Saturday, February 28, 2009

Xavier Alert on Sports Rock


Musketeer hoopsters C.J. Anderson and B.J. Raymond will visit the Sports Rock set Sunday night. We'll have plenty to talk about with the upcoming conference and NCAA tournaments. The two seniors will be honored this coming Thursday on "Senior Night" at the Cintas Center. I still can't believe this is B.J.'s fourth and final season. We'll also have "The Wildman" from WEBN on board to talk about the hot topics including the Bengals, NFL free agency, and U.C.'s NCAA hopes. Plus we'll answer, or at least respond to, some of our wacky viewer voice mails. Sports Rock, Sunday Night at 11:35!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Andrews example of "professional" sports

The next time you complain about a pro sports team not gracing an aging veteran with a fat contact, just remember the Bengals experience with Stacy Andrews. They draft him as a "project" in the 4th round in 2004. His starts the next 3 seasons: 0 in 2004, 0 in 2005, 3 in 2006. After starting 14 games in 2007 the Bengals use the franchise tag on him and pay Andrews over 7 million bucks in 2008. Then he hops the first bus out of town to join his brother in Philly. This isn't to dump on Andrews. He didn't hold a gun to the Bengals head so they could draft him, develop him, and give him a chance to become rich beyond his dreams. He just became the latest to use the two-way street to his advantage.

College Hoops Regular Season

Every football season I hear all of the bowl system defenders drone on about how great the regular season is in college football, and it is. Then said blowhard always has to add how the regular season in college basketball is a joke, there are all of these meaningless games played in December and January, and 64 teams make the tournament anyway so what's the point? The point is teams like U.C. Teams that are on the bubble. Bubble talk is great and always seems to get fans worked up in a lather. Unlike college football, a college basketball team can have a bad start, work out the kinks, come together as a team, and still have a chance to win a national championship. In college football you lose 2 games in September and you're in deep trouble, even if you're playing the best football in the country when November rolls around. So I'll take my meaningless college basketball regular season, watch teams develop, enjoy the bubble talk, and continue to watch worthy football teams get hosed out of a chance for a national title year after year after year.

Tournament Time

It's tournament time for the high schools, so today we headed out to Aiken to check in with the Falcons. This high flying team suffered through a 3 game losing streak in February before closing out the season with wins over St. Xavier and Western Hills. Coach Leon Ellison says he had to sit a lot of guys during the losing streak because some of his guys were slacking on the academics. Now that they have that under control, the Falcons should be back to full strength for the tournament. This team is loaded with stars, and that proved to be a tough challenge for the young coach. Here's coach Ellison and senior forward Darren Goodson on the topic.



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In the first round Aiken will meet Harrison, a team that went 0-16 during the regular season. That game is 6 p.m., Tuesday night, March 3, at U.C.'s Fifth Third Arena. Should the Falcons win that, and we think they will, Aiken would meet the winner of Loveland and Winton Woods. That should be a treat.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Are they in yet?

I keep hearing more and more people feel U.C. will make the NCAA even if the 'Cats lose to Syracuse. I'm not convinced. But should they beat South Florida and Seton Hall while losing to the Orange, U.C. would finish 20-11 overall and 10-8 in the Big East. That's a decent resume' but for some reason I'm not convinced they're in. Regardless, it was a great win for U.C. over West Virginia. Plus with the win and the Huggins ovation, the program is finally moving on. The fans were louder than at any point this season, and solidly behind the Bearcats.

It Should Be Fun

Tonight at Fifth Third Arena should be something else. I hear some people are concerned about the distraction of honoring Huggins before the game. The only person this should distract is Huggins. None of the current U.C. players were coached by Huggins. So for all they know it's just another guy getting another award at half court of Fifth Third Arena. It happens every game, and usually it's Brian Kelly hoisting another gold football helmet attached to a piece of wood representing yet another honor for himself or his team. I think there will be a lot of emotion before the game between the fans and Huggins. After that, I'll be real curious to see how the fans react. Will they get on Huggs when he gets on the refs? I hear there's a bunch of fans wearing replicas of the famous "mustard yellow suit" who will be sitting right behind the West Virginia bench. So that part should be fun. If U.C. wins I think that will purge the Huggins shadow and the program moves on. Oh yeah, U.C. has to win, or else.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Weekend Musings

After a rare weekend off it's time to get back after it. It was good to see a big crowd at fifth third arena again. Over 12-thousand, with a decent amount of Louisville fans. In my case there were 2 Louisville fans too many. (the two sitting directly behind me) My jawed dropped at the way U.C. was buried on the boards. I feel they have to beat West. Va. here and win at Syracuse to have a shot at the NCAA. Can that happen? yes. Will it happen? I don't think so.

