Tag:Mick Cronin
Posted on: December 28, 2011 2:10 pm

Cincinnati's four-guard lineup has saved season

Jeff Borzello

Since the brawl between Xavier and Cincinnati put a black eye on each team’s season, the two teams have gone different directions. Xavier is 1-3, with the lone victory coming against 3-8 Southern Illinois. On the other hand, Cincinnati has won four in a row, racking up its four highest point totals of the season.

The biggest change for the Bearcats? Head coach Mick Cronin has gone to a four-guard lineup with Yancy Gates suspended for six games.

It started against Wright State, when Cronin inserted junior JaQuon Parker into the lineup. Sean Kilpatrick, Dion Dixon and Cashmere Wright were already entrenched on the perimeter. Justin Jackson has been the lone frontcourt player in the starting five.

“It’s easy to get a shot in a four-guard offense,” Cronin told reporters at the time. “If you can get away with it on defense and get away with it rebounding, it’s a lot easier. You can just let these guys play.”

Cincinnati won that first game, 78-58, and has been rolling since. They topped 100 points in back-to-back games against Radford and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, then went for 95 against Chicago State last week. They are averaging 1.35 points per possession in those four contests, which would rank No. 1 in the country – by about 0.14 PPP – if the Bearcats had done it all season.

Cincinnati is shooting better, taking care of the ball, forcing more turnovers and even rebounding the ball better on the defensive end of floor.

Kilpatrick is averaging 17.3 points during this stretch, while Wright has also relished the new up-tempo style, averaging 17.8 points and 6.5 assists, with only four turnovers total. Parker has provided yet another dimension on the perimeter, using his strength to be a factor on the boards.

The Bearcats are taking better advantage of their athleticism along the perimeter, getting better spacing in the half-court offense and utilizing better ball movement to get open shots. Moreover, Cincinnati is averaging better than 70 possessions per game in the last three contests – the only three games Cincinnati has reached that level this season.

“It’s allowing us to play faster and that’s creating more scoring opportunities,” Cronin told Jon Rothstein recently.

Can Cincinnati continue to use this lineup in Big East play? That remains to be seen, as the Bearcats’ numbers have been inflated by terrible competition recently. Justin Jackson is suited for transition basketball, due to his ability to run the floor and bring energy on a consistent basis. His motor is terrific, but he’s not a legitimate option in a half-court offense. Once Gates returns, it is likely he will take Jackson’s spot in the lineup. Gates’ strength will be necessary against Big East foes, but he would also prefer a half-court system to the up-and-down style.

The Bearcats face Oklahoma on Thursday night, and then go against Pittsburgh to start Big East play on New Year’s Day. Gates returns against Notre Dame next Wednesday. It will be interesting to see what Cronin does going forward.

Either way, the brawl was clearly a turning point in Cincinnati’s season – in a good way.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: December 11, 2011 2:12 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2011 3:53 pm

Cincinnati's Cronin's words were just that: Words

By Jeff Goodman

Mick Cronin's actions needed to be as forceful as his words.

They weren't.

Star big man Yancy Gates, after delivering a right-hand that knocked Xavier's fellow heavyweight to the floor, received a six-game suspension. Cincinnati also suspended Octavius Ellis and Cheikh Mbodj, who stomped on Frease while he was down on the court, for six games -- and Ge'Lawn Guyn for one game.

Gates should have received -- at minimum -- a 10-game penalty, maybe even being tossed from the team for good. Cronin talked a big game after Saturday's brawl, one that was embarrassing for all parties.

"We accept full responsibility and it will be handled," Cronin said. "There is zero excuse for that in basketball. ... The fact is the guys ... represent an institution of higher learning. Xavier has been a great school for years. We're trying to cure cancer at Cincinnati. I go to school at a place where they ... created Benadryl; I think that's more important than who wins a basketball game. And our guys need to have an appreciation that they're there on a full scholarship and they better represent the institution with class and integrity. ... I just told my guys I will meet with my AD and my president and I'm going to decide who is on the team going forward. That's what the University of Cincinnati is about. Period. I've never been this embarrassed."

