Posted on: February 27, 2011 10:06 am
Edited on: February 27, 2011 2:00 pm

Sunday Preview: Big Ten battle and more

Posted by Eric Angevine

Purdue @ Michigan State, 1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN: Gary Parrish does a good job of breaking this one down in the video above. The Spartans have obviously cooked their own goose this season, but they can still play spoiler in the Big Ten and show that there's no quit in Michigan State.

UConn @ Cincinnati, 12:00 p.m., ESPNU: You wouldn't think it with all the hype surrounding Kemba Walker's POY candidacy, but the Bearcats are actually in better position in the Big East race. They currently sit at sixth in the league standings at 9-6, while the Huskies have dropped to a barely tenable 8-7. If Cincy wins and Louisville loses, they'll be tied at 10-6, just behind Syracuse in fifth place.

Xavier @ Dayton, 1:00 p.m., ESPN2: I covered this on Friday. If Dayton can win, it gets to stay on the bubble, and may even end up hosting a First Four game in its own arena if it hold form into the postseason. If the Flyers lose, it's back to the NIT unless they win the A-10 auto bid.

Pitt @ Louisville, 2:00 p.m., CBS: This is the marquee game of the day, so it's fitting that it comes last on the schedule. When the other games are over, even fans of the day's other combatants can turn and watch the rest of this heavyweight matchup. Louisville has a chance to restructure the Big East standings a bit with a home win. Pitt's job is to keep rolling to what it hopes will be a pair of No. 1 seeds -- in the Big East tourney and in the NCAAs.

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Posted on: February 23, 2011 11:24 pm

Cincinnati gets missing piece to its profile

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Cincinnati had everything an at-large team needed.

A nice record at 21-6. A solid conference record, going 8-6 in the Big East. Three top-25 wins and zero bad losses.

The only unimpressive aspects of the Bearcats’ profile were their No. 119 SOS and their poor performance away from home: one road win against the top-100. Unfortunately, those numbers were keeping them out of the NCAA Tournament.

Tonight’s win at Georgetown might be the missing piece that Cincinnati needed to lock up a bid.

The Bearcats went into Washington D.C. and sent a message to the selection committee, handling the Hoyas, 58-46. They jumped out to a 19-8 lead to start the game, then opened the second half with a 17-3 run and never really looked back from there.

Yancy Gates finally played to his potential, dominating the Georgetown frontline with 17 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. The Bearcats also knocked down nearly 54 percent of their 3-point attempts.

Defensively, they were helped tremendously by the Hoyas’ worst performance of the season, although some of the credit needs to go to Cincinnati. Georgetown shot 25 percent overall, with players not named Austin Freeman going 5-for-35 from the field.

With the win, Cincinnati should be headed to the NCAA Tournament, as the tenth team from the Big East. The Bearcats are now 9-6 in the Big East, with four top-25 wins. They are not an official lock yet, as the remaining three games are tough: home against Connecticut, at Marquette and then another game with Georgetown. Win one of those three, and I think Cincinnati will be okay.

Come Selection Sunday, tonight’s win over Georgetown might be the one the Bearcats hang their hat on.

They finally completed their profile.

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
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.
Posted on: February 14, 2011 1:35 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2011 1:37 pm

Four teams that need a big week to dance

Posted by MATT JONES

It is now crunch time for teams hoping to solidify their NCAA Tournament resumes for the selection committee. As much as in any year I can remember, March Madness is set to have a decidedly mediocre makeup, as teams with weak resumes have to be included in all the projected fields. Part of the reasons more weak teams will be dancing is due to the NCAA Tournament's expansion by three teams, but part is also due to the college basketball landscape as a whole. With few great teams, there continues to be a muddled mass of interchangeable squads all beating each other, while fighting for the same piece of postseason real estate.

With that in mind, four of these mediocre teams face a huge upcoming week. None of the four squads below can play their way into the Tournament this week, but each can play their way out with a poor seven days:


For most of the conference season, Georgia has been the feel-good story of the SEC. Mark Fox’s team has beaten Kentucky once, while holding serve against all of the second-tier conference squads to currently project into the Tournament field. But even though the Bulldogs sit 6-4 in the SEC East and 17-7 overall, their overall resume is still shaky. Georgia has no quality non-conference wins to speak of and their best chance to attain one last week against Xavier ended in an embarrassing home defeat. This week, Georgia has Vanderbilt at home and a road game at Tennessee, two rematches of games the Bulldogs lost earlier this year. If Georgia is unable to win at least one of the two games, their NCAA resume will essentially consist of one win over Kentucky and losses to every other quality opponent on the schedule. That would put the Bulldogs in a precarious position, likely requiring a run in the SEC Tournament to make the NCAA field.


