Sunday, January 31, 2010

Good Signs, Bad Signs...

If this isn't just a flash, but the real Cashmere Wright, the Bearcats chances of going to the NCAA tournament just got a major boost. A guard that can shoot from the outside, penetrate, dish, and show quickness on defense is invaluable. It's like U.C. just had an all-conference player dropped in their laps. After scoring 12 points in the final 10 minutes of the Louisville game, Wright erupts for 24 against Providence. You don't want to put a lot of pressure on a youngster (that may have been the problem early on), but this guy could be a season saver. Now, if they could just make 50 per cent of their free throws.

Xavier is looking mighty good again, and I think the Musketeers will have no problem making the tournament. Despite the loss to Temple, I still think they win the A-10. if not the regular season, certainly the conference tournament. The light bulb is back on for Kenny Frease, Holloway is getting healthier, and that makes for a very deep team. Too deep for the A-10.

By the way, at what point does Fordham quit beating its head against the wall and find another conference? Since joining the A-10 in the '95-'96, by my count, the Rams have a conference record of 63-159. That's hard to believe. That includes 1 win over the past two seasons. Ouch.

No, the Reds did not sign the reincarnation of Barry Larkin, but orlando Cabrera was the best option out there at a position of need for the Reds. They could not go into the season with Paul Janish at shortstop backed up by take your pick. (Sutton, Frazier, Rosales, or ???) My biggest concern has to do with something that has nothing to do with Cabrera. It's the last two veteran free agents the Reds signed to fill a need, Corey Patterson and Willy Taveras. This has to turn out better than that, right????

Friday, January 29, 2010

Grooves and Rebounding

Who would think a lob wedge would cause such a ruckus on the pga tour. Phil Mickelson has an old ping wedge in his bag with square grooves, a club grandfathered in thanks to an old lawsuit. Other square grooves are outlawed. Needless to say, lefty is taking a beating from other tour players for "cheating." If the club is legal, then it is legal. I don't know how the argument goes any further than that.

U.C. will get a taste of it's own rebounding medicine tomorrow when the Providence Friars come to town. They lead the Big East in rebounding, but when it comes to rebounding margin, it's the Bearcats ruling the Big East roost. Yancy needs to stay out of foul trouble and Toyloy needs to flex his muscle. Plus, the Bearcats need to do what they did to Notre Dame: keep a high flying offense from racking up 80 points or more.

Can the REds pull it off? It would give me a little hope for 2010 if they land Orlando Cabrera and bring back Jonny Gomes. Cabrera is 35, and only a stopgap answer at shortstop, but without him the Reds have to rely solely on Paul Janish. I like Paul's glove, but his bat was an issue. If he is hitting .211 again as the Reds everyday ss, that will be trouble. It would be nice to have a .280 hitter like Cabrera in the fold. As for Gomes, I love his attitude and hard-nosed style. He plays to win, and it rubs off on his teammates.

I hate to see the issue with Rey Maualuga and the DUI. The young man needs to use this as a complete wake-up call. Take stock, slow down, if that means no drinking for a long period of time, then do it. You are on the cusp of a long and prosperous career. It's hard to make a young guy understand that. Too many guys have allowed booze and other vices to wreck more than cars.

It's good to see Ochocinco having so much fun at the pro bowl. At least someone is getting something out of it. It's good to see the positive reports out of the senior bowl practices regarding Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard. It's not good to see John Daly leaving professional golf. He could be a train wreck at times, and seems to battle a ton of demons, but when he's on, he was of the most enjoyable to watch. For a guy with shortcomings, he drive that ball a mile.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Quick Takes

It's the home stretch of high school football recruiting. I saw Dominique Brown at Winton Woods today. He said he visited U.C. and Ohio State over the weekend. He plans on visiting Louisville next week. He said the Ohio State visit was great, the U.C. visit was fine, and U.C. is still very much in the picture.

If you are a college football coach, these final days of going back and forth with youngsters trying to make decisions, it has to be nerve wracking. The more this happens, the more I like a LATER signing date for football. At least let some of the dust settle before this crush happens.

The U.C. basketball team is a tough nut to crack. I got what I thought I would get out of the Louisville game. Inconsistency. A game they could have won, but.... That's what happens with a team that is young at the guard position. Cashmere has to play the way he did in the final 10 minutes if he's going to help this team kick it into gear. But the inconsistency extends through some of the veterans. And there cannot be defensive lapses. Everyone concentrates on the offensive inconsistency, but there were two stretches in the game where the Cardinals picked up too many easy baskets.