It was no surprise to see Xavier back on track. That's been the recipe lately. Energized and careful with the basketball at home, Sloth-like and careless on the road. We'll see Thursday if Xavier is back to playing the way it was earlier in the season. X has suffered 3 straight losses on the road, but the St. Joseph's team Xavier will see in Philly Thursday night is reeling. Four straight losses for the Hawks, but they've all been close. A 2 point loss against Temple, 7 point loss at La Salle (disturbing), 2 points to St. Louis and a 1 point loss at home to UMass. So while the Hawks are reeling, they are dangerous and due for something positive. It should be fun to watch. Note for Xavier fans: After what seemed like a decade of Pat Calathes, he is finally gone from St. Joseph's. I double-checked the roster and it's true, he's gone. Finally. But Ahmad Nivens is still around and as good as ever. The 6-9 senior averages over 19 points and 11 rebounds a game. Wow!

If you are a U.C. football fan you have to be stoked about the two Lakota West players committing to the Bearcats over the weekend. Tight end Alex Smith and offensive lineman Kevin Scholemer gave the 'Cats their word at the basketball game on Saturday. U.C. is finally, finally getting a lot of the great homegrown talent to stick around. Credit the move to the Big East for getting U.C. on the radar of the big-time local talent. I think of the move to the Big East as the kickoff. Then someone has to field that kickoff, execute the blocking, follow the blocking, and take the ball back to the house. That's where this unbelievable coaching staff comes in. I saw Brian Kelly at the basketball game Saturday walking through the stands shaking hands. I think he even kissed a baby or two. I saw Kerry Coombs at the St. Xavier H.S. Hall of Fame banquet wearing a tie that appeared to be almost Bomber blue. (Sorry Colerain fans, it was the first time I didn't see him wearing red so I had to mention it) This coaching staff sells the program 24/7, and it shows. It's great to have at least one football team in town that matters on a national scale.

The Reds spring training games begin Wednesday. You can talk about added speed, defense, solid pitching, whatever. But the best sign for me is hearing about Joey Votto leading by example. Grab leadership by the throat Joey, and grab a few teammates by the throats too if that's what it takes.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Xavier loses 3 out of 4

Three straight road losses has Xavier staggering to the finish line in a season that appeared to be a snap. Turnovers did the Musketeers in again. 15 in all, which is about the average for X, but two in particular killed the Muskies. With 4:38 to play Xavier had the ball and a 1 point lead. A horrid cross court pass was picked off and led to a bucket for Charlotte's Lamont Mack. The 49ers took the lead. On the next trip down the floor, another turnover by Xavier and another bucket by Mack. Charlotte by 3 and X was on its heels. That opened the door for a couple of big 3's by Charlotte down the stretch and a 65-60 loss for X. Xavier is now 9-3 in the Atlantic-10, a half game behind the Dayton Flyers. The Muskies have 4 games left, and only one seems like a gimme. A lot of teams are stumbling at this point, so that will help Xavier when it comes seeding time. But losing to Duquesne and Charlotte is disconcerting. Can the Muskies get their mojo back?

Loveland closing in on FAVC Buckeye Title

The Loveland Tigers have had quite a season. After dropping the first two games of the season, the Tigers went on a tear. They ripped off 13 straight wins. The streak was broken 9 days ago against Wilmington. The Tigers have since beaten Winton Woods and Withrow to bring the season record to a robust 15-3. Loveland is 8-0 in the Ft. Ancient Valley Conference Buckeye division. A win over Milford Friday night wraps up the title. Star player Bobby Capobianco (committed to Indiana) is really looking forward to this one.

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Winning the division would be a nice little springboard heading into the tournament. Chris Stahl like the way the team has bounced back since the loss to Wilmington. When Stahl talks, we listen. He is Loveland's senior class valedictorian.

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There are a couple keys to Loveland's success since dropping those first 2 regular season games. Capobianco was recovering from a broken foot. Now he's 100 per cent. Also, head coach Tim Partin moved 6-foot 6-inch, 225 pound Brian Wozinak to point guard. Wozniak is a football guy and committed to play tight end at Wisconsin. He might be the biggest point guard this side of Magic Johnson.

