Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #4 Cincinnati

Posted by mlemaire on November 8th, 2012

Few teams had as interesting a season as the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2011-12. High expectations looked overblown when the Bearcats stumbled to losses against Presbyterian and Marshall in the early part of the schedule. Talk of failing to live up to expectations was quickly drowned out however amidst the noise that followed the Bearcats’ nasty brawl late in a losing effort against crosstown rival Xavier. Mick Cronin’s team could have faded from the national conversation right then, but instead they responded by winning 12 conference games and reaching the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Ohio State. It was the Bearcats’ second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance and it was proof that Cronin has the program headed in the right direction. Now, the expectations are back, as are 10 players who averaged at least five minutes per game last season. If last season was proof that Cronin is capable, then this season could be a statement that the Bearcats are ready to once again take their place among the conference elite.

2011-12 Record: 26-11, 12-6

2011-12 Postseason: Sweet Sixteen, lost to Ohio State 81-69.

Mick Cronin Has Cincinnati Poised For Its Best Season Since Kenyon Martin. (Photo credit: AP).

Schedule

Last season the Bearcats thought they had scheduled few non-conference challenges, and it almost cost them a spot in the Big Dance. This season Cronin’s team will play a slightly more difficult slate, although they will rarely stray far from home. The rematch with a depleted but talented Xavier team looms in December but before that they will also have to get by at least Iowa State in the Global Sports Invitational and then a talented Alabama team in the SEC/Big East Challenge. A visit from a dangerous New Mexico squad will cap off non-conference play and 2012 for the Bearcats. The conference schedule holds few surprises or interesting information worth gleaning. The one bit worth a mention is that the Bearcats will only play Syracuse, Louisville, and Georgetown once, which could help them rise to the top of the conference heap.

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Big East Summer Capsules: Cincinnati Bearcats

Posted by mlemaire on August 14th, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Next up is Cincinnati.

1. Can the Bearcats make the leap?

Mick Cronin Has Cincinnati Headed In The Right Direction, But Can He Keep It That Way?

The program is about to enter its seventh season with coach Mick Cronin at the helm, and there is no doubt that the Cincinnati native has the program turned around and is now headed in the right direction. From losing records to a winning record to the NIT to the Round of 32 to finally the Sweet Sixteen last season, Cronin’s teams have improved their finish almost every season to the point where Bearcats’ fans are beginning to believe like they used to believe when Bob Huggins ran the ship. Now the question is whether Cronin can continue to build on the momentum and success and establish the Bearcats as a long-term contender for the conference crown. Despite the loss of two of their best scorers in Dion Dixon and Yancy Gates, the Bearcats still return a veteran — albeit not very deep — team that should be well-prepared for the rigors of conference play. But can they make it back to the Sweet Sixteen? The team’s run last season was unexpected, but given the talent that returns, it’s not unrealistic to imagine the Bearcats making it back to the NCAA’s second weekend of action. The Bearcats’ fans haven’t been exposed to this level of expectations since Kenyon Martin was still patrolling the paint, but whether they can live up to those lofty goals will be the true barometer of whether Cronin can establish this program among the Big East elite.

2. You can’t teach size and you can never have enough of it.

Already set to boast a frontcourt that features 6-foot-10 Cheikh Mbodj, 6-foot-10 Kelvin Gaines, and 6-foot-8 Justin Jackson, Cronin went out this month and added more size and depth up front anyway in the form of 7-foot-1 center David Nyarsuk. The Sudan native originally signed with West Virginia but never qualified and enrolled at NAIA Mountain State University instead. Nyarsuk averaged 9.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.91 blocks per game against inferior competition last season, but don’t expect him to be quite such a dominant force in the Big East. He will likely make his presence felt immediately on the defensive end of the floor, though, and if he can stay out of foul trouble and hold his own on the blocks, he should receive plenty of playing time because of his shot-altering prowess. He made 55 percent from the field last season but I would guess his offensive game is still a work in progress. He may be good for a few putbacks and an easy dunk or two, but don’t expect the Bearcats to run their offense through him next year. Bearcats’ fans should certainly temper their expectations, but they should also be pleased that their team’s frontcourt now features one more live, athletic body for Cronin and his staff to work with.