Cronin talked about how these kids need to appreciate the value of education, how they need to act accordingly -- or they won't ever be allowed to put on a Bearcats uniform.

He had an opportunity to follow through with his strong message in the post-game news conference -- one that was applauded by nearly everyone. (Doyel: Cronin talked the talk)

Then he opted not to follow through on his strong statements, and hit Gates, who did his best Mike Tyson impression when he sent Frease to the canvas, with just six games.

I understand that it was a mistake, one Gates would love to take back. But it's not as though Gates has been the model citizen, either. He's been suspended by Cronin previously -- and the penalty should have been more severe for this transgression.

But winning is more important to Cronin. At least that's what his actions said.

He needs Gates, especially when Big East play rolls around.

Gates will miss games against Wright State, Radford, Arkansas Pine-Bluff, Chicago State, Oklahoma and Pittsburgh.

That's a grand total of one conference game.

Posted on: December 10, 2011 5:23 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 7:19 pm

Cronin shines on a bad day for UC-XU rivalry

By Gary Parrish

Cincinnati lost to a crosstown rival by 23 points. The Bearcats best player threw a punch that might end his career. But I'm not sure Mick Cronin has ever had a better day as a college basketball coach.

"There's no excuse for any of it on our side or on their side," Cronin said. "Guys need to grow up."

And it got more intense from there.

In an era when too many coaches play it safe, avoid questions and promise to address everything at a later date, Cronin, clearly emotional, spent roughly 13 minutes talking about the brawl that overshadowed Xavier's 76-53 win over his Bearcats. The fight featured lots of punches. The Cincinnati coach pulled none.

"We accept full responsibility and it will be handled," Cronin said. "There is zero excuse for that in basketball. ... The fact is the guys ... represent an institution of higher learning. Xavier has been a great school for years. We're trying to cure cancer at Cincinnati. I go to school at a place where they ... created Benadryl; I think that's more important than who wins a basketball game. And our guys need to have an appreciation that they're there on a full scholarship and they better represent the institution with class and integrity. ... I just told my guys I will meet with my AD and my president and I'm going to decide who is on the team going forward. That's what the University of Cincinnati is about. Period. I've never been this embarrassed."

Cronin went on to explain that he didn't know exactly why the fight started.

He said he needed to watch the film.

But he also made it clear that, ultimately, he didn't care about the details.

If his players started it, he said his players were wrong.

If Xavier's players started it, he said his players were wrong to react violently.

"Toughness is doing the right thing," Cronin said. "You take your ass-whipping and go home."

The entire press conference was fascinating.

You can watch it here.

It's a great example of how to handle a terrible situation. Cronin didn't make excuses and he wasn't guarded. All anybody wanted to hear from anybody involved after the bloody court was cleared was that they were as disturbed by what happened with 9.4 seconds remaining as the nation that was watching, and that those responsible for starting -- or escalating -- the incident would be held accountable. Cronin sat at a desk with a microphone in his face and made both points convincingly. It was a nice performance on a horrific afternoon.

We like to pretend college coaches are "leaders of young men."

Oftentimes, that's laughable.

But on this day, after it was all over, Mick Cronin very much looked the part.

Photo: AP
Posted on: November 19, 2011 8:13 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2011 8:15 pm

Cincinnati gets Hosed, falls to Presbyterian

By Jeff Goodman

Even if you run away from the fire, you can still get burned.

Just ask Mick Cronin.

Cronin has been bashed for Cincinnati's weak non-conference schedule for the second consecutive year - and deservedly so.

It's indefensible.

A consensus Top 25 team this season, the Bearcats started with Alabama State, Jacksonville State and Presbyterian. Radford, Arkansas Pine-Bluff and Chicago State are also litter the non-league slate.

There are a few dangerous teams on the schedule: Marshall and Miami (Ohio), but the BCS teams are also lackluster with Georgia and Oklahoma.

Well, Cronin's team suffered its first loss of the season Saturday against Presbyterian.

