This year's Red Storm is coming off of a pair of losses to Louisville and Connecticut, and are talking about not hitting the panic button. Which is good; a young team isn't going to make a leap. A young team is going to be tagged with losses against top-10 opponents. A young team will have games where they can't hit shots, where the fundamentals escape their muscle memory.
The important focus is on the next game. And with that in mind, it is my pleasure to re-welcome Scott from the Bearcats Blog to the site to discuss some Cincinnati Bearcats-related issues - like the four-guard lineup Mick Cronin's pugilist crew has employed after the Great Brawl of the Queen City of the West, whether the team misses the long arms of their bench on defense, the standout players, and the epic late night Twitter conversations that he participates in.
Q: SO, is Cincinnati more entertaining to watch as a four-guard lineup vs. a Gates-centered lineup? What have the differences been? And are they real "differences" or just the fortunate occurrence of playing the Arkansas Pine-Bluffs of the world?
Hell yes Cincinnati is more entertaining to watch. I remember thinking 'God this team is boring to watch,' during one of the earlier season games. It's a huge change.
I would say a significant part of why they have looked so good has been the schedule, because teams like APB and Radford and Chi-town State make anyone look good. I actually asked Cashmere Wright what the difference in his game was since the suspensions and he said freedom for mistakes. The guys went out, ran some offense, got each other shots and weren't afraid to miss. Confidence is a huge thing for this team. They believe every shot is going to fall.
Q: How good is Cincinnati? What is their ceiling and what do they need to do/ who should they play to reach that ceiling?
That's the big question everyone wants to know. We've seen them grind out wins over name foes Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. You'd like to add a more talented pelt to the wall, but that will come in time.
What they need to do to reach their ceiling is keep playing hard. It sounds simple, but earlier in the season they would miss shots or have a defensive breakdown and let that get to them. They couldn't match intensity against Marshall or Xavier or even Presbyterian. The team has rallied around each other. They haven't faced adversity yet, so what they do when challenges pop up is key. Last year's team didn't handle losing well at first.
Q: Does the defense miss Rashad Bishop and the other 2011 graduates from the program? (They did graduate, right?)
The defense definitely does. Sean Kilpatrick is a nice player, but he's not the bulldog Bishop was on defense. Bishop should have been the Big East defensive player of the year last year. His leadership was sorely missed earlier in the season. The other seniors offered depth off the bench. UC has been getting lord knows what every game off the bench this season. Sometimes it's nothing, sometimes Jeremiah Davis is bombing 3s. Plus, UC ran a killer press with their backups that really rattled teams at times.
[editor's note: more on what they lost from our look at Cincinnati earlier this summer, expressed graphically below]
Q: Why does Mick Cronin scheme his games to avoid free throws on both sides? They're FREE! How can he hate FREE? Is Mick Cronin an elitist?
He doesn't need your charity. Mick Cronin is the 1%.
Also UC not getting to the free throw line drives me crazy. Especially Cashmere Wright. Point guards should get to the line 5 times a game at least. Easy points. Only Dion Dixon will get to the line when his shot isn't there.
Q: Has this season been fun to watch for Cincinnati fans?
Part 1 of the season, from the opener to the Xavier game, no, not fun to watch. The Bearcats had insane trouble scoring. They didn't look like they were having a ton of fun. They couldn't get stops. Then Xavier beat them by 20 points and there was a giant brawl. Don't know if that was ever mentioned anywhere. It was a low point of the Mick Cronin era. The early years had the excuse of no talent. This team had expectations and wasn't meeting them.
Part 2 of the season has been great. Wide open offense. Big time shots late in games by different players. Guys clearly care about each other and are having fun. That 7 game winning streak has also been nice. It's been a whole new Cincinnati team. I like this second team better.
Q: Also: who's been the most surprising player for the Bearcats? Who has been the most disappointing?
JaQuon Parker and it's not even close. We heard all summer long that Parker was working on his game and that he was looking good in practices and what have you. There was a lot of buzz around him being a key part of the team. Then he got hurt in the first exhibition game and missed every game until Xavier. He jumped into the starting lineup when Gates went out and the switch turned for this team.
Parker makes open shots. He is 6-3 but plays the 4 and rebounds very well. He is a good passer because he's a guard. He is a smart player. Parker is the glue guy for this team. He carried them in the first half against Pitt. He dropped 3 three pointers in first 3 minutes of the second half last night. He does it all.
Last season he was 9-49, 3-20 from 3 and was benched from December on. Sean Kilpatrick is great, Cashmere Wright is great, but Parker is the team MVP.
Most disappointing for me has been Cheikh Mbodj. He has been Ibrahima Thomas-like in his bricking of close shots. He rebounds kind of well, sort of. But the stomp really turned me off. Yancy Gates has been around for years and I'm able to forgive and welcome him back with open arms, but what Mbodj did was dirtier and I'm not really a fan. He did save UC's ass against Miami, so thanks for that.
Q: - isn't that a lovely picture of a punch? It's riveting, like photography from the golden age of boxing.(Yancy Gates punch photo, below, Al Behrman, AP)
It really is. You have to wonder what that Xavier walk on was thinking. I mean, Gates cold cocked Frease, he's not going to hesitate throwing on you, son. That dude was lucky he wasn't thrown off the team.
Q: Best recent TV show you've seen.
I've been watching State of Play on BBC America and I love it. Sure it came on many years ago, but it's new to me. As for actual recent shows, oh man, I don't know. It takes a lot to crack my rotation. That dvr space is precious. I want to watch Happy Endings. I've heard that's good.
Q: Best recent movie you've seen.
I'm going to sound lame again because I haven't been to the movies in a while. I watched Let the Right One In the other day. That was the Swedish or whatever version of Let Me In. It was pretty good. I saw the amazing Ace Ventura, JUNIOR over the summer. I recommend everyone get drunk and watch it because it's amazingly awful and I loved it.
Q: Best late-night tweet session you've been a part of. (editor's note: Tweeting after Midnight, if you follow certain people, is deep and illuminating. @bearcatsblog is an open, willing, and ridiculous all-star of these sessions.)
Damn man, are you going to ask what child of mine is my favorite next? I've had some interesting ones. Some about sports. I think last spring I ended up learning Raphielle Johnson's life story at 2 am. Just when I thought he couldn't be smarter, he went to Arizona for college.
I think the best is when I made some joke about dating a stripper to someone and they told me the story of how they dated a stripper. The guy was raised in a religious family too. It was a good story.
And one time I got Jenna Jameson to say Hi to me.