Mick Cronin’s overhaul of the University of Cincinnati basketball program was destined to be a multi-year effort. No one could be expected to take over a program with one scholarship player and only the summer to recruit his first class and then immediately compete in the Big East. UC’s first two seasons under Cronin were going to suck because of the talent level available — even at the JUCO level — at that point in the game, and starting that late with such a sketchy group affected Cronin’s first full year of recruiting as well.
The Bearcats’ sweet double-overtime victory yesterday over Georgetown was the team’s sixth win in its last seven games, three of which were against teams ranked in the Top 25 at the time. The ’Cats are now 6-3 against the RPI top 50, with tonight’s 7 p.m. Big East semifinal against No. 2 Syracuse offering an opportunity to seriously enhance the team’s seeding come Sunday.
ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has the Bearcats projected as an 8 seed, playing Virginia in the first round with a potential second-round game against No. 1 seed Kansas. This situation would seriously suck. (For Cincinnati or for Kansas? ... Good point.)
Cincinnati is by far the most dangerous team in the 7-10 range, having recently defeated projected 3-seeds Marquette and Georgetown, along with projected 5-seed Louisville. It’s safe to say that no No. 1 or 2 seed wants to see the Bearcats in the second round. And for UC, the road to the Sweet Sixteen actually would look a lot easier from one of the 11 or 12 seeds — fellow Big East squad South Florida is projected as a 12 to face 5-seed UNLV in the first round and potentially 4-seed Florida State in the second. I think UC would gladly take on a tougher first-round matchup for a second round game that’s not against a school that starts four or five future NBA players.
It actually wouldn’t be a huge surprise if UC is one of the several teams that every year gets slotted somewhere far from what the prognosticators expected. The Bearcats’ RPI of 58 might fit in with those of some of the current bubble teams, but only two other teams outside the RPI top 17 have as many wins over the RPI top 50 as UC’s six (Kansas State, RPI 44, and Notre Dame, RPI 37, each also have six).
The Bearcats received votes in the AP Top 25 last week. UC’s five votes had the team around the No. 35 ranking, which falls in line with the 8- to 9-seed projection. But that was before yesterday’s win over Georgetown, which would likely have earned the ’Cats more votes even if the team loses to Syracuse. Louisville, on the other hand, fell from the Top 25 in last week’s ranking, actually sitting two spots out at No. 27, but the Cardinals are currently projected as a 5 seed, which would typically include teams in the 17-20 range.
The selection committee doesn’t strictly follow any single set of rankings when determining seeding, but the guess here is that even with a loss to Syracuse in the Big East semifinals it wouldn’t be a stretch for the committee to consider UC one of the top 28 teams in the country, which would put UC among the 7 seeds. And it’s safe to say that a win over Syracuse would put the Bearcats firmly in the Top 25 by week’s end, meaning a 6 seed would be possible. And if UC were to win the whole Big East tournament, it would be difficult for any selection committee to seed the team very far from the likes of projected 3-seeds Georgetown and Marquette, two teams the Bearcats have beaten in the last 16 days.
Here’s hoping the
Bearcats put on a good showing tonight in primetime against the No. 2
team in the country in the Big East semis. Selection committee
members will be watching, as will the potential No. 1 and No. 2 seeds
which certainly don’t want to see Cincinnati between themselves and
the second round.
Though few people in Cincinnati could watch the game on TV, those of us who dug out the old Walkman tape deck to listen to the radio broadcast were treated to a well-played ballgame by the Bearcats last night. In beating Georgetown, the ‘Cats have overcome their first major obstacle to earning consideration for an NCAA tournament berth this year.
PREGAME: Welcome to Fifth Third Arena everybody! We are gathered here today to witness a contest between the UC Bearcats and the DePaul Blue Demons. Let us take a moment to rejoice ... Lance Stephenson's epic slam against DePaul two years ago.
In fact, let's take a moment to watch Lance JAM IT IN THE HOOP!
(Gonna have to scroll down the page some, but it's worth it...)