Yes, Presbyterian.

The Blue Hose came back from a 15-point second half deficit for a 56-54 victory.

I was reluctant to put Cincinnati in the Top 25 to open this season and it had nothing to do with its schedule. Sure, the Bearcats finished strong last season - but they lost a few intangible guys.

Yancy Gates and Sean Kilpatrick both produced, but there wasn't much else. In fact, there was virtually nothing out of Cincinnati's bench.

Cincinnati may wind up making the NCAA tournament and making its way back into the Top 25, but feasting on cupcakes is hardly the way to do so.

Especially now -- when the cupcakes don't taste quite so good.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 1, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: November 1, 2011 10:57 am

Mick Cronin likes that the Big East is morphing

By Matt Norlander

Cincinnati isn't the second, third, fourth or fifth fiddle in the Big East right now. With Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia due to depart in the coming year(s), though, it can move up the league's totem pole. That circumstance is bad for Big East basketball, but good for Cinci. That's Mick Cronin's point below.

Still, doesn't mean he's wrong, overall.

Cinci has been just one in the fray since it left Conference USA and joined the Big East nearly a decade ago. It's never found the dominance or league-wide respect in the Big East the way it did when running roughshod over inferior programs in C-USA. So with the country's best basketball league disassembling itself in the near-future, Cinci is poised to become an elite member of the Big East. I probably should have put elite in quotations back there.

This is now what Cronin thinks and wants for his program; he said as much to the Cincinnati Enquirer's Bill Koch.

I missed this on Friday, but thanks to Bearcats Blog plucking and running with it (and, boy, do they absolutely tear Cronin apart), I caught it, and was somewhat surprised. Here's part of what the Bearcats coach said:
“One thing that coach Pitino and I talk a lot about it is making sure we keep Big East basketball and adding teams that bring merit to the basketball part of the conference,” Cronin said Friday. “But I’ve been on the other side of the coin. When you improve five consecutive years and you do what we did last year and you still don’t get a lot of publicity, in my opinion there’s too many teams in the Big East, too many historical Big East teams, and you’re not one of them. So I see this as a tremendous opportunity for the basketball program at Cincinnati.”
I could spend another thousand words explaining why Cinci hasn't gotten the type of run Syracuse, UConn, Georgetown and Pitt have, but you most likely could recite that yourself. That continually underwhelming, embarrassing non-con is a big part of it. And as for "bringing merit" to the league, Houston, SMU, Navy, Air Force, Boise State and Central Florida most certainly do not. That's a whole lot of pearl onions, butter, pepper and cooked carrots on the table.

Which of those teams is the meat or potatoes?

Cronin added:
“I just think you get overshadowed in the Big East because there’s so many big media names and traditional powers,” Cronin said.  “We have some historically strong basketball schools in our league that I think could have a chance to rebuild. It could be an opportunity for those schools to get some legs going.”
Unfortunately, Cronin's delirious here. When the big-name schools leave, the Big East floats closer to the A10's media model than anything close to what it has today. Fewer teams with legitimate basketball programs won't dictate the conference will remain at the forefront of the sport's coverage; you certainly won't see as much space dedicated to it here.

But it does give Cincinnati an opportunity to reach a higher ladder run -- and as a coach, Cronin rightfully wants that. He wants the easier league with few bullies so he can get his win total closer to 25 than 18. It helps him keep his job, earn a raise and give a generic sense of enhancement to Cinci's program.

Posted on: October 27, 2011 9:09 am
Edited on: October 27, 2011 9:41 am

Preseason Tour: Thoughts from Cincinnati

By Jeff Goodman

Now that I've returned home and had an opportunity to catch my breathe from my Preseason Tour, I'll try and run through my thoughts from each practice I attended. I've already done so for Ohio State, North Carolina and Duke:

Here are my thoughts and observations from Cincinnati:

Season tips Nov. 7
1) Defense. The Bearcats may not have lost any of their top scorers, but Mick Cronin is stressing defense because he will be without quality role guys like Rashad Bishop, Ibrahima Thomas and Larry Davis - all guys that guarded. A year ago, Cincinnati led the Big East in points allowed. "You've got to be able to win ugly - even if you don't make shots," Cronin said. "Defense is all about toughness and discipline."