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Cincinnati (Allegedly) Kicks Off Nightclub Season in Strong Fashion

Posted by rtmsf on May 14th, 2012

It’s one of the resolute truths in big-time college basketball. Coaches will tell you that if they can just keep their players on campus, preoccupied with attending classes and getting better each day in the gym, that’s more than half the battle. The most difficult part of keeping them out of trouble is when there is downtime — idle hands are the devil’s plaything and all that. You see it every offseason. The news blotter explodes with player run-ins with the law twice a year — the first period of bad conduct is in April and May, after practices have ended and the semester/quarter is winding down. The next is in August and September, when guys are back on campus but not yet fully committed to practice and school obligations.

Given UC's History, Why Would We Give This Group the Benefit of the Doubt?

Dating back to the Bob Huggins era, Cincinnati is a program whose players have managed to find trouble year-round. Art Long’s infamous fracas with a police horse occurred 17 years ago this month, but other UC players from Donald Little’s kidnapping to Cheikh Mbodj’s head stomp have continued to sully the reputation of Bearcats basketball regardless of time of year. If you believe the latest police report involving UC players submitted Sunday morning by a bouncer at a downtown nightclub, a group of unidentified players “punched and kicked” Brian McLucas after he asked them to leave. From the Fox19 report:

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2011

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @(vbtnBlog)

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Rivalry Week – the Out of Conference Edition: Throughout the East, in the years before the rise of the conferences, the season was the warm-up for the season ending finales – games with the local rivals. The conferences changed that dynamic, as teams from the same media markets found themselves locked in races for conference titles that increasingly translated into NCAA postseason bids. And local rivals find their matches relocated to the earliest parts of the season. As the fall semester (or quarter) winds into final examinations, the weeks leading in have become the non-conference equivalent of “Rivals Week,” and had ESPN looked at the A-10 schedule, they would have found over one-third of conference members squaring off with their most-often faced local opponents.
  • Brawl City: Xavier and Cincinnati have played 79 times, meeting annually since 1947, in what has become known as the “Cross Town Shootout”. Though Xavier won three of the last four meetings, last season’s 66-46 Bearcat rout at Fifth Third must have gone to Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick’s head. In what will no doubt become a teaching point for future Mick Cronin teams, Kilpatrick, in the run-up to the game, opined on local radio that Xavier’s All-American candidate, senior guard Tu Holloway, was probably not good enough to start on the Cincinnati team. Bad move, Sean. The 2011 A-10 Player of the Year responded with a stellar 17-point performance that include going 5-for-10 (1-of-5 three-pointers, 4-of-5 two-pointers) from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 from the line to go with a game-high six dimes. In the post game press conference the clearly agitated Holloway told the assembled scribes that “you do your talking after the game, not before…”. If only Holloway had followed his own advice. With less than 30 seconds to play, during what most likely would have been Cincinnati’s last possession of the game, the obviously incensed Holloway, still in the game for reasons unknown, passed by the Cincinnati bench (the 1:30 mark in the video below), and taunted the Bearcat bench with, “this is MY CITY”.

  • Additionally: As Cincinnati freshman guard Ge’Lawn Guyn, Holloway’s defensive assignment, put himself between Holloway and the bench, the two went chest-to-chest and Holloway raised his arms as if to strike Guyn. Xavier freshman forward Dezmine Wells, however, beat him to it, throwing the first punch in a bench clearing brawl that has to be the low point in this season. Xavier senior center Kenny Frease suffered a black eye (and no doubt a ripping headache the day after), the result of a sucker punch from Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates and a kick to the head delivered by Cincinnati center Cheikh Mbodj. Both Cincinnati players were suspended for six games. Cronin and the Cincinnati AD also suspended freshman forward Octavius Ellis for four games, and Guyn for one game. Xavier doled out suspensions to Wells (four games), Landen Amos (four games), junior guard Mark Lyons (two games) and Holloway (one game). Cincinnati holds a 58-41 edge in the series. The other four rivalry games may have been every bit as intense, but no centers were harmed in the playing of the games. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Morning Five: 12.15.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 15th, 2011

