Posted on: September 23, 2011 2:13 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 2:31 pm

Big East leadership questioned by coaches

By Jeff Goodman

Some guys just aren't cut out to be head coaches. They make better assistants.

Big East Commissioner John Marinatto may be one of those guys.

"I firmly believe we would manage this a lot better with a different leader," said one Big East head coach, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "He's a good man, a good right-hand man. But I think he's in over his head."

To be fair, Marinatto was thrust into an unenviable situation, following the late Dave Gavitt and Mike Tranghese as the leaders of the Big East.

Marinatto's resume reads as follows: A Providence kid who graduated from Providence College in 1979, then later went onto become the athletic director at the school for 14 years. He was the associate commissioner of the Big East from 2002-2009, when he took over for Tranghese.

"There's just no way it would have gotten to this point if Dave or Mike were still in charge," another Big East head man said.

One thing is for certain: Gavitt and/or Tranghese wouldn't have had the news of Syracuse and Pittsburgh's departure delivered to him in a football press box on Saturday - as has been reported to be the case with Marinatto.

"I'm not sure how it would have worked out, but it would have," a coach in the league said about the overall situation the league now finds itself.

``I doubt it," answered yet another when posed the question whether this would have occurred under previous leadership.

However, with Syracuse and Pittsburgh departing for the ACC at some point (likely prior to 2014) and UConn begging and pleading to join the exodus, Marinatto has come under fire.

While there are certainly those who are skeptical, Marinatto does still have his share of support.

"I think eventually this would have happened anyway," one coach said. "Everyone wants to put it on Marinatto, but this is a league that's been built on instability."

Now the future of the Big East - and the way it'll be comprised - is in jeopardy. Will it add a couple members to replace what is has lost - and may lose - and move forward? Or will it re-shape itself for improved long-term stability and go the route of the "basketball-only" schools, thus going hard after Xavier and Butler?

We'll see what Marinatto does - and whether his fate mirrors that of outgoing Big 12 commish Dan Beebe, who's at left of Marinatto in the photo above.

Photo: AP
Posted on: September 16, 2011 12:33 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 12:38 pm

I have to address Cinci's non-con schedule

By Matt Norlander

This post isn't spawned by news; rather, by stewing. Cincinnati's out-of-conference schedule was released more than two months ago. I've been sitting on thoughts about it for a good while now. And if I attack UConn and Northwestern over their lackadaisical, somewhat-gutless scheduling, I have to put the Bearcats on trial, too. 

I just don't get it. The team should be good this season. Top-25 worthy, even. After reaching the NCAA tournament last year, Mick Cronin accomplished something a lot of people -- yours truly included -- didn't think was going to happen.

Yet coming off that year, this is what Cronin assembles for his group?
  • Nov. 1 vs. McGill University
  • Nov. 8 vs. Northern Kentucky
  • Nov. 13 vs. Alabama State
  • Nov. 15 vs. Jacksonville State
  • Nov. 19 vs. Presbyterian
  • Nov. 21 vs. Northwestern State
  • Nov. 25 vs. Marshall
  • Nov. 29 vs. Miami (Ohio)
  • Dec. 2 at Georgia 
  • Dec. 10 at Xavier
  • Dec. 14 at Wright State
  • Dec. 17 vs. Radford
  • Dec. 21 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff 
  • Dec. 23 vs. Chicago State
  • Dec. 29 vs. Oklahoma
The only major-conference opponents are Georgia and Oklahoma, two teams that, I'm out on a limb here and calling it now, will have a hard time making the NCAA tournament in 2012. Xavier's a great game, but it's a rivalry game; it's baked into the schedule each year, so Cronin gets no credit for organizing it.

One of the things I love about college basketball is seeing programs at any level rise up from what they once were and succeed. Schools that do this usually schedule with a lot of ambition, consequences be damned. Others get timid and line up weaklings throughout November and December. Cincinnati's done that again.

Last year's schedule was just as weak. Now, you can see where Cronin could be coming from. Line up the patsies, bank on winning most, if not all of the games, then tread water in the toughest conference in the country and hope the formula at the end of the season lands you into the 68-team tournament. They did it last year and got in with room to spare. If that's the method, it can and has worked for clubs before. But it's also backfired. We've seen plenty of teams approach their seasons with this philosophy, only to either stumble too frequently against bad teams (therefore putting themselves under the gun by the time conference play starts), or they don't get challenged enough in the non-con and can't take the punches against the league in January and February.

