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by Danny Cross 03.09.2012
Posted In: Basketball at 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Considering UC’s Possible NCAA Tournament Draws

’Cats could end up with a surprisingly high seed

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.

Photo of Dion Dixon jamming on Louisville's Chane Behanon by Brian Baker/Lacking Focus Photography.

 
 
by Brian Dill 03.09.2012
Posted In: College, Basketball at 11:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Queen City Hoops: Conference Tournament Edition

UC in Big East semis, Dayton awaits Xavier

It’s a big night on the hardwood for the Queen City this evening. UC faces No. 2 Syracuse in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament — a place the Bearcats have never reached since joining the conference in 2005. Xavier has had far more success in their endeavors in the A-10 tournament, although last year Xavier bowed out in the quarterfinals as the No. 1 seed. The opponent that night was the Dayton Flyers, the same team the Muskies face tonight with hopes of cementing an NCAA bid.

Let’s start with Xavier, who is in a far more intriguing position heading into tonight’s game. Joe Lunardi, Jerry Palm and Shaw Siegel — all well-known braketologists — have XU in as either an 11 or 12 seed. Fair enough, although as the 3 seed in the A-10 Tournament I believe the Muskies should have to win at least one game to earn a bid to the big dance. I’m going out on a limb here — win and in, lose and lock up a home game in the NIT.

Xavier split the regular season series with the Flyers with each team winning at home. The Flyers pounded Xavier by 15 points in Dayton and forced the game into overtime at Cintas. If the Flyers can get past Xavier tonight in Atlantic City then my I would place my money (the pun was intended) on Dayton to be the A-10’s third team along with Temple and Saint Louis to be accepted into the NCAA Tournament. Currently the Flyers have one more win than the Muskies, 20-11 compared with 19-11, and will have two wins over Xavier. Let’s be honest here, Xavier doesn’t have the same look it has had in previous years or even three months ago before a couple suspensions and a Kenny Frease black eye.

But if the Musketeers can hold on for a “W” the 11 to 12 seed range looks far more promising than you may believe. Xavier is talented on any given night to beat most of the 5 and 6 seeds. Here’s a mouthwatering thought: Lunardi has Xavier against Louisville in his latest projection. That would be one hell of a game.

Despite the wonders Mick Cronin has worked with the Bearcats, they sit in a far less intriguing but far more troubling position. All projections indicate that UC will fall in as an 8 or 9 seed. The way the 'Cats are playing, the first round is certainly doable but barring any major upset a second round meeting with a 1 seed awaits. Both Lunardi and Palm have UC in the Midwest region with Kansas — I guess that’s the least of the other three evils, North Carolina, Kentucky and Syracuse.

The Bearcats will be more than familiar with Syracuse after tonight’s game and a regular season meeting, but I think the Bearcats match up better with the Jayhawks. If things go according to (my) plan and UC gets Kansas, Yancy Gates is going to have to go into beast mode against player-of-the-year candidate Thomas Robinson. I digress; a win against Syracuse tonight in the mecca of hoops, MSG, might push UC into the realm of a 7 seed. Oh how magical that would be.

Hopefully an abundance of 3-pointers will take the place of a woeful 2-21 performance yesterday. The Bearcats played the Orange tough at home back in January, losing 53-60.

If Gates can put up a performance similar to yesterdays and the defense can limit the opportunities of Dion Waiters and Kris Joseph the ‘Cats have a fighting chance. It would also be nice if those cool new uniforms — 28 percent lighter than the old ones, I hear — could supply and additional 10 points or so just for good measure.

As a UC fan I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a 7 seed. I really would like to see Xavier in and prove that their recent struggles aren’t a true reflection of their potential. Check back Monday for a Selection Sunday analysis.

 
 
by Brian Dill 03.02.2012
Posted In: College, Basketball at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Queen City Hoops: Selection Sunday Nears

Bearcats a lock, Muskies not so much

The regular season is drawing to a close as Cincinnati and Xavier each have one game left before conference tournament time. Cincinnati will hear their name called on "Selection Sunday" — as for Xavier, only time will tell.