  1. A short-handed Cincinnati took to the floor last night for the first time since Saturday’s brawl-marred contest against rival Xavier. Despite being without Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj, Octavius Ellis, and Ge’Lawn Guyn, the Bearcats (6-3) had no trouble dispensing of Wright State (4-7) on the road 78-58. In another bit of good news, Cincinnati learned prior to the game that no legal action would be taken in response to the brawl and ESPN’s Andy Katz caught up with Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin to get a follow-up assessment. Cronin mentioned in the player apology press conference on Monday that those suspended would have to earn their way back into the line-up once their stated penalties were completed. Cronin elaborated that there are specific steps that need to be completed before getting back on the floor. In addition to the initial apology, the players will have to complete community service followed by another apology. All four players also took part in an anger management session on Wednesday.
  2. Mike Waters of The Post-Standard had a good piece on the resurgence of sophomore Syracuse center Fab Melo.  Melo came to upstate New York with expectations bigger than even his seven-foot frame could live up to and he summarily disappointed, averaging just 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. While those numbers were clearly not good, it was the 9.9 minutes per game that stood out the most. Talent was not the issue for Melo, it was fitness. He lost 30 pounds in the offseason and it, along with more realistic expectations perhaps, has made all the difference. “He wasn’t able to run up and down the court last year,” coach Jim Boeheim said, “so it was hard to keep him out there.” Now that Melo is not fighting fatigue from the start of the game he can focus on the job at hand. While his numbers this season are not glitzy (6.7 PPG 5.1 RPG 2.6 BPG), he is shooting 51.8% from the floor and his minutes are up to 22.3 per game for the ultra-deep Orange. More importantly a more active Melo is an ideal basket protector in the back of that famed Syracuse zone. He has more blocks in ten games this season (26) than he had all last year (25). “Now I’m not afraid to make mistakes anymore” said Melo. “I just go there and I play basketball. Last year, I was afraid to make mistakes. I went on the court with my mind blocked. I couldn’t do anything.” Weight down. Confidence up. A disheartening combination for Syracuse opponents.
  3. Speaking of Syracuse, hopes are high for the #1 Orange causing some, namely Carmelo Anthony, to speak about just how far this team can go. Of course, Anthony knows a thing or two about this subject, taking the Orange to a national championship in 2003, defeating Kansas 81-78 in the final, in his one-and-done freshman year at Syracuse.  (The other?) Melo told Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com he thinks the sky is the limit, “I think they can win it all,” Anthony said. “I’m biased, you might not agree with that. They have the talent, they have the team.”  Well, he is biased, and he should be. It’s his school and the Orange have national tile potential. Zagoria noted that Anthony texted Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine when he heard the news about the Orange’s #1 ranking this week.  Talk about a little ego stroke! Anthony also noted that it did not seem the team was distracted by the Bernie Fine scandal, which may be its toughest opponent to date despite playing teams like Stanford and Florida.
  4. Another great comeback story this year is that of Seton Hall forward Herb Pope. Just for Pope to be back healthy and at full strength after suffering a potentially life-threatening heart ailment two off-seasons ago would have been a story, add in what Pope has accomplished so far and the big guy flat out commands attention. As SI.com’s Luke Winn noted, the health issues not only impacted Pope physically, but took their toll mentally leading him to take part in therapy. It has clearly been a long hard road back, but back Pope is, and back big time.  He leads the Big East in scoring at 21.8 points per game to go with 11.3 rebounds and has been a fixture on the weekly Big East awards so far this year. Pope has been recognized in each of the four weeks of honors so far this year, taking home Player of the Week honors once and receiving Honor Roll accolades the other three. Pope has inserted himself on the short list of bona fide Big East Player of the Year candidates and most importantly has led the Pirates to an 8-1 start. Next up for Pope and the Hall is a home date with Mercer on Sunday.
  5. In its quest to add Navy as a football only member, The Big East received a vote of confidence from Navy’s Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk on Wednesday when he remarked, “Everyone in Navy’s chain of command is comfortable [with the Big East] and the direction it’s going”. When the move occurs appears to be more a matter of logistics than anything else. Of course, television contracts stand at the forefront. Navy has various agreements that run through the 2018 season and is working with the Big East to sort through it all. This does not mean Navy will need to wait until 2019 to move. It is likely more a function of Navy being able to honor the agreements, while being able to incorporate a Big East schedule. There was initial speculation that Navy and Air Force would make themselves a package deal to the Big East provided they felt there was overall conference stability. Air Force subsequently recommitted to the Mountain West, but Gladchuk indicated that has no bearing on Navy’s future plans and that he felt stability has been restored with the recent additions of Boise State, Houston, Central Florida, Southern Methodist and San Diego State.
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Set Your TiVo: 12.14.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 14th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Cincinnati plays its first game since the Xavier brawl as Dead Week continues around the country. You should also keep an eye on the Iona/Richmond game at 3 PM but that one won’t be found on television.