Cronin's done a disservice to his talented team that, while it will get a great intra-conference slate, really won't feel the adrenaline rush hit until after New Year's. I'd love to get an explanation as to why it had to be laid out like this, but reaching Cronin on this issue has been fruitless as of late.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 8, 2011 9:06 am
Edited on: August 8, 2011 9:08 am

Big East Offseason Report

By Jeff Goodman

Well, it’s just Jeff Borzello and I this week in this space – since Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander are out gallivanting somewhere.

That means, well, I’m going to have to try and pick it up a bit cause Borzello is busy with recruiting news and also trying to pick out a new wardrobe (I hope).

Anyway, here’s the Big East Offseason Report to get things started:

Big East Offseason Report

Cincinnati – The Bearcats will play in the Global Sports Shootout along with Marshall, Alabama State, Jacksonville State and Northwestern State. Mick Cronin’s team also has a non-league slate that includes contests at Georgia (12-2), at Xavier (12-10) and against Oklahoma.

Connecticut – Andre LaFleur left for Providence and Glen Miller was bumped up from director of basketball operations. Former GW head coach Karl Hobbs was brought on as the director of basketball administration. The defending champs will play in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas (Nov. 23-27) and also have non-league games vs. Arkansas (12-3), vs. Harvard (12-7), vs. Fairfield (12-22) and at Tennessee (1-21). Jamal Coombs-McDaniel transferred to Hofstra.

DePaul – The Blue Demons will head to France from Aug, 11-21. Josh Postorino left for Georgia Tech and Andy Farrell was promoted to take his spot as the director of basketball operation. Matt Fleming is the new video coordinator. Oliver Purnell’s team will play in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando and its top non-conference game is at home against Ole Miss (12-1) in the Big East/SEC challenge. Mike Bizoukas (Missouri ) transferred out and freshman Shane Larkin left prior to the start of the season. Donnavan Kirk is eligible this season after transferring from Miami and sitting out last year.

Georgetown – The Hoyas brought former assistant Kevin Broadus back as a special assistant and also added former star big man Othella Harrington in some sort of role. John Thompson III & Co. will travel to China on Aug. 13 and will also play in the Maui Invitational. Georgetown has non-league games at Alabama (12-1) and at home against Memphis (12-22). Jerrelle Benimon (Towson) and Vee Sanford (Dayton) both left the program.

Louisville – Rick Pitino’s staff has a different look. Ralph Willard retired, Steve Masiello got the head job at Manhattan and Tim Fuller left after just one season for Missouri. Pitino brought his son, Richard, back from Florida – and added Kevin Keatts (Hargrave Military Academy) and Wyking Jones (New Mexico). Mark Lieberman is now the director of basketball operations. The Cardinals are heading to the Bahamas from Aug. 10-14 and have a non-league slate that includes games at Butler (11-19), against Vanderbilt (12-2), vs. Memphis(12-17) and at Kentucky (12-31). George Goode (Missouri) left while Luke Hancock (George Mason) transferred in and will sit out this season.

Marquette – The Golden Eagles will play in the Paradise Jam and also face Washington (12-6) in the Jimmy V Classic in NYC. Buzz Williams’ team will also play at Wisconsin (12-3), at LSU (12-19) and against Vanderbilt (12-29) at home in the non-conference schedule. Eric Williams (Sam Houston State) left the program and Jamil Wilson is eligible this season after sitting out last year following transferring in from Oregon.

Notre Dame – The Irish will play in the CBE Classic, will play Maryland (12-4) in the BT&T Classic and will also play Indiana (12-17) in the Crossroad Classic in Indianapolis. Mike Brey’s team will also face Gonzaga (11-30) at home in the non-league slate. Garrick Sherman (Michigan State) will sit out this season after transferring into the program.

Pittsburgh – Pat Skerry left to become the head coach at Towson and was replaced by Bill Barton (Marshall). The Panthers will play in the Hoop Group Classic (11-25/26) and also have a non-league game at Tennessee (12-3). J.J. Richardson transferred to Houston.

Providence – Ed Cooley brought Bob Simon and Brian Blaney with him from Fairfield and added Andre Lafleur (UConn). The final spot is now open after Carmen Maciariello left for BU. The Friars are in the South Padre Invitational and have non-conference games at South Carolina (12-1) and at home against BC (12-8). Duke Mondy and Dre Evans both left the program.

Rutgers – The Scarlet Knights will play in the Cancun Challenge (11-23/24) and also have non-league games at Miami (11-15), against LSU (12-3) and against Florida (12-29). Wally Judge transferred in from Kansas State and will sit out this season.