This is the biggest week of the year for Cincinnati basketball. The Bearcats sit 19-6 overall and 6-6 in the Big East, which right now would be good enough to make the Tournament. However the final two weeks of the season are brutal, with two games versus Georgetown, a home contest against UCONN and a trip on the road to Marquette. Mick Cronin’s group simply must give itself some room to breathe during that difficult final stretch, which probably requires two wins this week. The Bearcats host Louisville at home and then go on the road to Providence, both very winnable games and victories that a team headed for the NCAA Tournament should be able to get. With only two victories on its resume over teams that are likely headed to the Big Dance (Xavier and St. Johns), Cincinnati must go 2-0 this week or face the prospect of being left behind once again.


It is a sign of the overall weakness of the bubble that Memphis is even in this conversation. After losing in conference to SMU, Marshall and at home to Tulsa, any field with the Tigers in it would seem to look especially weak. But Conference USA does provide the opportunity for Memphis to finish with a strong overall record. A road game at UTEP looms, but Memphis must first sweep the two games this week to truly be in contention for an at-large bid. They begin at home against UAB in what may be a bubble bursting game for both teams. The Tigers follow that up by going on the road to Rice, a place that has never given the Tigers difficulty, but neither in the past had Marshall or SMU. Josh Pastner’s group has the talent to be in the NCAA Tournament and the win on the road at Gonzaga has put them back in the Tournament conversation. But anything less than a 2-0 week and Memphis will likely need to win the Conference USA Tournament to get a bid.


Three weeks ago, most of us left UCLA for dead and for good reason. The Bruins were 12-7 and seemed to be going nowhere fast in an unremarkable Pac 10. But five straight victories have put UCLA back in the NCAA Tournament conversation heading into their biggest week of the year. Ben Howland’s team goes on the road against Stanford and California, two mid-level Pac 10 teams that UCLA must beat if it is Tournament worthy. Both are rivals heading nowhere and both would like nothing better than to crush the hopes and dreams of the Bruin nation. With two difficult battles with Arizona and Washington looming, UCLA certainly needs to win one, and likely both, to ensure an NCAA berth. 

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 19, 2011 11:35 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2011 10:11 am

What we know and don't know: Wed night edition

Posted by MATT JONES

It was a relatively quiet night in college basketball, headlined by blowouts and embarrasing performances. Duke beat N.C. State, West Virginia got clipped by rival Marshall and Ohio State kept rolling by crushing Iowa. As far as the other important games, a review of what we know and what we don't know coming out of each of the most important scores of the night (picture of current St. John's "assistant" Gene Keady's hair included just for my amusement):


What we know: Mark Turgeon’s team is talented enough to get victories against good opponents at home, but tonight showcased that it is nowhere near worthy of its current top-10 ranking. The Aggies were dominated in every facet of the game in Austin and took a beating that should for the time being eliminate them from their status as a March “sleeper." Fortunately for Texas A&M, this was only one of two road games against ranked teams it will play, giving Turgeon’s group a chance to still finish with a gaudy record, before collapsing in March.

What we don’t know:   How good can Texas be? When their freshmen are playing under control and Rick Barnes is able to get big time production from Jordan Hamilton, Texas can look scary. The loss at home to UConn made me skeptical, but maybe we just write that up to the travelling show that Kemba Walker has become. Tonight, Texas was quite impressive and looked like a national contender, setting up a great battle on Saturday versus Kansas for early Big 12 supremacy.

LOUISVILLE   88,   ST. JOHN’S 63 : 

What we know : Louisville coach Rick Pitino has put together one of the better coaching performances of his career, taking arguably the worst set of talent he has had since the early Kentucky days and turning it into a team that will make the NCAA Tournament. This demolition of the team that in the preseason Pitino said could win the Big East, combined with the amazing comeback against Marquette, has the Cardinals sitting pretty as they head to the meat of their Big East schedule.

