Posted on: December 10, 2011 3:13 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 3:54 pm

Xavier rout over Cincinnati marred by brawl

By Jeff Goodman

The Xavier-Cincinnati rivalry is as fierce as any in college basketball. Yes, right there with Duke-North Carolina and Kentucky-Louisville.

With just nine seconds left, a full-fledged brawl ensued.

Musketeers Player of the Year candidate Tu Holloway and Cincinnati's Ge'Lawn Guyn began jawing. Xavier freshman Dez Wells pushed Guyn, Yancy Gates threw the ball at Holloway -- and all hell broke loose. Seconds later, Xavier big man Kenny Frease was sent to the canvas, courtesy of a haymaker from fellow heavyweight Gates. While he was on the floor, Cincinnati's Cheikh Mbodj stomped on Frease.

Frease walked off the court with blood gushing from his left eye and later tweeted: "Scored whenever I wanted and never got scored on... Got punched and I'm still standing like a man." 

This was ugly - and warrants numerous suspensions. My guess is Holloway and Guyn will get a game or two, but it should be Gates and Mbodj who receive the harshest penalties for their actions. Wells will also likely get hit since his push may have triggered the melee. 

"It's unfortunate what happened," Xavier junior guard Mark Lyons said after the game, which was called with nine seconds left. "Obviously, this is a heated rivalry. But we regret what happened and didn't want it to end that way."

One question that both coaches need to answer: Why were most of the starters still in the game, which was a 23-point margin, with just nine seconds left?

Holloway, Lyons and Frease were all in the game for Xavier while Gates and Dion Dixon were still in for Cincinnati.

"I'm friendly with a few of their players," Lyons said. "It was more the new guys, they were talking a lot of trash to Tu. ... It's unfortunate, but we wanted to protect each other. When they are throwing punches, it's hard not to do anything." 

These two programs hate one another. They sit just a few miles away in Cincinnati and there's a history of altercations over the years. Frease, in fact, head-butted Gates a few years back. 

The brawl overshadowed a convincing victory for an Xavier team that is ranked eighth in the country. A year ago, Cincinnati pounded the Musketeers at Fifth Third Arena.

This season both teams were ranked in the Top 20 entering the season, but the Bearcats lost twice entering Saturday's Crosstown Shootout - to Presbyterian and Marshall. Xavier, which put together one of the most difficult non-conference slates in the country, improved to 8-0 and has knocked off Vanderbilt, Purdue, Butler and now Cincinnati.

"I feel like this was a huge win for us," Lyons said.

Maybe, but it was costly. For both sides.

Posted on: December 9, 2011 11:46 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 12:39 pm

Cincy guard disses, dismisses Tu Holloway

By Matt Norlander

Sean Kilpatrick is probably about to get his lunch handed to him.

The Cincinnati sophomore guard went on the radio Thursday and said Xavier point guard Tu Holloway isn't as good as him -- and that the preseason top-five player wouldn't garner a start spot on Cincinnati's roster. The exchange between Kilpatrick, Cincinnati's leading scorer, and Real Talk 1160 WQRT host Andy Furman.
Furman: “Are you better than Tu Holloway?”
Kilpatrick: “I’ll let the fans decide…”
Furman: “I need to know. No one’s listening. Just between you and me.”
Kilpatrick: “Yes I am.”
Furman: “Would Tu Holloway start for UC?”
Kilpatrick: “Would he, with the players we have now? I would say no.”
I don't blame Kilpatrick for having pride and claiming he's better than Holloway, even though everyone not associated with Cincinnati knows that not to be true. The category where Kilpatrick is clearly better: effective field goal percentage. Kilpatrick is clearing 58 percent to Holloway's 45.

The he-wouldn't-start-for-us line is where things get personal, and will no doubt serve to further motivate a team that's already of Final Four caliber. As if Holloway wasn't already motivated enough playing against the hated Bearcats, plus he had arguably his worst game of the season against Cincy last year, shooting 15 percent from the floor and scoring five points ... now he gets this.

Holloway's been a opposing team's dream-killer this season, playing fantastically in the clutch and late in games. I can't wait to see how X reacts and rallies around Holloway, who will most likely have another good-to-great showing.

In a grander scheme, what Kilpatrick's comments do is put the spotlight on what's truly one of the meanest, if not the meanest, college basketball rivalries. Xavier-Cincy will never be the biggest, but the Crosstown Shootout has spread the venom for decades. It gets pockets of recognition for how seething it can get -- perhaps this hyperbole from Kilpatrick will give the matchup even more recognition. We need rivalries with some true disgust and contempt between players.

Speaking out against the other team's star player is never smart for the team involved, but as fans of game, we always benefit. Bring on the trash talk and let the game begin.

