Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gates Opens Door For U.C.

It's not all Yancy Gates, but he is a symbol of U.C.'s recent step back from the brink of a lost season. Yancy was on the floor Wednesday night, scrapping and coming up with a loose ball. Did anyone see that coming 12 days ago? Yancy was ripping away rebounds from a Georgetown team that in the past could take rebounds from opponents with little more than an evil stare. 12 days ago Gates was getting the evil stares from a Fifth Third Arena crowd as he sat at the end of the U.C. bench looking somewhat befuddled at best, and disinterested at worst. It was at this point when it appeared Gates would never be the player Cincinnati thought he could be. He just didn't have the fire, the passion, and the hustle to succeed at a high level. Then came a productive, honest talk with coaches and perhaps a little heart to heart with himself. Talk about immediate dividends. During his first shift against Louisville Gates was playing with obvious passion, fighting for position, fighting to get the ball in the post, fighting to find open teammates, fighting to do those selfless things that don't show up in the box score. He received a nice ovation after that shift. The applause hasn't stopped. Neither have the Bearcats. They are back to the hard-nosed, take no prisoners approach that allowed them to raise expectations while blasting their way through a weak non-conference schedule. Most of the guys kept playing that way, but it works a lot better when everyone plays that way. Everyone, including Yancy, started playing that way just in time to save their season.

After the Georgetown win, U.C. has an RPI at 34 or 33, depending on the mathematician. A lot of people believe they have sealed an NCAA bid. Maybe, probably, but goofier things have happened. They have three more chances to make it a given, so why leave it to chance? Go worst case scenario and say U.C. loses its final three regular season games and the first game in the Big East tournament. That would not look good. But if U.C. keeps playing with the same fire, they shouldn't have to worry about that.

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