What we don’t know: What type of team is St.John’s? The Red Storm is in the middle of a brutal stretch in which it plays five ranked teams in six games and thus in theory, one dud of a performance isn’t a shock. But to lose by 25 in a winnable road game against a team that potentially could have provided a needed quality win ... well that makes one wonder if the senior-laden team will be worthy of its assistant coach's marvelous hair down the stretch.


What we know:   Purdue got handed a gift by a costly referee error that will sting the 10 people in Nittany Lion country who care about basketball. With Penn State up one and five seconds to go, a ball was clearly deflected off a Purdue player out of bounds, thus giving the Nittany Lions a likely road victory. However the referee standing right in front of the play gave the ball back to the Boilermakers for no discernable reason, giving Purdue one last shot at saving face. The Nittany Lions can only look in the mirror for the poor defense and open look on the ensuing play, but the opportunity should have never occurred.

What we don’t know:   Will Penn State’s run of shocking finishes be enough to get an NCAA Tournament bid? The Nittany Lions are only 3-4 in the Big Ten, but have beaten Michigan State and Illinois and nearly pulled off shocking upsets at Ohio State and Purdue. The schedule still gives Ohio State, Minnesota and Wisconsin at State College, and if the plucky group could win 2 of those 3, they could be the surprise story of the Big Ten.


What we know: Wake Forest is bad. I mean, like, historically bad. In the worst ACC in at least 20 years, Wake Forest has a legitimate chance to go winless, placing it in the discussion for worst team in the history of the conference. Think I am exaggerating? Then you didn't watch this travesty of a performance.

What we don’t know: Will Paul Hewitt save his job? Georgia Tech is now 9-8 overall and 2-2 in the ACC. One of those wins is an impressive victory over North Carolina, but the natives are still restless. The non-conference mediocrity probably puts a NCAA Tournament bid out of reach, thus his future job prospects likely rest on a finish above .500 in the ACC.


What we know:   Notre Dame is a different team when in South Bend than when they travel to non-Irish climates. The Irish are now 4-0 at home and 0-3 on the road in the Big East, and every game has been a relatively wide margin of victory or defeat. The Irish are able to beat anyone on their home court, but the chance to get a good seed in March will come down to grabbing road victories in the winnable matchups at Depaul, South Florida and Providence.

What we don’t know:   Will Cincinnati get any win to impress? The Bearcats are an impressive 16-3 overall, but in the Big East, their losses are to Syracuse, Villanova and Notre Dame, while the wins are over Depaul, Seton Hall and South Florida. No team is more difficult to rank nationally, or even in conference, as games against teams of similar strength have been few and far between. One of those however comes this weekend against at St. John’s in the first true test to see if the Bearcats are worthy of our attention.


What we know:   South Carolina’s early conference success means that the six best teams in the SEC likely all reside in the SEC East. The Gamecocks are now 3-1 in conference and have the potential to sneak into the discussion for an NCAA Tournament berth, after a start that included a road win at Florida. Darrin Horn’s team has a huge home game coming against Kentucky on Saturday, which could officially turn them into a conference contender. For Kentucky, coming off a loss to Alabama, the game has become somewhat of a must-win, making Saturday’s game in Columbia a sneaky must-watch.

What we don’t know:   Will any team from the SEC West make the NCAA Tournament? With the return of Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost, Mississippi State looks to have the talent of a member of the field of 68, but early losses while the two were ineligible probably keep them out of the field. The only two other teams with legitimate chances to go dancing are Arkansas and Alabama and the loss by the Razorbacks tonight will hurt come Selection Sunday. The SEC West as a division owns college football and is low mid-major in college basketball.

Posted on: January 7, 2011 3:50 pm
Edited on: January 7, 2011 3:55 pm

Cincinnati vs Villanova Preview

Is Cincinnati for real?  We will know much more this weekend and Steve Lappas previews the battle:

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: January 7, 2011 1:09 am
Edited on: January 7, 2011 1:26 am

Cincinnati aims to be taken seriously once again

Posted by Matt Jones

CINCINNATI ---  Going into Thursday’s Crosstown Shootout in Cincinnati , I freely admit that I was skeptical about this edition of Mick Cronin’s team.  After watching the last three seasons and knowing that with the Coach’s seat decidedly warm, I assumed that the decision to play a weak non-conference schedule was driven by self-preservation and was a flashing warning signal to all of college basketball that when the meat of the season arrived, the true colors of the nation’s least-credentialed undefeated team would become obvious.  Not all 14-0 records are created equal and the one belonging to Cincinnati struck me as being decidedly fraudulent.