Cincinnati at Wright State – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (**)

  • Cincinnati will only have six key contributors available when it heads to Wright State tonight. The Bearcats will be without Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj, Ge’Lawn Guyn, and Octavius Ellis due to their suspensions stemming from the fight with Xavier on Saturday. Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon will have to step up in a big way for Cincinnati in order to win this game on the road. Wright State is not a good team, but the Bearcats have only one player taller than 6’5” available tonigt. For a team that can’t afford to speed up the game, that’s not a good combination for Cincinnati. Kilpatrick, Dixon, and point guard Cashmere Wright all can score, but the other Bearcats are all unproven. With Gates and company out, Cincinnati is missing a combined 22.2 PPG and 14.6 RPG in this game.
  • Wright State’s biggest advantages in this game are home court and height. Cincinnati’s players may be rattled playing a road game after the suspensions while the Raiders have three players 6’7” or taller, including 6’10” A.J. Pacher. He’s been plagued by foul trouble all season but if he manages to stay on the court for any extended period of time, Pacher will cause problems for Cincinnati in the paint. Billy Donlon’s top scorer is point guard Julius Mays, who is averaging 10.2 PPG. Wright State doesn’t score a lot of points due to its brutal offense but Mays does hit on 39.4% of his treys. Ordinarily, Wright State wouldn’t have much of a chance to beat Cincinnati. Given the Bearcats’ personnel issues, the Raiders have a solid chance this time.

Mick Cronin Will Need To Find A Way To Win Without His Best Players Tonight

  • Expect this game to be played at an incredibly slow pace. Both teams struggle to put the ball in the basket so this has the makings of a close game played in the 40s or 50s. For Wright State to win, it must assert itself inside from the start, limit Kilpatrick, and force some turnovers. The Raiders rank #35 in defensive turnover percentage, certainly a respectable number. Should this game come down to the wire, Cincinnati is actually a better free throw shooting team without the suspended players on the court. Kilpatrick, Wright and Dixon all shoot over 70% from the stripe. With all of the uncertainty around Cincinnati, we’re not sure how this game will play out. If forced to pick, we would give the slightest of edges to the home squad.

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Big East Morning Five: 12.13.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 13th, 2011