Mick wasn't happy with just 4 free throws, and that is a tough one to buy. But the Bearcats haven't gotten to the line all season long. They shoot less free throws per game than any team in the Big East.

Oh, and let's hope the p.a. announcer at Louisville stays at Freedom Hall next year and doesn't move into the new arena. I can do without the extended threeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee every time a Cardinal hits from long range. Annoying. Tired. Cliche. Small time. (I think that proves I grew up a Cincinnati guy)

My Conference Championship picks didn't fair too badly. 2 for 2 against the spread, that's enough of a track record to open my own 800 number!

I think the Super Bowl is going to be terrific. I give an early lean to the Colts, because I suspect their defense might be a little better than the Saints. But I'll have to delve into things a little deeper before I feel comfortable with a final pick. As for the Pro Bowl this weekend, who cares? Certainly a lot of players don't.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tough Tests, But How Tough?

You figure UC's game at Louisville Sunday is going to be a tough test. Most road conference game are. But what about Xavier at home against Rhode Island? I can't get a handle on the Rams. They are 15-2, with wins over Oklahoma St. and Boston College. The Rams are 7-1 on the road, but are winless in six tries in Cincinnati against the X-Men. You have to think Xavier will make it 27 straight A-10 wins at the Cintas Center, but I'm curious to see if the Runnin' Rams give them a game. They only lost to Temple by 4.

There's no wondering about how tough it will be for U.C. Sunday at Louisville. The Cardinals are wounded after losing three in a row. They'll have the Freedom Hall crowd, which means energy from the fans to fuel the Pitino press. How will Jaquon Parker and the U.C. guards handle that press? That will go a long way in determining the winner in this one. Mick Cronin said today he feel the offensive execution has been better, that includes shot selection and turnovers. I wasn't so sure about that when I saw them jack five or six three pointers in a row the other night, making only the last one. But if they are open, Mick doesn't seem to have a problem with them jacking threes, as long as they're aren't too early in the possession, and as long as they are uncontested shots. Mick also said Lance Stephenson is day to day, and made it clear enough that he'll try to keep his mentor Pitino guessing on Lance's status for Sunday.

Here's the picks for the NFL Conference championships on Sunday: Minnesota +3 1/2 and Indy -8 or whatever. My Vikings pick is based on one simple theory: Minnesota has the better defense. I think Minnesota will win outright. Personally, I would rather have the Saints win it. But I'm going with Minnesota. The Colts at home just seem to be the pick, and while I don't think it will necessarily be a blowout, I'm looking at 10 points or so. I like the Jets. I like the swagger and honest bluster from head coach Rex Ryan. He even said at the beginning of the playoffs he liked his chances because of defense and running. I think if he had the Colts ourdoors on a chilly day, he would have a chance. But I also know the Jets did the following on their way to the AFC championship game: Beat a Colts team that laid down, destroyed a Bengals team that had nothing to play for, then beat the Bengals again when Shayne Graham's tom-tom went on the fritz, then beat a San Diego team when Nate Kaeding obviously borrowed Graham's tom-tom. Therefore, Vikings and Colts in the Super Bowl. Will ESPN make me hate football forever by over-hyping of the Favre vs Manning matchup? I know this, they'll give it their best shot.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Weekend Ramblings

Can UC stop the bleeding? The Bearcats host Notre Dame in what now becomes a must-win. Deonta Vaughn figures UC needs to win at least 10 games the rest of the way to have a shot at the NCAA tournament. They have 13 regular season games plus the Big East tournament. So if they are going to win 10, they're going to have to steal a game or two from the big boys. If the Bearcats keep turning the ball over, they can forget about it.

Dayton at Xavier should be fun Saturday. It's unbelievable that Dayton has not beaten Xavier in Cincinnati since the 1980-81 season. That loss came at Riverfront Coliseum, 74-72 on January 10, 1981. A lot of Xavier home games were still played at Schmidt Fieldhouse that season. The 150th meeting between these rivals features a couple of long streak, and neither of them favor Dayton. Xavier has won its last 25 Atlantic 10 games at home, and the Musketeers have won the last 24 meetings with UD played in Cincinnati. But Dayton owns the overall edge in the series, 81-68.

Chad Ochocinco to the Pro Bowl is a little stunning. 20th in the league in receiving yards, 26th in receptions, but he did tie for 10th in touchdown receptions. Chad would not be my pick as the Bengals lone Pro Bowl player, but that's the way it worked out with the numbers at the receiver position.