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Wozniak and Capobianco have provided Loveland with quality play over the years. Capobianco made all-conference his freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons. Wozniak made all conference as a sophomore and junior. They both should make it again as seniors.

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Loveland (15-3, 8-0 FAVC Buckeye) at Milford (12-7, 5-4 FAVC Buckeye) Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Loveland beat Milford 51-39 at Loveland back on January 16.

Xavier Back on the Road

Xavier is at Charlotte tonight, and the Musketeers are favored to win by 6 to 7 points. But Xavier bombed its last two road games, at Duquesne and at Dayton. Sean Miller is anxious to see how his team handles this road game.


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Xavier (21-4, 9-2 A-10) at Charlotte (9-15, 3-7 A-10) 7 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN2.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bob Diaco Hired By U.C.

We've been dancing around this for a week, and now it's official. U.C. has hired Bob Diaco to be the new defensive coordinator. Diaco replaces Joe Tresey who was forced out last week. Diaco was the man U.C. wanted, but the contract was put on hold while U.C. President Nancy Zimpher was dealing with her new job at S.U.N.Y. Once the contract was approved it spent a couple of days in U.C.'s Human Resources Department, and now the process is complete. I'm told Diaco is getting the biggest contract ever for a U.C. assistant, so the President had to sign off on it.
Diaco was recently appointed Virginia's defensive coordinator after spending 3 years with the Cavaliers as linebackers coach and special teams coordinator. His time under Virginia head coach Al Groh was a valuable learning experience. Groh is a direct disciple of Bill Parcells and has a complete inner knowledge of Parcell's approach to the game and approach to the 3-4 defense. That knowledge of the 3-4 is what landed Diaco at U.C. My kid knows someone who played at Eastern Michigan when Diaco was there, and the player loved Diaco. He could easily be head coach in the not so distant future. Diaco obviously made a good impression when he coached under BK at Central Michigan in 2005. He is a native of New Jersey and played linebacker at the University of Iowa. He was All-Big Ten twice. As I said last Wednesday, the new U.C. coordinator is a guy who would make Prince Rupert proud. Prince Rupert was known as the "ultimate Cavalier." Below is Diaco's coaching resume' as it appears on the Virginia web site.

Coaching Experience

YearsSchool
Postseason
1996-1997
Iowa (Grad assistant)
1996 Alamo Bowl


1997 Sun Bowl
1999-2000
Western Illinois (running back/special teams)
2000 I-AA Playoffs
2001-2003
Eastern Michigan (linebackers/secondary)

2004
Western Michigan (linebackers/special teams)

2005
Central Michigan (co-defensive coordinator/linebackers)

2006-2008
Virginia (special teams coordinator/linebackers)

Monday, February 16, 2009

5' 7" Jam From Woodward

We made it out to Woodward to check on the Bulldogs and one of our favorite guys, coach Lannis Timmons. While we were there James Smith gave us a little show. He's 5' 7", although the roster lists him at 5' 11". Trust me, 5' 7" is much closer to the truth. Here he goes...


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The Bulldogs took a hit against Taft 10 days ago, losing Jeremiah Chancellor with a high ankle sprain. He's the Bulldogs leading rebounder, shot blocker, and second leading scorer. Woodward lost that game to Taft, then lost to Winton Woods. But the Dawgs turned it around with wins over Aiken and Belmont this past weekend. Timmons says he's had more talented teams, but none that quite came together like this one. It's a young team, with a bunch of different parts that he was able to mold into a contender for a CMAC title.

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Junior combo guard Aaron Cephas points to the the same trip last summer that the 'Dawgs say brought this young team together.
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Kadeem Palmer is the Bulldogs point guard. Running a team at this level as a sophomore can be intimidating at first.

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The Bulldogs play two road games the next two night. They are at N.C.H. Tuesday, then have a makeup game Wednesday night at Timmons' old stomping ground, West High. They'll have to do it without junior player Jeremiah Chancellor. He's still on crutches, but getting around thanks to a help from his friends.

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Woodward has a first round bye in the tournament. The Bulldogs taste tournament action on Saturday, February 28th when they take on winner of Lakota West and Hughes. Tip off is 4:30 p.m. at U.C.