  1. Cincinnati held a press conference to discuss the suspensions it issued to four players following the ugly brawl that occurred in the waning seconds of an almost equally hideous 76-53 loss to cross-city rival Xavier on Saturday. The precedings included remarks from head coach Mick Cronin, who noted the suspended players will have to earn their way back if they want to play once their suspensions end. Each of the four suspended players (Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj, and Octavius Ellis received six games while Ge’Lawn Guyn will sit out one) were present to give their public apologies. Gates, who had one of the most active and high profile roles in the fracas throwing several punches, one of which bloodied Xavier’s Kenny Frease, appeared genuinely apologetic and regretful, ultimately breaking down in tears while taking questions. Particularly when noting references to his being a “thug” and a “gangster”. “I want to apologize really to the whole city of Cincinnati for my actions,” Gates said, “The actions that I displayed are not what I’m about. This is not what the University of Cincinnati is about. It’s not what my family’s about.” Gates, a senior, also said he feared his actions may have led to the end of his collegiate career.  Should all players earn their way back after six games, they would be available to play on January 4 at home versus Notre Dame, after missing just one Big East contest on New Year’s Day at #15 Pittsburgh.  The Bearcats’ first short-handed test takes place Wednesday at Wright State (4-6).
  2. A few people involved in Saturday’s Cincinnati – Xavier fight-marred game learned on Monday that they escaped further diciplinary action. That would be the game’s referees. Reggie Greenwood, the Atlantic 10 conference’s coordinator of officials confirmed that the game’s officiating crew–Mike Roberts, Tony Crisp, and Jeff Anderson–would not face punishment in connection to Saturday’s events. The trio was subject to criticism for their handling of the game, including strong commentary from Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin. “They were sent into an ambush,” Cronin said. “They had no idea they were walking into it.” Cronin indicated in a press conference on Monday that typically with heated rivalry games between Big East and Atlantic 10 teams (Cincinnati-Xavier, Providence-Rhode Island, Villanova-St. Joseph’s) at least one member of the officiating crew has experience with such games, but that was not the case on Saturday. He also said that there was conversation with the referees throughout the game about handing out technical fouls to minimize some of the outbursts and trash talking that had started prior to tip-off. Cronin indicated a referee told him to do so would include some of his players receiving techicals and that he urged the official to give technicals to anyone on his team that deserved one in order to prevent things from escalating.
  3. This week’s Big East awards are out and West Virginia’s Darryl “Truck” Bryant has earned Player of the Week honors. Bryant scored a career-high 27 points, including five threes, in a win over Miami on Saturday. He averaged 25.5 points and four rebounds in a 2-0 week for the Mountaineers. For the second consecutive time Providence forward LaDontae Henton took home Rookie of the Week accolades. Henton averaged 17.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in three Friar victories, including a career-high 21 points versus Boston College and a double-double (13 points and 12 rebounds) to go with five blocked shots against Bryant University. Leading the Honor Roll recipients this week is Seton Hall’s Herb Pope who is playing as well as anyone in the conference right now, averaged a double-double for the week (25.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG) in two Pirate wins. Rounding out the Honor Roll were DePaul’s Cleveland Melvin (21.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG) who had a career-high 30 poins to go with eight boards in a win over Chicago State, Louisville center Gorgui Dieng (16.0 PPG, 12.0 RPG) also scored a career-high this past week, netting 18 in a win over IUPUI, Marquette forward Jae Crowder (16.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG) who buried a game winning three-pointer in the Golden Eagles’ 79-77 victory over Washington, and Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley who stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 22.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in two badly needed Fighting Irish wins.
  4. The latest rankings are out and your Syracuse Orange (10-0) are the nation’s #1 team on the heels of Kentucky’s thrilling loss to Indiana on Saturday. This has to be especially sweet for Jim Boeheim and company given all of the non-basketball related news that has swirled around the program with the sexual misconduct against former assistant coach Bernie Fine story. Louisville (9-0) moved up one spot yet again this week to crack the top four.  Connecticut (8-1) knocked Harvard out of the polls with their victory over the Crimson last Thursday but it was not enough to improve their own raking, as they remain at #9. Marquette (9-0) and Pittsburgh (9-1) also stood pat at #11 and #15 respectively while Georgetown (8-1) jumped up two spots to #16 by virtue of taking down Howard on Saturday.  
  5. As for the latest in the Bernie Fine case, Onondaga District Attorney William Fitzpatrick participated in an online chat facilitated by a Syracuse newspaper, The Post-Standard.  Our personal favorite exchange in this chat had nothing to do with the case. A participant named “John” asked “Why are you doing this today? Isn’t enough, enough already?” To which Fitzpatrick cordially responded, “Don’t read it.” In terms of relevant content, Fitzpatrick revealed that he has not had any contact with the Fine family saying, “No, I have not attempted to interview the Fines out of respect for the federal investigation.” Fitzpatrick also clarified neither ESPN nor The Post-Standard would face charges for failing to turn over the now infamous recording of a 2002 phone call between one of the accusers, Bobby Davis, and Fine’s wife, Laurie. However, he reiterated a previous point that he would have liked to have seen Bobby Davis turn the tape over to authorities instead of any media outlet. Fitzpatrick went on to note that the length of the federal investigation should not be used to handicap the case as to whether or not they have collected or will collect enough evidence to arrest Fine.
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Checking In On… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. You can also find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Crosstown Knockout: Suspensions were handed down on Sunday for the embarrassing incident at the conclusion of Saturday’s Cincinnati/Xavier game, a 76-53 Musketeers victory. Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis each received six game bans while Ge’Lawn Guyn will sit out for one game. On the other side, Xavier suspended Dezmine Wells and Landen Amos (a walk-on) for four games while Mark Lyons will sit for a pair and Tu Holloway for one. As for Gates and company, six games doesn’t seem nearly enough, especially when only one of those is a Big East game (a probable loss at Pittsburgh to begin with). Mick Cronin’s comments certainly were interesting. The UC coach waxed poetic in the postgame press conference but didn’t follow those words up with strong actions. On the other hand, Cronin told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz that the suspensions were handed down by those above him in the Cincinnati administration. Even so, it would seem hard to believe the administration wanted to go easier on the players than the head coach. If Cincinnati wanted to be serious, it would have suspended Gates and the others for a large chunk of the Big East season and the rest of non-conference play, or simply kicked them off the team. Instead, this incident is yet another example of placing sports and winning games before justice and learning a life lesson. If this happened off the basketball court, Gates would likely have been charged with battery. Instead, Gates only has to sit six games against the steady diet of non-conference cupcakes Cronin has feasted on over the last two years. From the fight itself to the way the aftermath has been handled, this has been one huge embarrassment for both Cincinnati and Xavier.