Seton Hall – Kevin Willard’s team will play in the Charleston Classic (11/17-20) and also have non-league games against Auburn (12-2), Wake Forest (12-10) and at Dayton (12-21). Anali Okoloji (George Mason) left the program while Brian Oliver (Georgia Tech) and Gene Teague (Southern Illinois) both transferred in.

St. John’s – The Red Storm will play in the Coaches vs. Cancer event in NYC on Nov. 17-18 and also have non-conference games at Kentucky (12-1) and against UCLA (2-18) at home. Dwayne Polee II transferred to San Diego State.

South Florida – Steve Roccaforte, the former head coach at Lamar, takes the spot of Jeremy Cox. The Bulls will play in the Hall of Fame Classic (11-19/20) and have non-league games at VCU (11-30), at Auburn (12-15) and at Kansas (1-3). Mike Burwell (Towson) and Shedrick Haynes both transferred out of the program.

Syracuse – Former Orange guard Adrian Autry (Virginia Tech) took the spot vacated when Rob Murphy got the head job at Eastern Michigan. Syracuse will play in the Preseason NIT and also has non-league games at N.C. State (12-17) and vs. Florida (12-2). Dashonte Riley left and transferred back home to Eastern Michigan.

Villanova – The Wildcats already left on a trip to France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and will return on Aug. 16. Jay Wright’s staff had some movement as Chris Walker (Texas Tech) and Keith Urgo (Penn State) both left and were replaced by a couple of familiar faces: Doug West and Billy Lange (head coach at Navy). ‘Nova will play in the 76 Classic in Anaheim and the Wildcats have a non-league game at Temple on Dec. 10.

West Virginia – Bob Huggins’ team just left on a trip to Italy and will return on Aug. 21. Jerrod Calhoun was promoted to an assistant coach and Billy Hahn was reassigned to the assistant to the head coach. The Mountaineers will play in the Las Vegas Classic (12-22/23) and have non-league contests at Mississippi State (12-3), against Kansas State in Wichita (12-8) and vs. Miami (12-11). Dalton Pepper (Temple) and Dan Jennings (Long Beach State) both transferred out while Juwan Staten (Dayton) and Aaric Murray (La Salle) came into the program. Kevin Noreen (BC) is eligible to play this season after sitting out last year. 

Offseason reports: Big 12 Pac-12 | Big Ten | ACC

Posted on: April 28, 2011 10:21 am
Edited on: April 28, 2011 10:51 am

Tough schedule will test Xavier in 2011-12

Mark Lyons returns to lead Xavier next season.Posted by Eric Angevine

The Xavier Musketeers announced a home slate that should have season-ticket holders salivating for the non-conference season at the Cintas Center come autumn.

"We are excited about this impressive home schedule and I know that our fans will be too," said Xavier head coach Chris Mack in a statement released by the athletic department. "The non-conference home slate is arguably the best we've ever had, including games against 2010 NCAA Tournament teams Georgia, Gonzaga, Cincinnati and Purdue."

It's a measure of Xavier's steady growth as a program that the Musketeers can get power-conference teams to come to Cintas at all. Even a home-and-home is difficult to secure for most mid-major programs. Cincy, of course, alternates yearly with Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout, and Gonzaga is technically a mid-major, too, but technicalities don't much matter in the scheduling game. These are all opportunities to sell out the home arena, generate excitement around the program and build a tourney-worthy profile without having to travel all throughout November and December.

Throw in the fact that the A-10 slate gets more challenging every year, and the Musketeers should be sitting pretty come time for the Big Dance once again.

Reading that list brings to mind one of those questions I ponder from time to time without ever really settling the issue. Seeing Gonzaga and Xavier face off reminds me that the Bulldogs and Musketeers, along with Butler, more or less created the current expectation that mid-majors can become long-term, viable success stories. And yet, as of today, only Butler, under Brad Stevens, has pushed through to the tournament's final weekend from that group. Things get even more confusing when we note that the two CAA teams to have made the Final Four were at-large selections who barely made the field.