Bengals Franchise Graham

The path is clear for T.J. Houshmandzadeh to blow town, and the Bengals can't stop him. This afternoon they used the franchise tag on Kicker Shayne Graham. I'm not a big fan of using the franchise tag on a kicker. The best reason I can come up with to tag Graham: He's not Jeff Reed! And T.J., say hello to the playoffs for us.


Here's the Bengals official release:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE; MON., FEB. 16, 2009
FROM CINCINNATI BENGALS PUBLIC RELATIONS

BENGALS DESIGNATE K SHAYNE GRAHAM AS FRANCHISE PLAYER

The Bengals today designated K Shayne Graham as the team’s franchise player, under terms of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The franchise tag gives Graham the option to sign with the Bengals for 2009 for a salary equal to the average of the five highest-paid kickers in the NFL for the previous season (2008 in this case).
Graham is a ninth-year NFL player in 2009. He has played the last six years for Cincinnati after signing as a free agent just before the 2003 season opener. He ranks fourth all-time in the NFL in career field goal accuracy (85.6 percent), and his career accuracy with the Bengals is 87.5 percent -- a franchise record by more than 10 points over second-place Doug Pelfrey (77.3).
Graham holds numerous other Bengals career, season and game records. The list includes points in a season (131), FGs in a season (31), FGs in a game (seven), consecutive FGs made (21), season FG percentage (91.2) and consecutive PATs made (158). Graham also handles kickoffs, and in 2008 he passed Pelfrey into second-place in all-time Bengals scoring (682), behind only 13-year Bengal Jim Breech (1151 points from 1980-92).
Graham is also a Bengals leader in service to the community. His “Kicks for Kids” program provides a wide range of assistance for at-risk children in Greater Cincinnati, and he has been a board member of the Cincinnati FreeStore/FoodBank. In 2008, he helped organize the nation’s most successful “Taste of the NFL” event, raising more than $170,000 for meals for the hungry.
“Shayne has consistently performed at a high level for us, and we expect that same performance in 2009 and hopefully beyond,” said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. “We’ll continue to speak with Shayne and his representatives about signing a longer-term deal.”
Lewis added:
“We will also continue to talk with several of our other pending free agents in an ongoing attempt to re-sign them. Some will want to test their value in the market, and we of course will look at the market for possible new players. But as I’ve said before, the best value for all sides tends to be when a team re-signs its own key free agents, and we will make every attempt to re-sign the players we consider most important for 2009.”
Graham would be permitted to talk with other teams beginning Feb. 27. However, the franchise-player designation means that should Graham agree to terms with another team, the Bengals could retain him by matching the offer. Should the Bengals decline to match a competing offer, the team signing Graham would be required to give the Bengals its first-round choices in the 2009 and 2010 NFL Drafts.
If Graham signs the one-year offer, he and the Bengals are still permitted by the Collective Bargaining Agreement to agree on an extended deal any time prior to July 15.

New DC on the way for U.C.

It's a pain when you know something but are sworn to secrecy. Since my source has not given me the go-ahead, I'll just say word is leaking out about U.C.'s next defensive coordinator. And the word I read is exactly what I've known for 6 days. I'll leave with with this from a post I made last Thursday at 2 a.m.
My educated, very educated guess is an up and comer who has learned the 3-4 from some of the best in the business. It will be a guy who is made of "head coach" fiber. The kind of guy Prince Rupert would be proud of.


U.C. Football Scores High, #1 High

The Sporting News has an interesting read about college football recruiting. Writer Matt Hayes took the average rankings of BCS recruiting classes over the past 5 years and stacked them up against wins. His conclusion: U.C. is #1 in grabbing under appreciated talent and developing that talent into BCS wins. There are flaws in the rating system. U.S.C. scored first in recruiting classes and first in wins. But the Trojans rank 34th overall in doing the most with the least. Based on the system, if you have the top ranked recruiting class, then you are supposed to have the most wins. What really caught my eye was the ranking of Big East schools. U.C., West Virginia, and Louisville grabbed the top 3 spots. UConn was 8th, Rutgers 11th, and South Florida 12th, giving the Big East 6 in the top twelve. Pitt was tied for 42nd and Syracuse was tied for 46th. Ohio State was 23rd, with a recruiting rank of 9 but a wins ranks of 5. Pretty darned good. Kentucky was 18th, with a recruiting class rank of 55 and a wins rank of 48. U.C.'s recruiting rank over the 5 year period was last in the BCS, 66th, while the win rank was tied for 20th. That is impressive. U.C. also received some love in the current issue from Pitt strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris. He was asked to name his best conditioned opponent, and his answer was "Cincinnati". In response to "player you most enjoyed coaching", TCU strength and conditioning coach Don Sommer answered "Justin Smith". Sommer worked with the former Bengal when they were both at the University of Missouri.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sports Rock Topics