2) I feel bad for anyone that has to try and match-up with 6-foot-10 freshman Kelvin Gaines. He's already injured a couple teammates due to his wild elbows, so now he's been fitted with knee pads on his elbows in order to protect his teammates. I've never, ever seen a guy with knee pads on their elbows - but I guess elbow pads didn't have enough cushion.

3) While some teams prefer "young" freshman, believing they have a higher upside, Cronin and his staff have gone the other direction in more of a Pittsburgh mold. Sean Kilpatrick is a 21-year-old sophomore and freshman Ge'Lawn Guyn turns 21 in a couple weeks. These guys all look like men.

4) Yancy Gates doesn't just look the part anymore. He also sounds ready to become a star and fulfill the potential that's followed him since high school. The communication between he and the coaching staff is clearly improved - and Gates' stress level has decreased significantly. Look for the senior big man to play with a sense of urgency this year and that should translate into more dominant performances.

5) Cronin defended his lackluster non-conference schedule (for the second consecutive season), but there's truly not much of a defense. It's abysmal. Yes, there are other Big East teams preaching a similar practice, but teams like Syracuse and UConn have nothing to prove - and ones such as DePaul aren't ready. The Bearcats are a preseason Top 25 team that should have played in one of the preseason tournaments. Cronin said he'd like to play Kentucky, Ohio State or Indiana - but he said none have bit on playing against his team.

6) Junior college transfer Cheikh Mboji, who spent last season at Grayson County in Texas, could wind up starting this season. The Senegal native is big, strong and can run the floor - but he's more skilled than many of his countrymen who have come over to play college ball. "He's a big addition for us," Cronin said.

7) It'll be interesting to see how these guys handle the expectations of being tabbed a Preseason Top 25 team. Remember, these guys haven't had to deal with any of this before. This is clearly one of Cronin's concerns.

8) Sean Kilpatrick will lead the team in scoring, but this will be a fairly balanced team again. Kilpatrick's a guy who has that swagger and knows how to put the ball in the basket. He put up 10.2 points in just 20.7 minutes per game in league play a year ago. Cronin said he'll need to cut down on his turnovers.

9) Cronin said he'll continue to recruit New York. Remember, he's plucked Lance Stephenson, Kilpatrick and freshman Jermaine Sanders out of the state.

10) Freshman Shaquille Thomas won't be eligible to play this season due to an NCAA ruling, but is expected to be able to practice in the second semester. The staff is extremely high on Thomas.

10b) I had to share this story about the ex-Bearcat Stephenson that I hadn't heard before. I was told by multiple sources that after he scored his first NBA bucket a year ago, in a sparse crowd in Indiana, his father tossed confetti into the air. Classic.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 9:16 am
Edited on: October 20, 2011 10:03 am

Cincinnati's Yancy Gates finally stress-free

I've fallen behind a bit in my tour that began last week on Tobacco Road and has taken me though Ohio State, Cincinnati, Xavier, Butler, Indiana and Purdue. Right now I'm sitting in a hotel room in gorgeous Goshen, Ind., which is about halfway from West Lafayette to East Lansing, Mich., - my destination later today.

Anyway, I found it fascinating to speak to Cincinnati big man Yancy Gates two days ago - who was brutally honest about the hometown stress that became too much to handle a year ago.

By Jeff Goodman

CINCINNATI - Yancy Gates couldn't take it anymore.

He cracked.

Everywhere he'd go around town, the homegrown Cincinnati product would hear it.

"Do this," they'd say.

"No, you should do this," another would chime in.

Season tips Nov. 7
Finally, shortly after the Bearcats NCAA tournament hopes appeared in serious jeopardy early last February, he couldn't deal with it any longer.

Gates exploded.

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin tossed his talented big man out of practice and then kept him home for the team's road game at Pittsburgh.