But then I watched the Bearcats’ 66-46 dismantling of Xavier up close and personal and my initial skepticism seemed misplaced.  At least for one night, Cincinnati looked to have all the makings of a contender in the Big East and worthy of its recent placement in the Top 25.  I saw an impressive big man in Yancy Gates, who used the rivalry game to put forth potentially his best game as a Bearcat, scoring 22 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in a performance that recalled the huge potential he teased during his high school playing days.  I saw a point guard in Cashmere Wright that makes smart decisions on the floor, limits turnovers and scores efficiently by drawing contact and then going a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line.   And I saw a deep team that plays great defense and has the rare trait of experienced leadership, with four Seniors who each play at least ten minutes a game.  Combine a rabid crowd making enough noise to cause headaches for opponents who dare to come into their arena and face their interesting array of celebrities (both Nick Lachey and Pete Rose sat courtside), and the UC program seems potentially ready for primetime.

Notice I said “potentially.”  There are still a lot of questions that remain about Cincinnati, many of which will be answered over the next two weeks when four of their next five games are against teams ranked in the Top 20.  Most importantly however, it remains to be seen if the Bearcats have enough talented offensive threats to be able to score in the half court against the top Big East defenses.  While UC dominated Xavier defensively, scoring was still a problem and each possession seemed to be a taxing affair as the club tried to find a way to will the ball into the basket, either by a drive designed to draw a foul, an offensive rebound or a Yancy Gates fall-away prayer that happens to fall.  It isn’t clear that there is enough scoring on the admittedly deep bench to help the Bearcats get key baskets against teams that put up a tougher fight than the Musketeers did on Thursday night.

Mick Cronin shares this concern but doesn’t agree with the skepticism that comes with it.  To him, Cincinnati has shown enough already to be respected and those that criticize his scheduling don’t understand the situation the program was in. 

Cronin said, “You can only beat people so bad.  We didn’t get invited to Coaches vs Cancer, the Preseason NIT or Maui.  I am still waiting on the invite to all that stuff.  We would have been in one of those, but nobody invited us.  I tried to play Duke in the Meadowlands.  They pulled out on us.  TV pulled out on us and put Butler in.  You can only play the games you can find.”

Even if the Bearcats were unable to find those games, they are about to find them as the heart of Big East play arrives.  But there is a firm feeling among the members of the team that this year’s group is up to the task.  Cashmere Wright summarized the confidence all those around the Bearcat program hold saying, “We have a legit nine or 10 players that can play at any time.  If we keep playing as a team, we can beat anybody and I don’t think we will lose too many games.” 

Whether they lose too many games or not, Cincinnati will surely lose at least one game and it may very well come this Sunday when they go to Villanova.  Mick Cronin knows that his critics will use that game to dismiss his team, but he doesn’t care. 

“If we get beat Sunday, we are bad team right,” Cronin said.  “I am sure they will say that.  But that’s good, because I will just use that to get us ready for the next game on Wednesday.”

After Thursday’s win over Xavier, it is clear that Cincinnati wants to be relevant on the national stage once again.  In its 50th anniversary season of the 1961 National Championship Team , the Bearcats are drawing attention from the college basketball world that they haven’t seen (at least for good reasons) at any point in the Mick Cronin era.  Many will assume, as I did, that this attention is just a function of a schedule that has been stacked with victories over the likes of Savannah State, Utah Valley, IPFW and Georgia Southern.  But as Cincinnati showed on Thursday night, weak schedule or not, it has nearly all the ingredients to be a team that matters and is relevant nationally once again. With the crowd that had all but disappeared over the last three seasons back and rowdy, the atmosphere and play suggested that the Bearcats can once again matter.   It is now up to Cronin and his team over the next three weeks to prove that nights like this are not the singular exception, but rather have once again become the norm.

Photo: AP
Posted on: December 23, 2010 11:47 am
Edited on: December 23, 2010 12:03 pm

Cinci enjoying its best start under Mick Cronin

Posted by Matt Norlander

Huh. Lookie here: Without the third-leading scorer in school history (Deonta Vaughn) and a first-round draft pick (Lance Stephenson) the Cincinnati Bearcats are winning at a higher rate than they did with those guys. Mick Cronin's (above) 12-0 team defeated Miami University Tuesday night, and Wednesday afternoon I caught up with him on the phone about the hot-but-largely-unnoticed start.