To Many, Saturday's Brawl Between Xavier And Cincinnati Signifies A New Low For College Basketball (USAT)

  • West Virginia and Marquette Involved in Thrillers: The Mountaineers ventured to Wichita, Kansas, and took on Kansas State in what was essentially a road game despite it being played away from the Little Apple. Bob Huggins was able to defeat his student, Frank Martin, but it took two overtime periods to do so. It was a thrilling game full of big shots and lots of toughness. It was very important for West Virginia to add a quality road win to its resume and while the Wildcats may not be as good as last season, this win could make a big difference if the Mountaineers find themselves on the bubble come March.  Marquette took on Washington at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night and found itself in a dogfight with the Huskies as UW took the early lead. Marquette fought back to take a three-point halftime lead when the game really ramped up. The high level of play led to numerous lead changes in an up-and-down affair that eventually came to an end when Jae Crowder knocked down a three from the corner to win it for the Golden Eagles, one of only nine undefeated teams remaining in college basketball as of this writing.
  • Big East Continues to Disappoint:  It’s still very early but it’s also hard not to notice that the conference may be looking at eight NCAA Tournament teams in a best case scenario. The Big East lost six games this past week, three by the dregs of the conference but three others by teams considered to be NCAA contenders. It was an awful week for Villanova as it blew two chances for quality wins away from home, losing in New York to Missouri and across town in Philadelphia to Temple. The Wildcats have lost four of their past five games and have zero wins of note on their resume to date. If Villanova doesn’t win at St. Joe’s this coming week, it may have to go 10-8 in conference play just to even be considered for the Tournament. Meanwhile, Cincinnati sits at 5-3 after the Xavier loss with key players in trouble due to the brawl. The Bearcats’ best win is a road victory over 4-5 Georgia, a bottom-tier SEC team. With no quality wins and two ugly losses already on their resume, the Bearcats probably have to beat Oklahoma on December 29 and go 10-8 in league play to have any chance.
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Big East Morning Five: Cincinnati-Xavier Fallout Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 12th, 2011