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Xavier as one of his first four out, and I tend to agree — although I disagree with the pointless bickering in the comments section regarding the brawl that happened — wait for it — almost three months ago. The Bearcats are listed as a 10 seed, a much better prospect than having an 8 or 9 seed and having to play Kentucky or Syracuse if they can make it past the first round. With the current mock up, the ‘Cats would play San Diego State in the first round — a winnable game — and North Carolina in the second — maybe, with a hope and a prayer.

Not to say that crazier things haven’t happened: VMI, Butler (twice) and George Mason have all knocked off No. 1 seeds in the tournament. UC has more talent than any of those teams, and if they can continue playing like they did against Marquette this past Wednesday the Sweet 16 or even Elite 8 isn’t out of the question.

The Bearcats played stifling defense against Marquette, forcing 17 turnovers. They dominated the paint, outscoring the Golden Eagles 42-24, and JaQuon Parker was a revelation. Parker used his size and strength to drive to the hoop at will and went 2-for-4 from behind the arc, including a halftime buzzer-beater that put UC up 16 at the half. Parker finished the game with a career-best 28 points.

The Bearcats didn’t look back. Yancy Gates finished the game with 13 boards despite being limited to less than four minutes of first half play because of foul trouble. The 72-61 final wasn’t as close as the score indicated, as UC coasted to victory. With the emergence of Parker the 'Cats now have a steady combo of inside and outside threats that will make them a difficult team to face both in New York and in the NCAA tournament.

Xavier, on the other hand, isn’t a lock for a ticket to March Madness. Winning the A10 tourney would put all doubt to rest. The Muskies host Charlotte tomorrow; with a loss the NIT will certainly be beckoning. A win leaves a glimmer of hope, but in all likelihood, Chris Mack and his team will be on the outside looking in next Sunday.

 
 
by Danny Cross 03.02.2012
Posted In: Basketball at 01:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Twelve Year Anniversary: Kenyon Martin Goes Off

The year 2000 seems like only yesterday — everyone all hunched up in our bomb shelters assuming the bank was going to turn our life savings into some kind of repeating decimal instead of the hundreds of dollars we had in there, all because a computer doesn't know how to count above 1999.

Once we made it to the Millennium, many Cincinnatians' concerns shifted from ultimate survival to how awesome it was going to be when Kenyon Martin and the UC Bearcats won the National Title. We're not here to recap how much it sucked to witness Kenyon's broken ankle in the stupid Conference USA tournament or to apologize to the girlfriend at the time who walked in the room during the injury and expected some semblance of reason to be demonstrated despite the fatal blow to the 'Cats' chances. (She says she forgave me, but her recent marriage to a hockey player in California speaks otherwise...)

Before the conference tournament there was the Bearcats' second-to-last regular season game, a contest against future pro Quintin Richardson and the DePaul Blue Demons on March 2, 2000. UC had four of its own players who would be drafted following the 1999-00 season: Martin (1st overall pick in 2000), DerMarr Johnson (6th pick in 2000), Kenny Satterfield (53rd in 2001) and Steve Logan (30th in 2002).

Witness, via the beauty of the Internet, the final 3:46 of gametime, the No. 2 Bearcats trailing 60-50 and Dick Vitale in the house to go off about how awesome Kenyon was.

 
 
by Danny Cross 02.29.2012
Posted In: Basketball at 02:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Senior Night for UC Hoops!

Fans say farewell to four-year dudes Yancy Gates, Dion Dixon

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.

 
 
by Brian Dill 02.24.2012
Posted In: College, Basketball at 12:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Queen City Hoops

Bearcats one step closer to NCAA Tournament after win over Louisville

The Cincinnati Bearcats look one step closer to being a lock for their second straight NCAA tournament appearance after a 60-56 win against Big East rivals Louisville in front of a sellout crowd at Fifth Third Arena Thursday night.

