realize that stat is not on the "team sheets" that the NCAA tournament committee uses to pick the field of 65?
The website Basketball State has an exact replica of one of those team sheets (in this case Clemson), and while it does include a team's record vs. RPI Top 50 opponents, there is no mention of the RPI Top 25.
Cincinnati has 5 wins over RPI Top 50 opponents, which is equal to Xavier, Memphis, and Syracuse and better than Kentucky, West Virginia, Providence and UCLA.
As of today (Friday, February 27), UC is #50 in the RPI ratings.
Big thanks go out to Jim and Sarah Kelly for hosting a "Struggle for the Steak" dinner at their house this week to celebrate Mo Egger's triumph during the football season. It was a fun night and a phenomenal feast. It's been 48 hours and I'm still stuffed.
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Enjoy this week's photo of the handsome lad.