After all, have you paid much attention to the Bearcats? Do you consider this team even worth a watch at this point? It’s been years since Cinci started a season is such fashion. It began 2004 13-0 and 2005 11-0 — the final two years it was in Conference USA, by the way — but that was back when Bob Huggins was coaching the team. That’s part of the problem: Since it jettisoned C-USA and lost the longtime face of its program, Cincinnati has become second-tier in the Big East. It’s part of why you haven’t been talking or thinking about it much, if at all, through the first seven weeks of the season.

But that’s fine with Cronin, who’s in his fifth year at the helm in the Queen City. The coach doesn’t expect or want praise until his team can finally prove itself worthy in the Big East.

“Whether it’s our locker room or you read quotes from around our conference, all our players in our league understand what it’s about,” Cronin said. “It’s good to have veteran players because they understand we have to continue to improve in every area to get ready to prove it in Big East play.”

Cincinnati’s unblemished record is largely due to its non-conference schedule, which ranks 337 out of 345 in Division I, according to KenPom.com. The toughest team it’s defeated to date, by my count, is 10-3 Dayton, which has been underwhelming this season. Still, the Bearcats did lead the Flyers 42-19 at the half and were winning by 39 points with 10 minutes to play. Impressive.

Cronin crowed over the phone about this team’s underrated talent level. But is this team too talented to do what previously hot-and-unbothered Tennessee just did: lose three straight?

“I don’t think Duke is too good to lose three in a row,” Cronin said. “We’re all capable of losing three in a row if we don’t play the way we need to play.”

Aside from the soft schedule, the other reason for the promising start: “They’re a lot easier to coach.  Kids are more receptive to learning when you’re winning,” Cronin said. “We are better this year because of last year. We were 0-3 in overtime and lost six games in the last 30 seconds last year. We were too immature, didn’t play smart enough and we weren’t as unselfish as we needed to be.”

When Cronin knew for sure that Stephenson was leaving, after Stephenson initially promised to return for his sophomore season, the coach went to his team and told them they’d be just fine. No need to panic about the recruiting trail or wooing in possible transfers.

“I told the guys, ‘I don’t think we need anybody. I think we’ve got enough talent right here to win,’” Cronin said. “I told them, ‘Our problem is not talent. Our problem is between our ears.’”

The other two conversations the coach made sure he had: talk to Yancy Gates about becoming more selfish (ironic, given the coach’s viewpoint on his team’s widespread charitable nature), and giving an ultimatum to senior Rashad Bishop.

“I told Rashad he wouldn’t be back on the team for his senior year unless he accepted and embraced the role of being a senior leader,” Cronin said. This season, Bishop is in the top 30 nationally in offensive rating.

Meanwhile, Gates, a Cincinnati native, has become the star on this team, taking 28 percent of the team’s shots and blocking nearly 7 percent of opponents’. Gates was the guy responsible for quite a bit of the team’s success last year too, but with Vaughn and Stephenson leaving a void, the 6-9, 265-pound junior has handled expectation well and learned to think for himself — to an extent.

Cronin said, “Sometimes I used to think I wanted it more for him than he wanted it for himself. But that was in the past, not now. He’s matured to the point where he understands what it’s going to take. He is not the typical kid this day and age. He grew up a Cincinnati Bearcats fan and all he cares about is us winning. Last night he had eight points and eight rebounds and was the happiest guy in the locker room. But I still want him to be more selfish, in a good way.”

Cronin tries so hard to keep his team positive, which isn’t the easiest thing to do, considering many wondering how long it would be until he was fired and the school would bring in another personality with pizzazz like Huggins embodied.

“I block all of it out,” Cronin said. “I’m well aware today’s news goes out in tomorrow’s garbage. … I’m not worried about my job. I don’t think that way. Let’s just try to be as good as we can be.”

And he doesn’t put his job status or success level at merely making a few NCAA tournaments.

“I’ve never seen the point in just going to the tournament, like you’re going and that’s good enough,” Cronin said. “You’re going and not trying to win it all?”

Because it lacks quality in the non-con, we don’t know the ceiling for this team yet. But we do know no opening third of a Bearcats season under Cronin has been as positive or successful as this one.

Follow Norlander on Twitter: @CHJournal

Photo: AP

Category: NCAAB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com