  1. It is never a dull weekend in the Big East. Only this season, the basketball has been taking a backseat. At this point, even if you don’t follow college basketball, you have some idea what went on between Cincinnati and Xavier Saturday. Yesterday, both teams announced the suspensions that were a result of one of the nastier brawls in recent college basketball history. As always, the blogosphere reacted nearly immediately, and most of it was negative. It might be redundant but the national site here at RTC had an excellent take on hollow talk in press conferences that many have accused Mick Cronin of in the wake of yesterday. Bearcats Blog actually did a frame-by-frame breakdown of the actual brawl and we used it to weigh in on the penalties. So we broke it down by each player’s punishment and called it an excuse for a Morning Five.
  2. As the person who did the most real damage Saturday, it’s stunning that Yancy Gates only got six games, including just one conference game. It was in the heat of the moment and both teams were mixing it up, but whether it’s a public sidewalk or a basketball court, you can’t be allowed to sucker-punch someone in the face. Everyone saw that punch in slow motion. It was brutal, it was malicious, it was flush in the face, and it came from a man who stands 6’9” and is a chiseled 250 pounds. I am surprised he will get to play again this season.
  3. I think Cheik Mbodj deserves a little bit more sympathy and only a little bit. There is nothing more cowardly then trying to stomp on a man while he is down and then fade into the background like Mbodj did. But if you watch closely, his kick is pretty cowardly as well. It didn’t look like much. If anything, Mbodj should feel embarrassed watching himself in that video, because he did nothing until Kenny Frease was already on the ground. It was pathetic, but it didn’t seem to do any damage. It probably deserved at least ten games and the sincere public apology that Cronin is promising.
  4. Octavius Ellis is the winner of ignominious “only Bearcat player involved that no one bothered to identify yesterday” award, but he might have played a bigger role than most realize. It was Ellis that ended the first half jawing with Xavier’s Mark Lyons and those two tangled again at the end of the game with Ellis instigating. Which brings us to the real crux of this paragraph, which is, how in the world did Ellis get involved with Lyons in the first place? Cronin said the Musketeers were talking trash to the Cincinnati bench, but either Ellis has a quick temper or Lyons was going after him directly. I could be wrong, but I have never seen anyone that angry over trash-talk. He probably deserved ten games as well given how many punches he threw and perhaps an explanation we definitely won’t get.
  5. The only punishment that seems reasonable… almost, was the one given to Ge’Lawn Guyn. He was definitely provoked by Tu Holloway into the staredown that started the fracas, but it seemed non-physical until Dez Wells decked him. If Guyn had done nothing else, he might have escaped without a suspension. But he was so incensed at being blindsided he lost control. If you watch closely he is in the back being held by a coach, then he breaks free and at 21 seconds, he attacks Brad Redford who is literally the last man off the Xavier bench. He seems to keep looking for a fight and even breaks free again to aid Ellis. He got pushed, but that doesn’t mean he gets to run around picking fights with anyone in the opposing uniform. Give him two games.
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Morning Five: 12.12.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 12th, 2011

  1. As you may have heard, there was a small fracas at the end of the Xavier-Cincinnati game on Saturday. The two schools suspended four players each for their actions with the suspensions ranging from six games (for Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj) to one game along with unspecified community service obligations. While there are a handful of fans and media members who are saying that the schools did a good job handling the punishments, it seems like a vast majority have been quite critical of the relatively light suspensions especially after what they believed they were hearing from Mick Cronin in his post-game press conference (a topic we wrote about yesterday). Although it has been discussed ad nauseum within the college basketball world, don’t be surprised if this is one of the major stories on sports radio and all the talking head TV shows even if does get buried under Tebow-mania.
  2. It took him long enough, but Ben Howland finally decided to kick Reeves Nelson off the UCLA basketball team on Friday. It does not appear that there was another specific incident that led Howland to finally get rid of Nelson, but instead it appears that it was more the result of a series of discussions that Nelson had with Howland and how Howland felt Nelson was responding to his punishment. We are not sure if this decision will finally spark a lifeless Bruin team as they struggled on Saturday to beat a mediocre Penn team at home. We aren’t sure where Nelson will end up next or if he will ever live up to his potential (our guess: no), but it might be instructive to see how he responded to his dismissal.
  3. On Saturday, Georgetown announced that highly touted freshman center Tyler Adams would be out indefinitely while undergoing tests to work up a potential cardiac abnormality. While we don’t know what Adams is being worked up for, the most likely reasons are for hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy or an arrhythmia. We probably don’t need to tell you that cardiac conditions can be serious, but if you missed our prior post on the increased incidence of sudden cardiac death in Division I men’s basketball players it is worth a read. It goes without saying that basketball should be a distant secondary concern for Adams at the time and we hope that whatever triggered this work-up was an isolated event and not a significant medical problem not so much for his basketball career as for the rest of his life.
  4. While Kansas picked up a big victory at home on Saturday against a Jared Sullinger-less Ohio State team, they also suffered a blow when it was announced that Tyshawn Taylor had torn his meniscus in his right knee earlier in the week and would be undergoing surgery. According to reports, the surgery, which is a fairly simple procedure, went well and Taylor is expected to be out for three weeks. Until he returns a relatively young Jayhawk team will have to learn to adjust to life without their talented, but mercurial leader, who himself has had trouble with turnovers this season. This majority of the point guard duties will probably be handed over to Elijah Johnson or one of the younger players on the team like Naadir Tharpe. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, they don’t really have another tough opponent until January 16 (five weeks from now) when they play Baylor.
  5. We are always surprised when a coach resigns in the middle of the season and even moreso when it is an established coach so when Northern Arizona‘s Mike Adras abruptly announced that he was stepping down on Friday we were shocked. Adras, who compiled a 193-170 record in 13 seasons at the school, led the team to its second NCAA Tournament appearance ever in 2000, but had not been back to the NCAA Tournament since then and his team started this season 2-7. Adras had very little to say in the school’s official release other than the usual generic stuff about being proud of what he accomplished and leaving to pursue other undisclosed opportunities. Interestingly, Adras never actually told his players about his decision to leave and as of this writing apparently has not talked to the team about it, which makes it seem like he may have actually had a little push from the administration to help him with his decision to resign. For the time being, 70 year-old Dave Brown will act as the interim head coach while the school begins its search for a permanent replacement.
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ATB: Crosstown Brawl Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 12th, 2011

