The Cincinnati Bearcats are the first of the Red Storm's three repeat opponents in the Big East schedule. A month ago, the Johnnies traveled to the Queen City of the Midwest, dominated the Bearcats for 37 minutes, and then gave up a lead, only to win on Moe Harkless' timely tip-in at the buzzer for the 59-57 road win.
It was a good win, but both teams struggled to score. Can St. John's frustrate the Bearcats again? Will Cincinnati exact revenge? If the two teams play each other twice every year and play during rivalry week, does it make them rivals?
To find out what's changed since the previous matchup, and to dig into Mick Cronin's squad's recent struggles, we have five questions with esteemed Cincinnati bloggers Matt of Down the Drive (on Twitter) and Scott of the Bearcats Blog (on Twitter). (I answered some questions for Scott on St. John's already).
We have their perspectives on the first game, the majesty of the Bearcat guards, thoughts on Cincinnati's near future, and their picks for best recent movies and TV shows they've seen (I'm adding all of them to my "to-see" lists).
Keep reading. It'll make you smarter about the Bearcats.
Q: So what was your takeaway from the last St. John's/ Cincy game?
Matt, Down the Drive: My takeaway was that the Bearcats simply aren't good enough to play without supreme focus and win, even while at home. I knew as much intrinsically, but that game really hammered the point home to everyone. When everyone is rowing in the same direction this UC team can be extremely dangerous, doubly so when the three point shots are falling. But if the team has a lack of cohesion and focus anyone can beat this team.
Scott, Bearcats Blog: My takeaway from the last St John's/Cincy game was that type of game could happen when Cincinnati shot the ball so poorly. That's not exactly a PhD level take away, but as UC fans saw with the game at Rutgers, it was repeated. I believe UC was 4-59 from 3 against the Johnnies. It was one of those games where you look back on it at a time like this and wonder how the hell you lost that game at home.
It also helped me hate St John's a lot more. Neither team breaks 60. St John's makes stupid shots. UC misses everything. St John's ends up winning in a way that makes me hate life. I actually wrote a list of the top 20 UC losses the last time UC lost in MSG. Since then, they have lost 2 more tough games. I really don't like St John's.
Q: What went right, what went wrong for the Bearcats in the first game?
Bearcats Blog: What went right: The last 3:30 of the game the Bearcats shut down St John's. They erased a 10 point deficit, which is no easy work. They were able to get stops, get steals, they assisted each other for better shots. Mick Cronin drew up a hell of a play to get Jeremiah Davis a look in the corner for the game tying shot. That play has been the highlight of Davis' season. UC also got a bit lucky St John's didn't make free throws.
What went wrong: That was a game that UC needed to win and they just played horribly. They went through the motions, almost like they thought St John's wasn't going to play hard. Add to that the fact UC shot 26% for the game, yeah that's right 26%, and things just didn't work out. And on top of all that, you don't box out with 2 seconds left and the other team's best player gets a wide open tip in to win. It was really awful.
Thanks for making me relive this again, Pico. You are too kind.
Down the Drive: What went right....nothing at all.
The abbreviated list of things that went wrong is shooting 25 per cent from the field including 29 per cent from 2 and 20 per cent from 3, getting out rebounded, and a seeming lack of interest in playing from everyone not named Sean Kilpatrick.
Q: In the last four games, the Bearcats offense has been pretty poor. What - or who - have been the culprit?
BB: There have been 4 factors.
1) Shot selection. It's important for every team to take good shots, but especially for the Cincinnati guards. Dion Dixon tends to do his own thing in the offense, and that can lead to him shooting ill advised shots. I think that bad shot selection is contagious, because one guy takes a bad shot, so someone feels they need to make up for that by forcing another shot.
2) Turnovers. Cincinnati has stingy with the ball since the 4 guard offense came into play. Lately though, they've slipped back to the November form of giving the ball away 10 times a game. Possessions with no shots obviously hamper the offense.
3) Not creating turnovers. Look at the Syracuse and Rutgers box scores and the DePaul box score. Ok, you don't really have to, I'll tell you. Cincinnati couldn't get turnovers and get transition baskets against those teams. They scored in the 50s. Against DePaul, UC forced a high amount of turnovers and scored 22 points off them. UC scored in the 70s against the Blue Demons. DePaul, the cure for what ails your offense.
4) They don't shoot free throws. Easiest points in the game for a guard, yet Cashmere Wright never shoots them. Sean Kilpatrick will get there maybe once a game. Dion Dixon is inconsistent at drawing fouls. It annoys me.
DtD: One of the big issues is Cashmere Wright (photo below from Sam Greene, SG Does It). He started off Big East play very well but has been all over the map since the third week of January. He is constantly of two minds on the floor. He wants to be the leader this team needs, he wants to run the offense as best he can and get his guys in position to make plays. But he was never a point guard before he got to UC. He was a scorer. A gunner. For the most part he has suppressed the later part of his basketball personality, but every once in a while bad cash rears his ugly head. When he takes a 25 foot pull up three because, you know, it would look frickin' sweet if that went in, that's bad Cash.
Besides that the only thing is that the Bearcats are now a team that lives and dies by the three. For the most part they have lived. In the three game losing streak they died a fiery and painful death.
Q: What's your opinion on Cincinnati's ceiling, and has it changed since before the last St. John's game?
DtD: Ceiling hasn't changed. Top 4 in the conference should still be the goal, and it's not out of the question. It will take some work but it's still in the offing. And that's only thing that has changed since the last game is that while that goal was readily at hand before as UC was comfortably ensconced in the top 4 the last time now there is some work that needs to be done to get back there.
BB: Final Four. Ok that's not true. At this point, I just want them to make the tournament. I think with the right draw they could be a Sweet 16 team. You can say that about anyone. I think UC could be a tournament team and give someone trouble.
It changed since the first St John's game in the sense that I want to see UC make the tournament and I'm worried they will not. I refuse to believe St John's will be so Harkless again and make me worry with another win over UC.
I'm really sorry for that. It seemed fun to say. And it was.
Q: Best recent TV show you've seen, and best recent movie.
DtD: Best TV Show: The best show on the air right now for my money is Parks and Recreation. That is partly because it is a phenomenal show that manages to pull off the smart and funny combo, and it does it on network tv which ratchets up the difficulty to like a thousand compared to working in a cable environment. Far greater restrictions in terms of content and the network tends to be over involved in creative matters. The only competition Parks has is from cable with Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Louie, but all of those shows are off the air.
Best movie: Moneyball is the best but it has been done to death so I'll throw out the Ides of March as a really great movie, and not just because a lot of it was shot in Cincinnati, it doesn't hurt mind you, but it would have been fantastic anywhere. I follow politics pretty ardently so Ides is right in my wheelhouse. Ryan Gosling was phenomenal in his role, but he crushed 2011 in general Drive and Crazy, Stupid, Love were both very good on their own. Ides was great execution of a somewhat complex script and was lifted by the performances of George Clooney and Evan Rachel Wood.
BB: Not the best at all, but I recommend everyone who reads this watch Lizard Lick Towing. It's amazing awful. I think 60% of it is staged in some part, but the 40% left over is hilarious. I almost want to default on a loan in North Carolina just to see if that show is real.
I've seen 2 movies that aren't that recent, but since I don't go to the theaters anymore I saw them on cable. One is Easy A with Emma Stone. She's lovely and that movie is hilarious. The second is Cyrus with Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly. A little weird, but funny. Easy A I think it is on Encore, Cyrus on HBO.
* Editors note: I found Easy A to be very charming, and want to watch Ides of March. And Moneyball. Parks and Recreation is a very good show. Cyrus was solid as well.