Our hot topics for Sunday night include the following:

1. U.C. coach Mick Cronin saying Syracuse would win the Atlantic 10. Mick knows talent and knows basketball, but the Syracuse team I've been watching the past couple of week's would be hard pressed to knock Xavier and Dayton off the perch. Mick's point about the Big East competition taking its toll on teams has merit, Syracuse has a ton of talent, but I see a team of Orange underachieving big time.

2. Will U.C. and Kentucky make the NCAA? If U.C. doesn't beat Louisville next Saturday, I feel the Bearcats will have to beat West Virginia to even be in the conversation. That's not asking a lot if you are a legitimate NCAA team. Perhaps they make a run in the Big East tournament, and that could change everything. U.C. fans, don't buy your NCAA ticket package yet. As for Kentucky, I think the Wildcats make it. They better because I can't wait to see Jodie Meeks on that stage.

3. The Reds no longer have the star power of Griffey Jr. and Dunn. Is that such a bad thing? I say no it's not. It may not have been Jr's fault, and it may not have been Dunn's fault, but keeping those guys around would have stunted the growth of clubhouse leadership. Leadership was clearly lacking among position players in the past. Now the young guys can grow into that role without stepping on some veteran cleats.


4. Agent Drew Rosenhaus says he's working behind the scenes (that's why he blabbed about it on a radio station) to get Chad Ocho Cinco traded from the Bengals to another team. Please, let Drew have his way. I told anyone who would listen (nobody did) to trade him last year. Now what is Chad worth on the trade market? I get bombarded by fellow Bengals followers and media members that if the Bengals had traded Chad last year the "cap hit" would have been too high. Successful teams figure things like that out. Teams like the Indianapolis Colts. And while I'm on the subject, remember the Pittsbugh Steelers letting a young, talented, Plaxico Burress take a hike while they held onto boring old Hines Ward? How did that work out? In football, you win with winners, not distractions.
SPORTS ROCK! EVERY SUNDAY NIGHT AT 11:35 ON WLWT-TV

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mopping The Floor At Cintas

I figured Xavier would mop the floor with Fordham, and the Musketeers did just that. 88-53, a 35 point blowout. It's hard to make serious judgements when the opponent is struggling the Fordham is struggling. Dante Jackson bounced back with a nice game, 13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and only 1 turnover. Terrell Holloway only had 1 turnover in 22 minutes, but just 1 assist and 2 points. Holloway did have 6 rebounds. Freshman Brad Redford led 'X' with 15 points, all coming on 3 point shots. Fordham gave him room to shoot and Redford gladly took advantage, even if it was 30 feet away. Jamel McLean also had a good line, 5-6 from the field, 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. Coach Sean Miller says he's looking to McLean to provide the inside depth any team needs heading into March. Jackson's play was one of the more important aspects of the game for Xavier, so here's Sean and Dante talking about that.

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Freshman Brad Redford took 9 shots, all from 3 point range. He nailed 5 of them.

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It will take big play from Redford, Jackson, and the rest of the guards if Xavier wants to make some noise in March.

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As discussed earlier, Jamel McLean gave Xavier some solid inside play. McLean is a guy who can take some serious pressure off of Xavier's other interior players.

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So up next is a trip to Charlotte on Thursday. Charlotte is where Dayton was tripped up on Sunday, February 8th. X will be looking to get a fast start out of the gate, something the Muskies didn't do in their 2 recent losses on the road.

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U.C. Hoops and Football

U.C. is still looking for that signature win after Pitt shot its way to a 16 point win. The Panthers shot 67% from the field. Even with the amount of easy buckets and transition scores, that's an incredible feat. DeJuan Blair sure like the rims at the Petersen Center. A big deal is being made that U.C. needs to beat a team that is NCAA bound before the 'Cats can make their own case. That leaves them with a home game with Louisville, perhaps the home game with West Virginia, and the road game with Syracuse. Those are the next 3 games on the schedule.