On Saturday afternoon, one of the ugliest incidents in recent college basketball memory occurred near the end of the 2011 Crosstown Shootout rivalry game between Cincinnati and Xavier. From the trash talk before the game to the first round of suspensions that were handed down Sunday, it has been a crazy 24-plus hours already. With much of the broader sports nation focused on the holiday season and the NFL this weekend, we thought it would be worth a brief rundown of how we got here for those who may have missed it.

The Crosstown Shootout Devolved Into Chaos Saturday (ESPN)

The Set-Up.

As our now world-famous correspondent Fake Gimel (@fakegimel) noted in his game recap, the Crosstown Shootout rivalry is naturally filled with quite a bit of emotion and in this year’s edition, those emotions bubbled over. In addition to the pre-existing animosity between the schools just from being local rivals, Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick added some bulletin board material when he suggested on a local radio station that Xavier’s All-America candidate Tu Holloway would not start for the Bearcats. Of course, such a statement is an absurd suggestion, but when you are in a rivalry sometimes something as idiotic as that fans the flames. Despite the pregame hype and the taunts of Xavier students as the Musketeers took command of the game, it was a spirited but relatively clean game aside from a halftime incident where XU’s Mark Lyons was confronted by Cincinnati’s Octavius Ellis before officials broke it up.

The Incident.

While we cannot comment on what was being said on the court between the players on both sides leading up to the altercation, reports indicate that things escalated when Holloway began to chatter at the Cincinnati bench in the waning seconds of the game. A few Bearcats responded and then things went downhill. Quickly.

Our first view is the general television view that many of you had.

While that looks bad enough, this view from the student section makes it look even worse.

Bearcats Blog does a frame-by-frame review of the incident that’s worth a look too.

The Aftermath.

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It’s Not About Winning The Press Conference

Posted by nvr1983 on December 11th, 2011

Immediately after yesterday’s horrendous brawl during the Crosstown Shootout, there were calls from throughout the college basketball world for significant suspensions to be handed out to players from Cincinnati and Xavier. The two players who received the most criticism were Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj for their vicious attack on Xavier’s Kenny Frease. Gates was caught on camera punching Frease in the face and Mbodj was seen stomping on Frease while he lay defenseless on the floor. To be fair, Xavier is not without blame as they appeared to be the team that escalated the incident from a verbal one into a physical one and it was Musketeer All-American guard Tu Holloway who gave us a memorable “body bag” comment after the brawl.

Mick Cronin Did A Great Job In The Press Conference Yesterday

However, once the press conference started (first tweeted by our own Fake Gimel), a large portion of the public and media were appeased by the thoughtful (or well-rehearsed) comments of Mick Cronin and Chris Mack. Throwing in phrases like “no excuses,” “grow up,” “full responsibility,” “zero excuse,” and “represent an institution of higher learning,” Cronin won praise from many media members including CBS’s Gary Parrish — trust us, there were more, but we aren’t digging through Twitter to find those responses — for the way he handled the press conference (full video here). Perhaps it was a sincere belief that Cronin would in fact do “the right thing,” which many believed was at least to hand out a pair of 10-game suspensions and potential dismissal from the team for Gates and Mbodj. It turns out that the punishments fall well short of that, as those two players and Octavius Ellis were each suspended for six games and Ge’Lawn Guyn was suspended for one game. All four players will also have to serve some form of community service.

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