UC entered the game as the second-best 3-point shooting team by percentage – 36 percent – and the most 3-pointers made with 203 on the year. This theme continued as the ‘Cats went 11-27 from behind the arc including eight in the first half. Cashmere Wright fueled the 3-point barrage as he nailed a career-best, six long balls. Louisville on the other hand struggled mightily from behind the arc finishing the game 1-14.

UC’s ability to make the long ball made up for an otherwise disappointing night from the field. The Bearcats made only eight 2-point field goals at a miserable 26 percent clip. Louisville didn’t shoot much better; leading scorer Kyle Kuric managed only 4 points, all from the free-throw line.

Big man Gorgui Dieng finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Cardinals. Peyton Siva added 14 points and 4 assists in the Louisville loss. Louisville fell to 9-6 in the Big East while UC improved to 10-5. Both teams have three conference games remaining.

After last night's win over No. 17 Louisville, UC sits in a fourth-place tie with Georgetown and South Florida, who share 10-5 records, and UC holds the tiebreaker against Georgetown. The top four seeds in the conference tournament will received double byes and an automatic bid into the quarterfinals. The Bearcats have games remaining at USF and Villanova — a team they beat once already — and Senior Night when Marquette comes to town. In all likelihood the fourth seed will be a fight between UC and Georgetown. The Hoyas have the tougher schedule as they welcome Villanova and Notre Dame, which has  won nine straight,  while they travel to Marquette to end the schedule.

Only weeks away from Selection Sunday, the Bearcats should guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Tournament with another win in the last three games. Xavier, on the other hand, needs to win out and have some results go their way if they want to make the Big Dance.

The Musketeers lost at Massachusetts on Tuesday night and are three games back of the conference lead with three games remaining. League leaders Temple are not going to lose three games, so Xavier will have to make a push for the conference tournament title or hope the selection committee looks upon them favorably.

A sloppy evening from the Muskies combined with a outstanding performance by Massachusetts’ guard Chaz Williams led to an easy win for the Minutemen. Xavier turned the ball over 20 times and could not compensate for the career-high 29 points from Williams, including six 3-pointers. Xavier had four players score double-digits and Dez Wells led the way with 19 points, but Wells also led Xavier with 6 turnovers.

The Musketeers' remaining schedule includes two sub .500 teams in Charlotte and Richmond and a trip to second-place Saint Louis — which beat Xavier by five at the Cintas Center back on Jan. 25.

 
 
by Danny Cross 02.20.2012
Posted In: baseball at 12:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Spring (Baseball) Is In the Air

Pitchers and catchers reported to the Reds’ spring training facility in Goodyear, Ariz., over the weekend, which means we are only days away from hearing about how awesome the team’s dudes are looking or how quickly they get hurt and have to sit out, leaving us to wonder if they’ll be ready by Opening Day. (March baseball involves a lot of speculation.)

The Reds will open camp with one of the most talented rosters they’ve had in the last 15 years, as General Manager Walt Jocketty added considerable muscle to the pitching staff during the offseason. New Reds to keep an eye on include:

• Starting pitcher Mat Latos, who is expected to be the team’s No. 2 behind Johnny Cueto;

• Sean Marshall, one of baseball’s best left-handed relievers last season;

• Closer Ryan Madson, who the Reds picked up late in the offseason in a team-friendly one-year deal.

The first two mentioned, Latos and Marshall, were acquired via trade of prospects, which demonstrates a dedication by Reds’ management to make a run at another division title (and perhaps more) during the final two years of former MVP Joey Votto’s contract. (See CityBeat sports columnist C. Trent Rosecrans’ Jan. 24 take in “Reds Try to Win Now Without Breaking the Bank.”)

Soon the offseason speculation will give way to preseason hype, as young, no-name guys start hitting .400 during practice games and veterans post high ERAs because they’re practicing specific pitches instead of trying to get everyone out. There will be tons of reports from Goodyear, such as “Bob Castellini Talks Reds, Baseball" and “Roster Projection.”

Before we know it, we will have casually followed weeks of the Reds playing America’s summer game in sunny Arizona, which will distract us from the fact that we still have at least another month of crappy weather before we can enjoy the unofficial start of springtime and Reds’ Opening Day on April 5.