Personally, I'm of the belief that achieving consistent success in a tough conference like the growing A-10 or WCC is a pretty meaningful accomplishment. In fact, the auxiliary enhancement of each league's overall profile is a long-term benefit that the Horizon and CAA are just beginning to delve into. Being a league bully, as Gonzaga once was, is nice, but ultimately hollow. Next season, the Bulldogs will have to wade through a slate that features an established foe in St. Mary's, tough competitors like San Francisco and new league member BYU. Xavier must face tourney teams like Temple and Richmond as well as challenging opponents Duquesne and Rhode Island and legendary coaches like Rick Majerus (St. Louis) and Phil Martelli (St. Joe's). Stack that up against a sagging power conference like the Pac-10, and see who has the edge come Selection Sunday in 2012.

Xavier is in a very good place right now. Chris Mack, one of the more dynamic and effective young coaches in the game, has again eluded the clutches of a major college program. Even with Tu Holloway leaving, Mack has talent and experience returning, including last year's second-leading scorer Mark Lyons (right). Mack also brought in a top-100 player in 6-foot-5 recruit Dezmine Wells to keep expectations high and the talent pool fully stocked. The machine is purring like a vintage roadster.

Sure, making the Final Four would be nice. But maybe a program like Xavier has even bigger dreams. Maybe this is the kind of team that can finally break through and win it all some day. Sometimes slow and steady wins the race (this and other comforting cliches will be available all summer long here at Eye on College Basketball).

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: March 10, 2011 7:05 am

The Morning Drive: Big East steals the show

Posted by Jeff Borzello

As we get closer and closer to Selection Sunday, players are starting to realize that the next game could be their last. As a result, we’re seeing more and more big-time performances in conference tournament games, as well as hard-fought finishes. It’s perfect for fans. Follow me for all conference tourney updates on Twitter: @jeffborzello

Conference Tournament Updates:

Big East: The quarterfinals of the Big East were jam-packed, to say the least. Matt Norlander penned stories on Georgetown’s poor effort against Connecticut; the debacle that was the St. John’s – Rutgers ending; and Marquette locking up a bid against West Virginia. In the other quarterfinal, Cincinnati hammered South Florida, 87-61. Top performers: Yancy Gates, Cincinnati (25 points, four rebounds); Kemba Walker, Connecticut (28 points, six rebounds); Junior Cadougan, Marquette (15 points, five assists)

Big 12: Check out the tourney update for first-round summaries and second-round preview capsules.

Conference-USA: The first round of the C-USA featured three double-digits wins and a one-point squeaker. UCF finally ended its three-month freefall by losing to East Carolina by 15, while Southern Miss kept its hopes alive with a 63-47 win over Tulane. Marshall advanced with a 97-87 win over Houston, and Rice held on to beat SMU by one. Top performers: Arsalan Kazemi, Rice (24 points, 13 rebounds; Damier Pitts, Marshall (28 points, 10 assists)

MEAC: In the lone first-round game on Wednesday, Norfolk State handled Howawrd with ease, 68-53. In the quarterfinals, top-seeded Bethune-Cookman beat South Carolina State by 16, while No. 2 Hampton dominated Maryland-Eastern Shore, 77-55. Top performers: Darrion Pellum, Hampton (23 points, seven rebounds); Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State (25 points, 12 rebounds)

Mountain West: TCU won the right to face BYU in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, defeating Wyoming, 70-61. Going into the game, the ninth-seeded Horned Frogs had lost 13 in a row. Ironically, their last win was over this same Cowboys team. Top performer: Hank Thorns, TCU (16 points, nine assists)

Pac-10: Overshadowed by the Big East and Big 12 tourneys, the Pac-10 had some excitement. Oregon State held off a rally from Stanford in the final 30 seconds to win their first tournament game since 2006, while Oregon knocked down 11 3-pointers to beat Arizona State, 76-69. Top performers: E.J. Singler, Oregon (22 points, five rebounds); Jared Cunningham, Oregon (24 points); Jeremy Green (25 points)

Southland: In the most wide-open league in the country, it came as no surprise that three games were decided by seven points or fewer. No. 1 seed McNeese State defeated Nicholls State by seven, but second-seeded Northwestern State wasn’t so lucky. Texas-San Antonio’s Jeromie Hill had a dunk with two seconds left to give UTSA a 97-96 win over the Demons. Sam Houston State handled Stephen F. Austin by 16, while fourth-seeded Texas State came back to beat Southeastern Louisiana, 72-68. Top performers: Devin Gibson, Texas-San Antonio (28 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists); Anatoly Bose, Nicholls State (25 points, nine rebounds); Ryan White, Texas State (26 points)

SWAC: The top two seeds in the SWAC advanced, as regular-season champ Texas Southern came back to beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 50-45, while No. 2 Jackson State beat Prairie View by 12. Top performer: Travele Jones, Texas Southern (19 points, nine rebounds)