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: December 1, 2011 12:00 pm

Your SEC/Big East Challenge guide

By Matt Norlander

What do you want in a preview? I've been self-assigned (is that even possible?) to give you the rundown on all of the SEC and Big East games coming up over the next 72 hours, and I wasn't quite sure where to go with this. After all, these are early-December games, half of them are afterthoughts, and preview material is usually come-and-go outside of preseason and NCAA tournament talk.

So I looked at the games and decided I'll just give you whatever random thought comes off the top of my head. A conversational tone works best here, since there are no real true tilts of consequence involved outside of the fantastic ones going on Friday night Louisville and Syracuse. (I'll be at the latter.) If there's a stat sited, I do not have it memorized. Those I looked up. I'm not huge on predictions, so you won't find those here.

All this said, I do expect these 12 games to be better than what the ACC and Big Ten gave us Tuesday and Wednesday night, by the way. If you have any other curiosities that go beyond this post, check our SEC/Big East Challenge page, which has the history of this event and stats that go along with it.


Providence at South Carolina (7 ET): Oh this is just bad. Providence is a few years away from true relevancy, and Darrin Horn is already coaching for his job at South Carolina. NEXT.

St. John's at Kentucky (7:30 ET): Wildcats get the Johnnies tonight, less than 48 hours before Carolina comes in. I'd say St. John's would have a chance, except they're playing Kentucky. Kind of a problem. SJU doesn't have one senior on its roster and head coach Steve Lavin will not be making the trip. Kentucky will be looking ahead to UNC, but the 'Cats should win by a minimum of 23.4 points.

Ole Miss at DePaul (9 ET): Have a sick interest in this game if for no other reason than I want to know how many people show up to watch it. Have to say, the fact these teams are a combined 9-2 is a welcomed surprise.

Georgetown at Alabama (9:30 ET): Best game of the night, period. Are you sure what Georgetown is yet? We do know the Hoyas take care of the ball very well. That early trend could be bucked in Tuscaloosa, though, because Alabama is on its way to being a top-five defensive team in the country. Teams are shooting a 35.7 effective field goal percentage against the Tide. Second-worst in the country.


Florida at Syracuse (7 ET): I'll keep this strictly to basketball, because I'm not sure how much I'll be able to do that one I get there to cover the game. Basically, I'm intrigued as hell. I love Bradley Beal's (right, with Billy Donovan) game. I'm still not sold on Florida's four-guard look, even if Patric Young gets his chances to play janitor when that happens. No Erik Murphy for the Gators means they're less dynamic. I like Syracuse is a really fun one. With the Orange, you're just never sure who's going to be the player that has the big game. Looks like someone's going to need to decidedly have a huge night to beat a team a lot of people like to make the Final Four.

Cincinnati at Georgia (7 ET): Car-wreck factor has be interested. When will Cinci start playing at a level that's indicative of the talent it has on this team? Georgia's in a third-gear year, I think.

Vanderbilt at Louisville (9 ET): What do you think about this one? Vanderbilt certainly not expected to win it (I haven't checked, but I'd put the Cards at about -4.5 here). Louisville's still not at full strength, nor is Vandy. Goodman's going to be at this game. I think this one adds up to little, even if it's nice in the moment. Because come late February, both these teams will have personnel on the floor that didn't play in this game. If Vandy/'Ville are vying for the 3-seed line and you want to give the winner of this the bid, by all means, but beyond that there won't be much long-term effect from this game. I think John Jenkins struggles in this one, too.

Auburn at Seton Hall (9 ET): Oh, get it out of my face, please.


Arkansas at UConn (3:15 ET): The Hogs are without Marshon Powell and so I don't see how Mike Anderson's new team keeps this within 20. UConn's due for a really impressive, really big win. I want to see how Alex Oriakhi plays in front of the home crowd in Hartford. Oriakhi's been public with this playing-time situation. UConn will grow and stumble a little more in December, but I'm betting we're putting this team in the highest echelon by New Year's Day.

Pittsburgh at Tennessee (5:15 ET): I'd call this game the biggest true toss-up of any listed here. I'm down on Pitt this year in regard to most others. A win here would be very uplifting for Jamie Dixon's team. Same can be said for Cuonzo Martin at Tennessee, who's probably still punching the pillow after his Vols couldn't steal that game against Memphis in Maui.

LSU at Rutgers (7 ET): Just a couple of truly nondescript, non-enthralling 4-3 BCS conference teams. I think I'd rather put away my summer clothes into storage.