We're still waiting to hear when Brian Kelly will announce his new defensive coordinator. The way it was explained to me, Kelly has his man. So why hasn't it happened yet? Here's what I can say. The contract for the new DC will be a fairly sizable one for a U.C. assistant, something the U.C. president would have to 'sign-off' on. U.C.'s president had a busy week taking a job at S.U.N.Y. So that could be part of the issue. Another part, finding a day to make the announcement that will give U.C. some bang for it's publicity buck. This was something they hoped to have wrapped up by the end of the week, but it's not like there is a game tomorrow so they have a little time to play with if needed. I'm just not sure if the guy U.C. has in mind has a lot of time to play with. Stay tuned..



We should be able to get some Xavier post-game interviews up in a little bit. The Muskies got what they needed, a 35 point blowout against Fordham.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Huggs For Everyone

The official release from U.C. Sorry about the late posting...

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UC Athletics to Recognize Former Head Coach Bob Huggins
Winningest coach in program history to be honored at Feb. 26 men’s basketball game

CINCINNATI - The University of Cincinnati Department of Athletics will pay tribute to former head men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins during the February 26 home game at Fifth Third Arena between UC and West Virginia University.

All fans entering Fifth Third Arena will receive a two-sided sign: one side stating “THANKS HUGGS” and the other “GO BEARCATS”. A video tribute will also be played honoring the student-athletes who played for Huggins during his 16 years at UC.

“I wouldn’t be coaching college basketball if it wasn’t for Coach Huggins,” says UC head coach Mick Cronin. “Anything we do to recognize the all-time winningest coach in the history of our university is well-deserved.”

Huggins compiled a 399–127 record (.759) in his 16 years at Cincinnati, making him the winningest coach in terms of victories in the school's rich basketball history. Huggins directed Cincinnati to ten conference regular-season titles and eight league tournament titles. The Bearcats appeared in postseason play in each of Huggins' 16 seasons at U.C., advancing to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament two times in 1993 and 1996, and the Final Four in 1991-92.

Mick's Quote That Got It Going

So here's what Mick Cronin said yesterday that has a lot of Xavier and Dayton fans fired up. I asked Mick if he still felt the way he did a while back about the number of teams the Big East Conference should place in the NCAA tournament. He said he hadn't seen the latest projections, and The Enquirer's Bill Koch told him that Joe Lunardi of ESPN had 7 teams from the Big East in his bracket. Then Mick said...

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Tidbits from Xavier Today

Dante Jackson at today's media conference at Xavier
talking about the Muskies 2 game losing streak. X will
try to rebound tomorrow against Fordham, 4 p.m. at the
Cintas Center.
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Jackson, Jason Love, and coach Sean Miller were all asked about Mick Cronin's comments from yesterday. (Syracuse could win A-10 conference. See post below) They wouldn't touch it. Miller did say at Xavier they don't do things with smoke and mirrors. The non-conference schedule and wins speak for themselves. Miller also said he feels the Atlantic-10 deserves 2 teams in the NCAA tournament, maybe as many as 3, depending on how the rest of the season plays out.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fields Of Dreams? Try a Nightmare for Opponents

When the Pitt Panthers are the topic, 3 things come to mind. Defense, rebounding, and toughness. Maybe we should add offensive execution. Point guard Levance Fields leads the Big East in assists. Mick Cronin calls Fields the key to Pitt's team. "When he's at his best, he is as good of a point guard, a pure passer, team leader of any guy in our conference. He may not be the NBA prospect as a Jonny Flynn is for instance, but as far as college point guard, he's as good as it gets." Fields has 178 assists against 46 turnovers. Almost a 4 to 1 ratio, which Mick calls "Off the charts". A broken foot cost Fields 12 games last season, but he's back, he's healthy, and he's a player to watch when the 'Cats meet the Panthers Saturday at 4 p.m.