WAC: There were two first-round games played in Las Vegas on Wednesday. No. 8 San Jose State upset No. 5 Hawaii when Adrian Oliver nailed a pull-up jumper with five seconds left to give the Spartans a 75-74 win. No. 6 Nevada held on in the final minute to beat Fresno State, 90-80. Top performers: Malik Story, Nevada (34 points, six 3-pointers); Greg Smith, Fresno State (14 points, 20 rebounds); Adrian Oliver, San Jose State (29 points, seven rebounds)

Punching Tickets

Big Sky: Northern Colorado used a late 13-3 run to pull away from Montana down the stretch and advance to the NCAA tournament. The second-seeded Grizzlies had three players foul out, while Northern Colorado got 27 points from Devon Beitzel, including a clutch 3-pointer to put the Bears up seven in the final minute.

Northeast: Jamal Olasewere had 31 points and 11 rebounds to lead top-seeded Long Island to its first NCAA tournament since 1997, knocking off Robert Morris in overtime, 85-82. RMU used a 10-2 run late in regulation to force overtime, but it could not get similar heroics in the extra session. Russell Johnson had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer for the Colonials, but it fell short.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 5, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2011 4:41 pm

Bearcats find an extra gear in season finale

Cincinnati held the Hoyas under 50 points in each meeting this season

Posted by Eric Angevine

Cincinnati is one of those teams that nobody really expects much from, even though Jerry Palm had them listed as a 6 seed in the NCAA bracket predictions this morning. Despite a 10-7 record in the tough Big East, the Bearcats carry the 'soft' tag because of their admittedly weak non-conference schedule, during which they faced exactly one team that is currently a lock for the Big Dance - intra-city rival Xavier, who they beat 66-46.

The Bearcats have held five opponents below 50 points this season, but only the Hoyas have fallen victim to that embarassment twice. Cincy did it to Georgetown in DC on February 23, winning 58-46, then proved that result was no fluke by running the Hoyas off the floor at Fifth Third Arena today, laying down a lopsided 69-47 win.

That the Bearcats can defend should come as no shock to anyone. Per kenpom.com, Cincy is 12th in the nation in defensive efficiency, second in the Big East to only Louisville. Once they shut Georgetown down, however, the offense came alive, putting up 39 points in the second half. The combination of Yancy Gates inside (13 points, 10-10 FT) and Dion Dixon outside (14 points, 2-5 from deep, 6-8 FT) became lethally efficient.

Did the Bearcats benefit from the absence of Chris Wright? Yes. Was their non-conference schedule too lenient? Absolutely. But Chris Mack's squad beat the teams they were supposed to beat, and won a few in which they seemed overmatched. They've found their rhythm, with the starters locked in on their roles night after night, and Sean Kilpatrick coming off the bench to ever-more-positive results. The redshirt freshman scored a hyper-efficient 13 points in 24 minutes.

Cincy has earned a first-round bye in the Big East tournament with today's win. The team owns victories over St. John's and Louisville, and a sweep of Georgetown. If the Bearcats continue to lock down on defense, and get the ball inside from every position, they could be the dangerous team that nobody will enjoy playing in the postseason.

Photo: US Presswire
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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 28, 2011 3:37 pm

BracketBusters? How about Bubble Bursters?

Posted by Jeff Borzello

The last week of the regular season means bubble teams are running out of changes to impress the committee. Some teams took advantage of that desperation this past weekend, with Virginia Tech defeating Duke and Colorado beating Texas. Others, like Washington, Colorado State or Alabama, decided it would be the perfect time to add a bad loss to the resume. This season, there are still plenty of bids up for grabs – and no one seems to be dead in the at-large hunt. Coincidentally, several of the top bubble contenders play each other this week - it's like a bubble version of BracketBusters weekend. Which are the biggest bubble battles this week?

Boston College at Virginia Tech (Tuesday): After Virginia Tech’s win over Duke on Saturday, the Hokies took the lead in the race for a fourth bid from the ACC. Boston College overcame a first-half deficit to pick up a must-win game at Virginia. The Eagles have better computer numbers than the Hokies, as well as a head-to-head victory over Tech. But Tech has a two-game lead in the ACC standings, and is playing far better lately. A win here could lock things up for the Hokies.