West Virginia at Mississippi State (9 ET): The final game of the Challenge, it's the kind of game MSU should win without controversy if it wants to be top-20 caliber. WVU is down, considerably down, this season. The Bulldogs have twice as much talent on this team -- and a lot more size, even if Denis Kilicli will bruise it up down low with Renardo Sidney and/or Arnett Moultrie. The flip side: Huggins has been known to get his team to steal wins in these kind of spots.

Photos: AP
Posted on: November 28, 2011 2:28 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 2:44 pm

The Poll Attacks

By Gary Parrish

Associated Press poll: Thanksgiving weekend is tricky.

Lots of family time.

Lots of shopping.

Good football on television.

It's easy to lose track of things in college basketball, I know. But my god. There are websites all over the place -- including, of course, CBSSports.com -- where box scores from every game played can be found, and it just seems like AP voters ought to take a few minutes and look at them before submitting their ballots. If they did, the Poll Attacks would be much more difficult to file every week. As it is, this is simple stuff.

So thank you, Mark McCarter of the Huntsville Times.

You've made my job simple on this Monday.

And I hate that it's you because I like you and we go way back. But come on, man. You put Cincinnati 25th on your ballot despite the fact that the Bearcats are 3-2 with home losses to Presbyterian and Marshall. That's two home losses. To Presbyterian. And Marshall. What does Cincinnati have to do to get off your ballot? Would a loss to Miami-Ohio this week do it? What about two losses this week -- to Miami-Ohio on Tuesday and Georgia on Friday? Surely that would be enough, right?

Also, why no UNLV on your ballot?

The Rebels are 7-0 with a win over North Carolina.

That's slightly better than 3-2 with home losses to Presbyterian and Marshall.

Obviously, I could go on for another 300 words. But that's enough. Because the Houston Chronicle's Sam Khan voted Villanova 24th, and that's similarly silly and needs to be addressed. The Wildcats are 4-2 with neutral-court losses to Saint Louis (by 12 points) and Santa Clara (by one point). I suppose that's better than home losses to Presbyterian and Marshall, but not much better. I genuinely have no idea how Sam could still be ranking Villanova, but I also have no idea how Sam can rank Memphis seventh -- 12 spots of the Michigan team that dominated the Tigers and at least sixteen spots ahead of the Georgetown team that he didn't rank despite it also beating the Memphis team he still believes belongs in the top 10.

In fact, I don't even know why he'd rank Memphis at all right now.

I'll explain that next ...

Coaches poll: Memphis will win Conference USA.

The Tigers are too talented to do anything but win Conference USA.

But at some point, to some degree, the results have to matter, and the Tigers' results through four games don't suggest they are, at this moment, the top 10 team most believed they'd be in the preseason ... or even worthy of the No. 21 ranking the coaches gave them Monday. Memphis is 2-2 with a home win over an Atlantic Sun team (Belmont) and a double-overtime win on a neutral court over a team picked 11th in the SEC (Tennessee). The Tigers' losses are a double-digit defeat on a neutral court to No. 15 Michigan and an overtime loss to unranked Georgetown, also on a neutral court. Simply put, that's not good enough.

Now I know what you're thinking: How can CBSSports.com rank two-loss FSU but not two-loss Memphis?

Answer: Florida State's two losses are better. And FSU deserves more of the benefit of the doubt. The Seminoles are 5-2. Their losses are an overtime loss to a team we have ranked 11th (Connecticut) and a five-point loss to a team we have ranked 22nd (Harvard). Beyond that, FSU's ranking isn't based on potential nearly as much as Memphis'. The Seminoles were good last season -- third in the ACC with an 11-5 league record and a trip to the Sweet 16 -- and they returned the bulk of that roster. Meantime, Memphis was awful last season. The Tigers went 10-6 in Conference USA, basically played well for just one week in El Paso, won the C-USA tournament and got the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. So their preseason ranking was always based more on recruiting rankings and the idea that they'd this season be more like the team that pushed Arizona to the buzzer in their postseason opener last season than the team that finished fourth in C-USA, and, again, I think they will eventually. But through four games, they haven't. And that's why I can't make sense of Memphis still being ranked this week when so many other teams deserve it more.

Like Harvard.

The Crimson are 6-0 with a win over Florida State.

Or Georgetown.

The Hoyas are 4-1 with the lone loss being a close loss to No. 14 Kansas.

And Georgetown beat Memphis.

How could anybody rank Memphis but not Georgetown right now?

That's baffling.

Either way, again, Memphis will be fine in time; I still believe that. The roster remains really, really talented. But should the Tigers be ranked 21st on Nov. 28 -- ahead of Saint Louis, FSU, Harvard and Georgetown? No, absolutely not. It really can't be justified by anything that's ever happened on a basketball court.
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."
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com