Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bearcats Blow it Against UCONN. I Want to be a Dead Person.

Devastation. Devastating. Devastated. Kill Me With Gun. Or Guns. Complete sentences are stupid.

You might think I'm overreacting, but honestly, that's how I feel right about now. The Cats had 'em beat. Up twelve, less than 6:00 to go. AT HOME!

(Note: There is no need to mention Rashad Bishop's mindless foul with 9.8 left on the clock. It was obviously the dumbest thing that has ever happened in the history of mankind. Let's just move on.)

Here are my thoughts from what I witnessed Wednesday night (and if you were wondering, yes, the ban on bullet points is still in effect):

1. UC reminds me of a really good Missouri Valley Conference team. They're limited offensively, they play tough D and they'll scrap for every loose ball. UC's margin for error is so slim that even when they get up 12 or 15 points it seems as if they'd rather play keep-away than extend the lead. This isn't a knock on Mick Cronin's coaching style, either. In fact, it's a compliment to a guy who understands his team's restrictions and somehow keeps them competitive against more talented squads. Sounds just like an MVC team in the first round of the tourney, no?

2. I do have two minor problems with Cronin's in-game decisions Wednesday, though...

a. Why not call a timeout when UCONN cut the 12-point lead to 8 in the blink of an eye? Cronin waited until it got to 6 to call the timeout. The momentum had clearly shifted after the first two layups and it seemed to me that the bleeding needed to be stopped pronto. Also...

b. Larry Davis should have been on the floor for the final five minutes. UC needed to adjust when UCONN assaulted them with their cat-quick press (which UCONN should've been doing the entire game, with Dyson, Price and Wiggins on the floor at the same time, but anyway). If it meant taking out Adam H or Williamson I would have been okay with it. The Cats were left with Warren as their only player with any degree of quickness to handle UCONN's crippling pressure. Davis' athleticism would have helped during that stretch. It certainly couldn't have hurt the Cats any more than Williamson or Adam H did. Which reminds me...

3. Incoming PG Cashmere Wright had better be ready to play 25-30 MPG next season. Freshman or not, he'll likely be the key to the 08-09 season. If Wright struggles, Vaughn has to play the point, and Vaughn ain't a point guard. We know this. Which reminds me...

4. If I were Cronin I'd recruit a Juco PG for next season (think Jamual Warren, not Timmy Crowell). They're thin at the position, plus UC has scholarships available--as it stands UC only has nine committed scholarship players for next season.

5. Ed Hightower and Co. are stupid dumb idiots. Also, they are not smart people. Really though, that was one of the most poorly officiated games in recent memory. Techs left and right, two phantom calls on Adam H that led to and-ones and let's not forget Kenny Belton being given an extra free throw because the referees had their heads up their bum-bums? Which reminds me...

6. From here on out, Kenny Belton's free throw attempts are can't-miss television events. Really, words cannot describe how happy I am when he makes it to the charity stripe. Someone needs to make a YouTube montage of Belton's worst misses.

7. Back to Larry Davis, because I love him...mark my words, Davis is UC's most talented offensive player right now, and will be their go-to-guy by the middle of next season. He's taller, quicker and more skilled than Vaughn (who I also love)...he just needs to improve his D (or maybe his practice habits) just enough to get on the floor to prove me right. Anyone disagree? Finally...

8. We'll find out a bit more about Cronin come Sunday afternoon. The Cats travel to New Jersey (the dump that produced Mo Egger) to take on the decidedly non-terrible Seton Hall Pirates. Win or lose, if UC plays hard for forty minutes we'll have learned a little more about Cronin. Losses like Wednesday's can be tough to shake.

Then again, it shouldn't be too difficult to exude maximum effort from here on out.

Hopefully, the loss to UCONN won't prevent UC from dancing in March. And while you might think I'm nuts for even mentioning the d word, consider this: According to me, an admitted amateur bracketolgist, 11 conference wins would make UC a shoe-in for the field of 65. An 11-7 Big East record would leave them with an overall W-L record of 16-14, with a few monster in-conference wins, respectable showings against Memphis and Xavier, two bad losses (Belmont and Bowling Green) coming without starting PG Jamual Warren, and an RPI that will undoubtedly be respectable (low 30's, probably). I think even a first round Big East Tournament loss (and a 16-15 overall record) would still leave UC on the happy side of the bubble. Hell, Georgia safely made it in a few years back with a 16-14 record. And they were a freaking No. 8 seed! God bless the RPI...

(Sorry for getting ahead of myself with a team that might finish with twenty losses. I can't help it; this is what I think about all day long. Well that and how sad I am over Heath Ledger's death. But not really. Anyway...)

The most devastating aspect of the UCONN loss isn't the way they lost, although it certainly stings. To me, the most painful kick to the groin is that they lost, whether is was to UCONN or whoever...whether they blew a big lead or not. Remember, 11 is the magic number. It doesn't matter who they beat or how ugly they do it. Take a peep at the remaining schedule...six more wins is attainable, but now they need seven. That's asking an awful lot for a team that ain't exactly the most talented bunch around.

End of words. Now go listen to the "soldiers arent heroes and columbine was overrated" podcast. It's easily the most offensive thing you will hear in the next decade or so.

Keep the change, you filthy animals.

-Brad Spieser (