Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's Not Over Yet, But What Has Happened To Xavier?

The record for Xavier since the Shootout is now 10 wins, 11 losses. Since the trip to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic, the Musketeers are 3-6 in true road games. Starting with the Diamond Head Classic, Xavier is 4-8 in games away from the Cintas Center. The numbers are bad for a team considered by some to be a dark horse to make the Final Four. When a season goes this awry it has to be more than one thing. It has to go beyond losing "mojo" and "swagger" after the embarrassing fight with U.C. The overtime win at Vanderbilt gave the impression this team could win on the road. Next came the feat of wiping out a 19 point deficit against Purdue. It appeared nothing could stop the Musketeers after a double digit win at Butler and a total dismantling of U.C. The aftermath of the Shootout fight may have started the downward spiral, but I cannot buy that is the sole cause of Xavier's issues. Jeff Goodman of talks about a lack of leadership and the appearance of the Musketeers "clearly" not enjoying playing with one another in this article. The most disturbing thing about this? Goodman is close with Xavier head coach Chris Mack, so I don't think there is any way Goodman is reading too much into this. I feel those issues would have eventually eaten away at the Musketeers, it was just a matter of when. You can mask those issues for a while, especially while winning, but the first sign of adversity brings those issues to the surface of a team. But it is even more than that. Xavier appeared to be back on track while reeling of four straight wins, three by double-digits, to start the Atlantic 10 portion of the schedule. Then came more losses, and more reason to wonder what was happening to the Musketeers. A part of it has to be lack of scoring from the front court. Wednesday night St. Louis kept Tu Holloway from getting to the rim, and getting to the free throw line. Holloway had just 6 shots the entire game, and made just one. If your top guard is going to have a night like that, you are in big trouble. Part of it may have been Tu, and part of it was the Billikens strategy. St. Louis cut down the drives and made the forwards do the work. Frease came through with 8 points in the second half but the rest of the front court went 0-6 after the break. That's not exactly taking the game to your opponent. Another part of the equation is the Atlantic 10 itself. The bottom of the conference has risen. It's not just Xavier having issues on the road in the A-10. The loss at UMass hurt, but the Minutemen are 13-1 at home. The only shred of good news for Xavier is that a very squishy NCAA bubble still gives the Musketeers hope. A win over Charlotte and a run in the A-10 tournament could still get the Musketeers in.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hoops and Roy In No Hurry

It comes down to the final four games for U.C., and the final three games for Xavier. Both teams can control their own destiny. Both teams can also thank other bubble teams fading down the stretch and leaving the door wide open. But the Bearcats can blow the door down with wins over Louisville and Marquette at home. I don't care what the out of conference schedule is ranked at that point. Xavier might need to win two of the last three and a decent showing in the A-10 tournament to make it. But again, with the way the bubble has gone the past two weeks, backing-in is an option for Xavier. Because of the out of conference schedule, backing-in isn't a very good option for U.C.

There is one thing I'm failing to understand here. The idea of a basketball team is to get better as the season goes along. Sure, U.C. should never have played all of those lesser programs. But a loss to Presbyterian three months ago should not have as large of an influence as it seems to have on a lot of these bracketologists.
If it happened last week, then yeah, that is a much bigger deal.

So Roy Oswalt may pull a "Clemens" and sign with a team during the season. Not a bad way to go for Oswalt. Pitching issues pop up with contenders year in and year out, so I can't blame Oswalt for taking his time and playing the field.

It sounds like the Steelers will make keeping Mike Wallace a priority. I figured that would be the case. When the Steelers deem someone necessary, they usually figure out a way to get it done. This also means they don't have someone waiting in the wings to take the place of Wallace. The Steelers have also shown the courage to not overpay and let guys leave if they have someone else ready to take the position. In other words, the Steelers do things right.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bubble Time

And down the stretch they come! Xavier and U.C. are both on the NCAA tournament bubble. They can ill afford many slip-ups the rest of the way. Both teams have five games left in the regular season. The Musketeers are to the point where they may not be able to afford one more loss in the regular season. At one time it would have seemed ludicrous to think Xavier would be in this position. But after an 8-0 start, the Musketeers have stumbled to an 8-9 record in the past 17 games. There are daunting road games ahead at Umass and St. Louis. Just one more loss means the Musketeers will finish 20-10 at best. Cincinnati would appear to need at least three more wins in the last five to have a chance at getting in. Four wins in the last five would clinch a spot. But with road games at South Florida and Villanova, plus home games against Louisville, Marquette, and Seton Hall, four wins seems like more than a stretch. If the U.C. guards don't get it together on both ends of the floor then three wins is a stretch. There is that awful strength of schedule ranking for the Bearcats and based on the way the committee has judged that in the past, U.C. could have some issues there no matter what happens in the final five games. The projection for U.C.'s strength of schedule at the end of the season is 105. Ouch! The one thing going for both teams is the strong possibility other teams on the bubble will lose. They also will have a chance to make impressive showings in their conference tournaments.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

You Have A Cool Job!

At least that's what I hear from a lot of people I run into. I almost always reply, "yeah, I do." Sometimes, though, there is a lot of work and time involved and you can get bogged down in the day to day doldrums. Then along comes a weekend like last weekend. I was at the Super Bowl and ended up in a lot of situations that make this a very cool job. Running into former Bengal and current Denver sports talk host Alfred Williams was cool. Talking radio with Baltimore sports talk station owner and former Ravens coach Brian Billick was cool. Interviewing Garth Brooks was cool. Being around the buzz of a Super Bowl city was cool. Seeing the Super Bowl game from the corner of the top deck at Lucas Oil Stadium was cool. Getting on the field right after the game was cool. My pride and joy was running into this picture of Eli Manning leaving the field after the Giants big win. I wish I would have had a good camera with me, but it was still cool getting this shot:

Then there was this interview I didn't expect with New York native and Giants fans Flavor-Flav:

Our field crew also took the time to get a couple of shots on the field when the night was done.  Photographers Kevin Luginbill and John Tapogna shot all of the interviews, celebration, and got our live shot form the field on the air.  I was along for the ride.  Our photographers and engineers never get the credit they deserve for getting the video and getting us on the air.

A young Giants fan wanted to be a part of our live shot and throw confetti on me. So what the heck:

 And the picture below proves we did some work. Greg Rahe is in the foreground. He was running our satellite truck and keeping us on the air. He was hopping all week, along with our on-site coordinator David Rosch. I'm in the background driving producers fits by committing numerous typos in a script. John Tapogna is busy editing one of our stories, and on the right is Sheree Paolello hard at work getting a script written for the next newscast.I swear she is not shopping on the internet!

I'm serious, we were very busy all week long. John London, Brian Hamrick, Alison Montoya, photographers Ron Schmidt, John Massey, and Jason Sperry kept busy the entire time they were in Indianapolis. It was a blur. But in the end, yes, it was cool!