The more I think about it, the more I think college football could fix the coaching mess with a LATER signing date, and not an earlier one. I would make the signing date for football in April. There would be less urgency to get coaches in place in December because of the recruiting crush. Do not allow coaches to leave their schools until after the bowl season is complete. Then everyone has plenty of time to recover, 4 months in fact, before the signing date. No incoming freshman can take part in spring practices or enroll before summer quarters with scholarship money. I know that hurts the kids, and the coaches will scream bloody murder, but the coaches abused the current system so it's time for the NCAA to regain control of the annual December farce of musical chairs.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No Wonder They Lie To Kids

There's one sport that doesn't settle it's champion on the field. There's one sport that allows coaches to jump ship between the regular season and the "perceived" most important, cherished, games of the year while allowing a bunch of adult men to lie to youngsters with no scent of accountability and repercussions. That sport happens to be one I love. NCAA FBS is that sport. At least I love the on-field product. But then there is this: "Hey junior, come play in front of our 110-thousand fans every Saturday and be a state hero! No wait! Better yet, come to L.A. and play in front of movie stars and more blonds than the last episode of "I Want to Marry a Millionaire." (hopefully there was only one episode of that farce)
In fairness to Lane Kiffin, he had no clue the USC job would open up while he was whispering sweet nothings into the ears of 17-year old kids. But that's as much of a pass as I'll give him. There are others who hire P.R. firms before their regular season is over, all to help them land that gig in South Bend. Yes, I'm talking about you Brian Kelly. If you have your eye on another siren, it's only fair to tell those you are courting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But instead, you are only courting them in case "Plan-A" falls through. This is due to lousy contract enforcement and the way the NCAA has it structured. That is the only cover and camouflage these guys need. Just enough slime and grease to make the money train roll. That's the game. It's dirty, distasteful, and probably tough for some of these coaches to rationalize as they go to bed at night and lay their head on a pillow of half-truths and deceit. Some of them. The rest just see it as a means to an end. The trophy, the big budgets, the fame, and of course, the cash.
I'm telling you, the NCAA better get a handle on this. Lying to kids while making millions in the process is starting to make me re-think some things. Maybe the performance-enhancing drugs scandals aren't the biggest sports scumbag scandals of the past decade. But in the NCAA it's all legal. No wonder they lie to kids.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Well, That Was Fun

Man, did this football season end with a thud. On Sunday, December 6, the Bengals carved their magic number down to one, the Bearcats were celebrating a big comeback win over Pitt, a Big East title, and an invitation to the mighty Sugar Bowl. Plus Winton Woods and Highlands had just brought home state championships in high school football. The ensuing month was nothing short of a disaster. U.C. lost its head coach, had to play with a temporary coaching staff of guys going elsewhere, and got handled in the Sugar Bowl by powerful Florida. The Bearcats problems with Florida didn't begin and end with the coaching situation, but it played a part. Then the Bengals throw their train into reverse, back into a playoff spot, and then looked like a train wreck against the Jets in consecutive weeks. Could've, would've, should've, I've heard it all since the Bengals laid an egg the size of Andre Smith at PBS last Saturday. If Shayne Graham had hit the chip shots, if Carson had hit the open receivers, if Lavarenues had not fumbled. For every "if" the Bengals had, I can name some "ifs" for the Jets. If Braylon Edwards hadn't dropped a ball in the end zone, if Dustin Keller would have caught the early ball over the middle, if the Jets punter hadn't suffered an irregular heartbeat. That's right, a team with a player with a bad ticker beat the AFC North division champs on their home field. One month doesn't negate a great season in River City, but did it have to be the last and most important month of the season?

Will the NCAA ever do something about holding coaches to their contracts? This Lane Kiffin thing is a joke. But something tells me Tennessee will get the better end of this deal.

So Mark McGwire tears up, says he used steroids to get past injuries, and figures all is well and everyone just moves on. His denial that steroids helped him produce monster power numbers and tape measure home runs is ridiculous. I am so sick of hearing players say that steroids and hgh won't help you hit a baseball better, harder, and farther. How stupid do these people think we are? When several guys taking steroids, or hgh, or flaxseed oil start shattering all of the home run records, fellas, that's called evidence. Overwhelming evidence. I've always been a big McGwire fan and I think he's a good, decent man, but this is disappointing. You know it's bad when the only guy you can believe anymore is Jose Canseco!

By the way, does anyone else find it uneasy at best that McGwire will be a hitting instructor for the Cardinals while Pete Rose is still treated like a leper? Pete has never done much to help himself, but something doesn't feel right about this.

Xavier should win at home Wednesday night against Charlotte, U.C. better win at St. John's. I know it's tough to win conference games on the road, but if U.C. wants to become a serious contender for a tournament spot, they have to beat the Johnnies.