"It just all got to him," Cronin said. "He was having a meltdown. He was just so stressed."

"I watched the game in my room by myself," Gates said. "It wasn't on TV, so I just watched the score."

Gates returned and played sparingly in a road win at DePaul and a home loss to St. John's.

Then he and the coaching staff had a heart-to-heart when the emotions came pouring out.

"We didn't know how bad it was," Cronin said. "It was just too much for him."

Staying home to play at Cincinnati has been a blessing, Gates said. But it's also been a curse at times.

He was that kid who chose to commit to the home school back when the Bearcats were rebuilding as the doormat of the Big East. Just about everyone questioned his decision - why he'd pick Cincinnati over more stable programs such as Georgetown and Ohio State.

Gates was slated as a one-and-done kid by some, but it didn't take him long - a couple games going up against guys his own size like DeJuan Blair and Luke Harangody - to realize he'd be in college for a while.

But the expectations were always there for the kid who dominated ever since his name burst onto the scene in the area.

"It was different," Gates said. "In high school, I'd go up against guys 70 pounds lighter and four inches shorter every game," Gates admitted. "I was criticized for the first time - and that never really happened to me before, so it was tough for me to deal with."

Now Yates appears stress-free. Maybe it's because Cincinnati is coming off a second-round appearance in the NCAA tournament and returns the core of its team from a year ago. Maybe it's because he feels as though he's done his job - to stabilize a program in flux following the departure of Bob Huggins.

"I never thought I would be here all four years," Gates admitted. "But it's been worth it."

The knock on Gates, and he knows it, is that he doesn't play hard all the time. That he should dominate more often, that with his NBA-ready body, he should be a force on the glass and in the paint. He's lighter in his midsection these days and that'll lead to increased mobility.

He's hoping to build on his numbers (11.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg) from a year ago - and much of that may come from a clear head.

"I feel so much better now," the 22-year-old Gates said. "I'm stress-free."
Posted on: February 16, 2011 9:27 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2011 9:46 pm

Touch of Cashmere gives Cincy marquee win

Cashmere Wright was smooth as silk in the upset of LouisvillePosted by Eric Angevine

First of all, let us just acknowledge that Cashmere Wright is one of the best names in college hoops this season.

Additionally, Cashmere Wright may just be remembered as the guy who got Cincinnati into the NCAA tournament this year.

The Bearcats entered this home game with No. 16 Louisville at 6-6 in the Big East and looking for a marquee win to offset an extremely weak non-conference schedule. Coach Mick Cronin has shaken up his lineup a bit lately, bringing players off the bench who were accustomed to starting. It didn't work too well in a two-point loss to St. John's last week, but Cronin kept Yancy Gates in reserve again in this game.

Gates did well enough, with 8 points and 6 rebounds after throwing up a goose egg in the Red Storm debacle, but it was sophomore point guard Cashmere Wright (right) who made all the right moves to keep Cincy in the at-large conversation along with... well, roughly two thirds of the Big East. Wright -- typically a low-scoring distributor -- scored 20 points on 7-15 shooting on a night when Dion Dixon, usually the leading scorer for the Bearcats, came off the bench and scored just two points.

Redshirt freshman Sean Kilpatrick also had a nice game, contributing a very efficient 18 points to the winning effort. The Bearcat defense held Louisville studs Peyton Siva and Preston Knowles to a combined 23 points, and the Cards as a team shot just 23.5 percent from deep.

Cincinnati may have made their resume more attractive with tonight's win, but they've hardly silenced the doubters entirely. Saturday's trip to Providence and a roadie at Marquette in early March look like must-win games if the Bearcats hope to maintain postseason momentum, and the remainder of the season is back-loaded with two meetings with No. 9 Georgetown that Cincy should aim to at least split. Throw UConn into the mix, and the opportunities to impress are there.

The Bearcats may not have been 'Born Ready' this season, but it seems like Mick Cronin and Cashmere Wright are working hard to get them ready in time for the Big Dance.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com