It's been a long, strange journey for the 2011 Cincinnati Reds. The team's first 92 games have seen injuries, lengthy slumps, poor starting pitching and more close losses than a team with such a good bullpen should statistically endure. Still, with 70 regular-season games remaining, the Reds sit 2 games below .500 and just 4 out of the division lead, which puts the organization's executives in a tough spot.
The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Unfortunately for me, I don't have a Lenny Small around to shoot and blame for the things that went wrong.
On Saturday I was fixin' to play some Tecmo SuperBowl with my homies when I noticed the red light on the 'Tendo flashing on and off, which to a certain demographic of American males automatically means that any saved progress you had stored in that little gray box has surely scattered to the four winds.
Last week’s win over Louisville has gone a long way toward
moving the Bearcats off the NCAA Tournament bubble and into the 10-seed area of
most projections. A win at South Florida last Sunday would have all-but-secured
the invitation, but the dudes lost by a point on the road, 46-45.
[UPDATE: The Bearcats whooped on Marquette, 72-61; here's the AP recap: Cincinnati halts No. 7 Marquette to pad resume.]
Tonight UC will welcome No. 7 Marquette to Fifth Third Arena under a bunch of weird circumstances: Marquette kicked the crap out of the Bearcats 95-78 on Feb. 11, and it’s Senior Night for a couple of UC players who aren’t used to being trampled so badly (at least not in recent years).
Here’s what Yancy and Dion told The Enquirer’s Bill Koch yesterday.
“You know that it’s Senior Night and we feel it,” Gates said, “but I think we’ll feel it more when we get on the court tomorrow. Right now, our focus is so much on we need this win that we really don’t have time to sit back and think, ‘Oh, tomorrow’s Senior Night.’ ”
“I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow,” Dixon said. “We’re just trying to focus on getting this win. That’s the main thing.”
After tonight, the Bearcats have one remaining regular-season game, at Villanova on Saturday. Assuming they can’t handle the rematch with Marquette, they’ll really need to beat Villanova to avoid entering the Big East tournament on a three-game losing streak. If they were to drop their first tournament game after that, they’d be sitting at 20-12 on Selection Sunday with a real ugly RPI.
One win out of UC’s remaining regular-season schedule or in the Big East tournament should be enough to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. But a win over South Florida last Sunday probably would have assured it as well.
It is under such circumstances that two of Mick Cronin’s most influential recruits take the court tonight for their final home game. Gates is a hometown player who chose UC over Ohio State, West Virginia and Xavier, among others, and has traveled a fairly up-and-down road during his four years. Gates surely wants to end his senior season on a high note after the Crosstown Shootout fiasco, which threatens to overshadow his years of hard work and importance to Mick Cronin’s rebuilding effort at UC. Gates currently ranks 17th on UC’s career scoring list and is the only Bearcat to ever lead his team in rebounding four straight seasons.
Dixon came to UC from a Chicago public school where he used to jam on a bunch of high schoolers. He’s contributed every year, as his 1,183 career points show — good for 27th all-time at UC. Dixon’s versatility has been a huge help to Cronin, who has used Dion as a shooting guard and point guard during various parts of his career. And Dion tries to thump it on people even though he’s just a little too small to do it all the time. We still really appreciate that.
After everything this year’s team — and these two seniors, specifically — has been through, tonight is surely going to be an energetic and emotional night down at The Shoe. Hopefully the ’Cats can hang with Marquette — securing an NCAA Tournament-securing win on Senior Night would be a beautiful way for the careers of these two players to end.
Last week Bengals owner Mike Brown sat down for a rare interview, obliging Enquirer reporter Mark Curnutte with a few short answers to some very basic questions: Why do the Bengals suck all the time? Where do you go from here? Do you want to try another new coach and see if that works?
Along with the donkeys, there will also be an alumni team and celebrity team, featuring several Marines, the Clermont County sheriff and Clermont County prosecutor, plus two teams featuring current Batavia Local school's teachers, staff and high school students.
Get there early for a chili cook-off. Free donkey rides available at half-time.
5:30 p.m. chili cook-off; 7 p.m. donkey ball game. $6 in advance at Batavia's high school, middle school or elementary $8 at the door; free for ages 12 and under. Game in the Batavia High School gym, 1 Bulldog Place, Batavia, bataviaschools.org.
I can't go on writing "The Reds should sign (insert free agent's name here)” blogs much longer. Pitchers and catchers report soon enough, and who the Reds sign, if anyone, isn't likely to be a very big-time move.
Upon hearing that the Eagles signed Michael Vick, I thought a few different things. Then I tried to put a filter on those thoughts, since I’m a Giants fan and might just think things because I've never liked the Eagles and never will.
Despite this, Donovan McNabb is one of those Derek Jeter types: a solid leader both off and on the field who still seems to be as much of a student of the game as he was during his first few years in the league. Even though you may hate the team he plays for, it is done begrudgingly because you know that the McNabbs and Jeters are the best of the best.
Politicians love to lend their support to organizations that make people happy. Our country's leaders and those in our own community often take time out of their busy leader schedules to cut ribbons, shake hands, rename streets in honor of individuals and generally grub on the pride we have for those among us who succeed.
Let us recall Mayor Mallory's Opening Day wild pitch or his steadfast support of the Bengals during a meaningless late season game against the Steelers. It is good for a sports team to be recognized by the community, especially a college program that needs an increase in attendance and some private donor help in order to reach the level that will allow it to succeed regularly. But it’s kind of awkward when the politicians come out and try to be a part of the celebration. Remember when City Council invited UC Coach Brian Kelly down to council chambers for some official recognition, only to make him wait around for 45 minutes and almost miss practice?
St. John's needs to get some new uniforms. Nobody's trying to act like UC's tri-colored Adidas triangle theme is super cool, but the Red Storm dudes look like they’re wearing the high school JV jerseys handed down by the 1988 state championship team.
The Johnnies got handled like a JV team for most of Wednesday night’s game, a 71-61 UC win that wasn’t as close as a 10-point difference would suggest.
So, a coach recruits a really good point guard out of high school and assumes that starting a freshman in the Big East will have its rough moments but that the experience will go a long way toward the kid’s — and the program’s — development. Then the kid gets hurt in preseason practice and the whole season is ruined.
Is this the position that Mick Cronin has allowed the UC basketball team to be in? Is this team seriously going to go into next season with a recently injured freshman point guard with no backup? Did anyone ever think they would wake up one day and say, “Dang, I sure wish Jamual Warren was still a Bearcat.”