Until then, enjoy the pretend summertime in the highlights and mass influx of information from the team’s month-long practice session. And if you need even more sports speculation, trade rumors and contract talk, here’s a sweet site dedicated to re-reporting everything it can find on your favorite team: mlbtraderumors.com.

 
 
by Brian Dill 02.17.2012
Posted In: baseball at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Queen City Hoops: Xavier Edition

Reeling Muskies thumped by Temple, look ahead to Dayton

The Liacouras Center was not kind to the Xavier Musketeers this past Saturday, nor has it been for the past seven years. Xavier hasn’t won at Temple since 2004 and this year squandered an opportunity to jump to the top of the A-10 standings with a win.

Temple cruised to an easy 85-72 victory over Xavier after dominating from the start. Tied 5-5 with 16:36 remaining in the first half, Xavier went more than seven minutes without a point while the Owls reeled off 16. Though Xavier finally got back on the board, there was little to applaud about a lackluster first half effort. Xavier gave up a season-high 47 first-half points and six 3-pointers and found themselves down 20 at the break. Two of the Muskies' key contributors, Dez Wells and Kenny Frease, combined for 0 points by going 0-6 from the field.

Temple boasts the top-two scorers in the conference, and they did not disappoint. Ramone Moore dropped five 3-pointers on the Muskies and scored a game high 30 points. The Owls other starting guard, Khalif Wyatt, added 18. The 6-foot-11 Micheal Eric was a beast on the boards, ripping down 16 rebounds and adding 11 points. The second half provided a little more excitement for Xavier fans, but it was all for not.

Dez Wells knocked down two second half 3-pointers to cut it to 13 with 12 minutes left. Temple went cold from the field and a Tu Holloway free throw cut it to single digits with a little over a minute to go — too little too late. Holloway led Xavier with 23 points and Mark Lyons added 15.

Xavier now needs help from the rest of the A-10 if there is any hope for a sixth straight conference title, which is unlikely. Xavier must now prepare to play Dayton on Saturday. The Flyers spanked the Muskies by 15 back on Jan. 21.

 
 
by Danny Cross 02.17.2012
Posted In: Rollergirls at 11:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Cincinnati Rollergirls Kick Off Season This Weekend

Team travels to Grand Rapids, Mich., Saturday; will host tryouts next week

Roller derby fans won’t be able to catch the Cincinnati Rollergirls’ season-opening contest against Grand Rapids this weekend because it’s taking place in Michigan, but the group will host its second tryout of the season next week, leading up to their March 10 home opener against St. Louis.

On Saturday the Cincinnati Rollergirls will get their season started with a bout against the Grand Raggidy Roller Girls. The Rollergirls’ A-team, the Black Sheep, open the season ranked No. 8 in the Women's Flat Track Derby Association's North Central Region. The Grand Raggidies are No. 11, though the Black Sheep have handily defeated them in both previous contests, the most recent of which was two years ago.

Next week the Rollergirls will host their second tryout of the year, scheduled for Feb. 26 at The Skatin’ Place in Colerain Township (3211 Lina Place). Tryouts are open to women who are at least 18 years old and will include this set of minimum skill requirements.

The Rollergirls won’t start their home schedule until March 10 when they host the Arch Rival Rollergirls of St. Louis. During halftime a new roller derby team for girls ages 8-17, the Cincinnati Junior Rollergirls, will debut.

Rollergirls home games take place at the Cincinnati Gardens (2250 Seymour Ave., Norwood). Tickets are $10, parking is free and lots of beer is available, with $1 happy hour specials starting at 6 p.m. (bouts start at 7). Season tickets are now available at www.cincinnatirollergirls.com and single-game tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com. Kids’ tickets are $5 advance/$6 door (kids 6 and younger free) and you can sit right next to the track and have people crash onto you for $15/$17.

Here's a funny commercial the Rollergirls put on the internet.

 
 
by Danny Cross 02.16.2012
Posted In: Basketball at 03:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Who Is Jeremy Lin and What Does He Want?

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:

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