Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Okay, before touching on the NCAA tournament, I must first tackle the mighty Cincinnati Bearcats, who saw their season end last night in the prestigious NIT.
(And by the way, it's not the NIT Tournament, it's just the NIT; the letter "T" represents the word tournament. So, to clear things up: It's just the NIT...not the National Invitation Tournament Tournament. Get it straight, DirecTV, ESPN, Every Sports Book in Las Vegas, etc.)
Mick Cronin is coming back next season, and I'm actually excited about this. When I recently wrote this piece most of my readers assumed I wanted the little redhead to receive his walking papers. That, boys and girls, is far from the truth. I am not in love with his coaching decisions, and I'm mostly convinced he isn't the answer, but he could be. And the fact that I'm not completely writing off Cronin's ability to right the ship is precisely why this program needs to keep him around another year.
If Cronin leaves, you're talking about four coaches in less than a decade, which is alarming for a program still trying to crawl itself out from under the mess Nancy Zimpher left behind. Four coaches in seven or eight years reeks of instability, and rival coaches love to focus on instability when recruiting against other programs. Don't go to Cincinnati. You don't know who the coach is going to be.
But it's not just about stability; it's also about recruiting. Mick Cronin, warts and all, can still lure in the nation's top players. As for the guy who eventually replaces Cronin (assuming it's in the near future), well, he might not share Cronin's coaching deficiencies, but he might not be able to bring in Big Boy talent. Plus, let's not forget that UC is a destination job for Cronin, whereas it's likely to be a stepping stone job for the next guy in charge (again, assuming Cronin doesn't last long). If you want UC to be relevant again, you should also want Cronin to be your coach.
Whether you like Cronin or not, the fact remains that UC lost a bunch of 50-50 games this year, and since they return nearly all of their key players (Note: I think Deonta Vaughn will turn out to be addition by subtraction), it's reasonable to assume that many of this year's L's will turn into W's next year. If not, then get rid of the little guy. You have my blessing.
But if the Bearcats are going to take the next step, they need to find a shooter. Desperately. Right now they don't have one, and the two-man recruiting class for 2010 is comprised of 6'8 and 6'10 post players. So, what you're about to read might be pointless.
Cornell, Butler, Northern Iowa and St. Mary's account for 25 percent of the Sweet 16 for one reason and one reason only: accurate long-range shooting.
(Before moving forward, let me acknowledge the fact that St. Mary's wouldn't have made the tourney without Omar Samhan [aka, poor man's David West]. Believe me, I get it. The guy is a stud. I love watching him play. Short sentences are prevalent. Anyway, without a bunch of sharpshooters surrounding Samhan there's no freaking chance the Gaels are alive on the tourney's second weekend. Without marksmen like Mickey McConnell, Matthew Dellavedova and Ben Allen hanging around the perimeter, Samhan would get triple teamed, and his team would get smoked. Fact.)
As for Cornell, Butler and Northern Iowa, all they do is shoot the three; that's the entirety of their offensive game. Just as going five-wide and throwing sixty passes a game is the quickest way to respectability in college football, bombing a million threes each game gives you the best chance to compete with the powers of college hoop. I will not argue this. But seriously, when are college coaches going to figure out what seems so obvious to anyone with cable?
Cornell, Butler, Northern Iowa and St. Mary's start twenty players who most BCS conference schools never even considered recruiting. And I understand how players fall through the cracks or develop later in life, really, I do. But that excuse can't be made for all of them. These kids, I assume, played just as much AAU as Yancy Gates and Lance Stephenson, and -- despite possessing otherworldly range -- were written off by major colleges because of what they couldn't do. Apparently jumping over someone in a dunk contest is more important than winning a three-point contest.
Don't get me wrong, you need elite-level talent to win six consecutive games in March, but you also need to knock down the occasional jumper. And in a trillion years, the most important skill on a basketball court will still be shooting.
Quick, why won't West Virginia cut down the nets this year? If you answered anything but "They don't have anything resembling an accurate perimeter shooter," you'd be an idiot. Bob Huggins is the coach of a really long, remarkably athletic bunch who will fight you to the death for a single loose ball. They also crush their opponent on the boards and obey their coach. All things considered, they're an easy team to root for (regardless of who their coach is). But they can't shoot a lick. West Virginia is easy to guard, and the next team that shoots 45 percent against them will probably win. Trust me, the 'Neers aren't winning it all.
Which is why Lance Stephenson can lead UC to the Final Four next year if he just learns to stick a twenty-footer. It's also why I'd never recruit a 7-foot project like Biggie McLain unless I already had a few bombers on the following year's roster. Give me an under-recruited gunner like Ali Farokhmanesh (or any of the Butler or Cornell dudes) any day of the week over a slow-footed giant with bad hands.
The reality is that my Bearcats probably would have made the tourney this year with the second best shooter on any of those teams. Sad but true.
That's about it for me. I wanted to touch on Baylor being a juicy bet to win it all at 25/1 (by contrast WVU is 5/1), CBS analyst Bob Wenzel comparing Butler forward Gordon Hayward to (of course) Larry Bird, the lady who blocks a bunch of shots without jumping and the draft stock of one Jordan Crawford, but I'm getting kind of sleepy. And my back hurts. Deal with it.
Sweet 16 preview to be posted before tip-off Thursday. Horny?
-Brad Spieser (Brad@TwinKilling.com)
Posted by Twin Killing dot Com at 12:22 PM