Throw in a game Dec. 23 at home against St. Francis (PA), which right now is 2-6, and it looks like the ’Cats could open the year with a 12-0 record and no doubt a spot in the Top 25.
This week’s addition of 6-foot-5 shooting guard Lance Stephenson to UC’s 2009 recruiting class will have effects far beyond the instant upgrade it means for the Bearcats’ starting swingman position. Stephenson — a big shooting guard fast and strong enough to drive to the basket — is one of the rarest commodities in college basketball. (Google “Pitt’s Sam Young jams on UC — 2008” for evidence of its beauty.)
Cincinnatians don’t generally follow a lot of NBA, but even those of us who would rather spend two hours golfing rocks into the Ohio River than watch 48-minutes worth of NBA hoops have heard about, seen highlights of and come to find interest in this Jeremy Lin dude. “Linsanity” is apparently very real.
Here’s the abbreviated story: Lin played college basketball at Harvard, went undrafted, signed a deal with his hometown Golden State Warriors, got cut by them and the Houston Rockets this preseason and then joined the New York Knicks, who have won seven straight games since he broke out with a 25-point, 7-assist, 5-rebound game against the New Jersey Nets on Feb. 4.
Lin has scored in double figures in every game since, including dropping 38 on the Lakers Feb. 10. He’s averaging 9.1 assists per game for a team that lost last year’s starting point guard during free agency. The Knicks’ best player, Carmelo Anthony, was injured during the second game of Lin’s run, and the team is still playing as well as it has all year, evening its record at 15-15 with last night’s win over Sacramento, during which Lin had 10 points, 13 assists and 5 rebounds in 26 minutes of play.
Here’s an NBA-produced piece on Lin and his 38-point effort against L.A.
Lin has already compiled a badass highlight reel, and this, along with the ridiculous notion of an unheralded player coming out of nowhere to find success in one of the most demanding professional sports leagues in the world, has launched the term “Linsanity,” and the media is so enamored with this kid’s story and his game that he and Anthony are facing stupid questions about how they’re going to be able to coexist once Anthony returns.
There’s also the fact that Lin is an Asian American playing in a league that has had very few Asians in its league history. He’s the first American player in NBA history to be of Chinese or Taiwanese descent. This means the media, in addition to its typically loaded questioning, is certain to make insensitive remarks about Lin and his race the faster it tries to crank out cute headlines about the phenomenon.
USA Today put together a rundown of some of the insensitive and/or offensive coverage that has occurred so far. Here’s a rundown:
The Bearcats have won eight out of their last nine, while the Muskies have lost five of eight. Both teams had key players suspended and UC found motivation in the fallout while Xavier has struggled to find the identity that had them as a preseason top 15.
So, it totally sucks that UC point guard Cashmere Wright tore his ACL the other day. It really sucks. It sucks really bad.
But instead of cursing God or the NCAA or the fragile ligament that connects from a posterio-lateral part of the femur to an anterio-medial part of the tibia, we should rise up and help one of contemporary society's major problems — a lack of blood.
Next week is UC Bearcats Week at the Hoxworth Blood Center, which means that anyone who donates some of theirs will be entered into a raffle for a pair of season tickets to for UC basketball this year. And even though that super fast freshman won't be out there, we promise that other young dudes will be jamming on some people's heads, especially early in the year.
Here are the details: Go to a Hoxworth mobile unit or neighborhood center between Oct. 27 and Nov. 1. You have to be at least 17 years old, basically healthy, at least 110 pounds and you should probably eat some food before you go.
You can also call 451-0910 or (800) 830-1091 to schedule an appointment at a neighborhood donor center. To locate a community blood drive or if you are a registered donor and want to schedule online, go to www.hoxworth.org and click "Donate Now."
Give Hoxworth some of your blood. Do it for the community. Do it for basketball tickets. Either way.
Word on the Internet these days is that Mick Cronin has secured a verbal commitment from Columbus Northland High School power forward Devon Scott, who apparently tweeted the news after visiting the UC campus on Tuesday.