Mick Speaks Out

It was a very entertaining media session Thursday afternoon. Just as U.C. Head Coach Mick Cronin was about to wrap up, I asked him if his mind had changed at all about how many Big East teams should make the NCAA. He asked what the latest projections were showing, and when he learned some had 8 Big East teams, and Joe Lunardi's ESPN bracketology 7, then things heated up. Mick said, "I would tell Joe Lunardi he needs to buy the ESPN Full Court package." After a couple of chuckles from the media, Mick continued. "You're telling me Syracuse wouldn't win the Atlantic-10? Does somebody want to give me that answer? I'd like to have that argument with somebody. Will you tell me Syracuse, with their McDonald's All-Americans and their talent would not win the Atlantic 10? So how many are they going to have from that conference, or Conference USA? They're (Syracuse) in 8th in our conference. For us to not at least get 8 this year is only a by-product of us beating up on each other and being penalized for us for having too good of a conference. With all due respect to the teams that are getting ranked that are sliding into the top 25, they're not playing and taking the losses that the teams that have dropped out from the Big East, they're not playing the same teams."
Lunardi has Syracuse making the field, but Cincinnati and Georgetown among the first 4 to miss the field. The whole "how good is the Big East" issue is really heating up nationally. When Louisville's Terrence Williams was asked if the Big East is better than the A.C.C. , The Sporting News quotes Williams as saying, "Look how physical we are. The ACC, that's not physical. Our last-place team in the Big East could win in the ACC. We're the toughest conference." U.C. probably needs 3 more grab a spot in the NCAA. Pitt, Louisville, West VA., Syracuse, So. Florida, and Seton Hall remain. It's not a stretch for the Cats to pull it off.

U.C. Defensive Coorodinator

Something will happen soon, perhaps today, with the vacant U.C. defensive coordinator situation. Let's think about this. Head Coach Brian Kelly is not getting rid of one guy without having another one ready to roll. So if the plan is to change the defense to a 3-4 scheme, did coach just come up with this on a whim Sunday night after watching the Pro Bowl? Heck no. After the success of the past few seasons U.C. will not have to grasp at straws to fill the position. My educated, very educated guess is an up and comer who has learned the 3-4 from some of the best in the business. It will be a guy who is made of "head coach" fiber. The kind of guy Prince Rupert would be proud of.

The Bowl may stay in Western Bowl!

I'm an old school guy who loves bowling. So like any old school bowler with west-side ties my heart sunk when i heard the mecca (Western Bowl) would be closing in May. Well keep your powder (talcum) dry and your beer whistle wet. The O.K. Corral has some new life. Since word of Western Bowl closing down came to light, more than one investor has come calling wanting to take over the business. In fact, as many as three potential suitors are out there. This would be a great thing for the west-side and all of Greater Cincinnati. The Hoinke Classic tournament itself is a crown jewel to the area. Bowlers from all over the Midwest and parts beyond bring revenue to the area in the restaurant, hotel, and bar (ya think? well, maybe) industry. No one can say for sure, but I'm betting there will be summer leagues at the mecca in 2009.

Bounce Back Time For "X"

I didn't get to see the Xavier game live, but I did some of the replay on ESPN2. Kudos to Dayton for coming out with some serious energy. The Muskies 6 game winning streak over the Flyers is over. The alarmist in me says "X" better get this thing back on track soon. The sensible part of senses the Muskies will. After such a tough non-conference schedule there had to be a letdown. The letdown is in full swing. Sean Miller's job know is to get the team back on the upswing, peaking in time for the postseason. Don't panic X-Fan. So many good teams go through this year after year after year. Most of the really good teams get through the lulls and come back to life at the right time. I think Xavier is a really good team. (by really good, I mean sweet 16 caliber)

Mike Williams on Sports Rock

U.C. forward Mike Williams will be a guest on our Sports Rock show Sunday night. This guy has really taken off lately. His mid-range jumper is deadly. How great would it be for U.C. if Williams gets the hardship and a 6th year of eligibility? I wonder what he thinks his chances are? We'll ask, Sunday night at 11:35 p.m.

Bearcats Basketball

I sat right next to the U.C. band tonight in the end zone while watching the Bearcats take care of St. John's. I can't tell you how much better this team is playing since their first Big East win against Rutgers almost 1 month ago to the day. They beat the Scarlet Knights on Jan. 14th by playing 25 minutes of solid basketball. Against St. John's, it was more like 35 minutes of solid basketball. Like it or not Mick detractors, that is solid coaching. This team is improving. So is Yancy Gates. The freshman is getting more aggressive on the offensive end. Mick still has things to hammer Yancy about. Like rebounding. I stil say the guy is going to be a beast. He'll get the supreme measuring stick on Saturday when he gets to post up against Pitts' DeJuan Blair, the best power player in the country.

Here we go!

My new blog is open. 'nough said. I'll try to give updates on local teams and stories that I cover on a day to day basis. If you have questions, email me at georgevogel@wlwt.com I'll answer the best that I can. Time to talk sports.