Cincinnati at Marquette (Wednesday): Both of these teams are still in good shape heading into the week, after each picked up a monster road win last week. Cincinnati went on the road and defeated Georgetown, although it lost to Connecticut at home on Sunday. Marquette knocked off UConn, and then blew out Providence to keep the momentum rolling. Both teams have four top-50 wins, although the Golden Eagles have better computer numbers.

Michigan State at Michigan (Saturday): Back in November, would anyone have thought this intrastate battle could decide the Selection Sunday fates of both teams? After getting big wins over Illinois and at Minnesota, Michigan State lost by 20 at home to Purdue. The Spartans have a home contest with Iowa on Wednesday before heading to Ann Arbor. The Wolverines, on the other hand, have a week to prepare. They bounced back from a heart-breaking loss to Wisconsin by winning at Minnesota over the weekend. If Michigan wins, it would have a sweep of Michigan State.

Georgia at Alabama (Saturday): Alabama would have been in good shape had it defeated Ole Miss over the weekend – would the committee really turn down a 13-3 SEC co-champion? With the loss, though, the Crimson Tide are in trouble. They now have to head to Florida before hosting Georgia in a bubblicious match-up. The poor computer numbers and lack of good wins mean a split might not even be enough. Georgia, on the other hand, is buoyed by its solid computer profile. The Bulldogs need to beat LSU at home and then at least one in the SEC Tournament if they can’t beat Alabama.

USC at Washington (Saturday): Before last week, this game would not have been included. Since then, USC has entered the discussion with four straight wins. The Trojans have four top-40 wins and are 9-7 in the Pac-10. Washington dropped back into the pack with a blowout home loss to Washington State, killing any shot it had at a Pac-10 title. Moreover, with a fairly barren overall profile, the Huskies should start sweating.

Virginia Tech at Clemson (Saturday): This is only a must-see if Clemson wins at Duke during the week. If the Tigers fall short, they simply won’t have the profile to garner consideration for a bid. Wins over Florida State and Boston College merely balance out two sub-100 losses. They need a sweep of the Blue Devils and the Hokies.

Penn State at Minnesota (Sunday): Both teams are on the outside looking in at this point, with Penn State trending upwards and Minnesota going in the wrong direction. The Nittany Lions have won three of four, including one over Minnesota, to put themselves in the mix. They face Ohio State on Tuesday, which is likely a must-win if it wants serious consideration. Minnesota, losers of six of seven, need to beat Northwestern and Penn State and then do serious work in the conference tournament.  

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: February 27, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2011 5:13 pm

Like Va. Tech, Cinci has work to do

Posted by Matt Norlander

Cincinnati, sit down.

Don't believe what people are telling you, that right now we've got 10 or 11 Big East teams in the NCAAs. As of today, that's a very arguable point. The Bearcats are another bubble team that's been pump-faked.

I don't mean to be the Grinch that's stealing bids here, but why's Cinci guaranteed a spot? The Bearcats couldn't win today at home against UConn, so let's just wait a little bit longer to give the Big East its 10th postseason bid. (Marquette would be the 11th in the pecking order at this time.)

"Our guards got as outplayed as you possibly could today," coach Mick Cronin said in the wake of his team's 67-59 loss.

The loss to the Huskies isn't a bad one, it just doesn't bolster the feeling that Cinci's surging toward rightful inclusion in the field of 68. Three previous wins over Louisville, Providence and Georgetown put UC in nice position, but all of Cinci's good will has come from a schedule it has no control over.

When you're strength of schedule outside of the Big East ranks 334th out of 345 teams, you put yourself and the NCAA Selection Committee in a place where it's got little wiggle room. Some believe Mick Cronin scheduled down to keep his win total high, which in turn helps him keep a grip on his job. But the foreseen casualty of that kind of scheduling: stumbles in the conference expose the weak-minded approach to November and December, and now the dirty laundry is out there for everyone to see.

What remains for Cincinnati in the regular season: a road date against Marquette (such a chewy bubble game) and then home against Georgetown.

If Cinci loses both of those games it goes to 9-9 (22-9 overall) and is faced with a situation where it'll need to win two Big East tournament games, minimum, to feel somewhat comfortable. Now, if it beats Marquette and Georgetown? Moot issue. A number of teams face that this week, in fact. Just win out the final two games of the regular season and don't make the conference tournament a do-or-die scenario.

For any Bearcats fans reading this and boiling with anger: I do think Cinci eventually gets in, but I never put the Bearcats into The Dance in the weeks prior, and I won't do so now. Prove it with two more wins, wherever they come from, and Tournament inclusion will follow.


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Category: NCAAB
Tags: Cincinnati
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