Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bearcat vs UConn preview

It's going to be a long day.  I can hardly wait for tipoff, but as the last game of the day (9:40 pm)  it's going to be a long wait.  It's going to be a tough game, but I really like the Bearcats chances.  Cincinnati has not been getting a lot of attention, even after their big win over Missouri, and are once again the underdog.  That's fine with me.  Mick Cronin and the players will use it as additional motivation.  There's a great article about it on

I'm curious to see how Cronin chooses to approach this game.  Will the Bearcats sit back in their half-court defense, or will they press?  Man-to-man or zone?  I can't wait to find out.  Here's some additional game previews to get you through the day from ESPN.  Try this one and this one.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bearcats get a great win over Mizzou

What a great game!  I was worried about how Cincinnati would fare against Missouri's fast paced offense and full-court pressure, but they proved up to the task.  The Bearcats came out with great intensity and played awesome defense to hold the #9 scoring team in the nation 18 points below their average on under 40 percent shooting.  UC only turned the ball over 11 times against a press that forces an average of 18 a game.  Mick Conin had this team ready to play and it showed.  As the Bearcats gained control and then took the lead in the 1st half, some of the players looked possessed.  Missouri was not prepared for the Bearcats tenacious defense or their physical play and the Bearcats outmuscled them inside offensively and on the glass.  A great all around win.

Now UC faces UConn.  The advantages of this matchup is that Cincinnati knows their opponent well and has extra incentive to avenge a regular-season loss.  This disadvantage is that their opponent knows them.  I had hoped that UC would avoid facing a Big East team early on, because most teams aren't used to the physical style of play characteristic of the Big East.  UConn is hot right now and full of confidence.  Hopefully the mental and physical drain of playing 5 games in 5 days will start to catch up to them.  If UC comes out with the same intensity they showed last night, they can win.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thoughts on UC as a 6 seed

When the brackets were announced on Sunday, I was happy and slightly surprised that UC got a 6 seed.  I think they deserve a 6, but thought the committee would give them a 7.  What I am not happy with is their matchup. 

Missouri is no 11 seed.  Their RPI isn't far behind the Bearcats and they went 0.500 in a major conference.  They are more like an 8 or 9 in my opinion.  The other 6 seeds are St. Johns, Georgetown, & Xavier, and they are matched up against Gonzaga, the USC/VCU play-in winner, & Marquette, repectively.  One could argue that Xavier's draw is as tought as UC's, but I think Cincinnati's is just a little tougher, while Georgetown got the easiest of the bunch.

If the Bearcats can get past the Tigers, UConn potentially awaits.  UConn beat UC this season at Fifth Third Arena and are red-hot and full of confidence coming off their Big East Tournament Championship.  Hopefully they will be out of gas as well.

It's a tough draw to be sure, but one that UC can win if they come out with intensity and play smart basketball.  In their first trip back to the dance since 2005, it sure would be nice to play two (or more).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Where will the Bearcats land

It's a foregone conclusion that the Bearcats will be included in this years NCAA tournament when the field is announced at 6 pm Sunday night.  The only question is where UC will be seeded.  They have a better record than many of the teams ahead of them in the polls.  If the selection committee gives UC the same lack of respect as the pollsters, they could get a poorer seed than they deserve.  If they take their strong finish to the season into account, they could get a better seed.

So what do the "bracketologists" say?  ESPN's Joe Lunardi projects the field with UC as a #7, playing Tennessee in the first round.  After the Bearcats loss to Notre Dame, Lunardi had UC as a #6.  Not sure what happened over night to change that.  Jordan Schwartz at Foxsports has UC as #6 playing Utah State--a matchup I like.  Jerry Palm at CBS Sports is the biggest surprise, with the Bearcats as a #5 playing Michigan.

Personally I think UC will be a 7, with an outside shot of a 6 or 8.  I am really hoping for a 6 or better.  The 7 & 8 seeded teams have tough first round matchups and then usually have to face a #1 or #2 seed.  If the Cincinnati can get a 5 or 6 I think they have an excellent chance of advancing to the Sweet 16.  We'll know in less than an hour.

Time to move on

After their crushing defeat versus Notre Dame on Thursday, its time for UC to forget it and move on.  Notre Dame played a perfect game where all their shots were falling, while the Bearcats were not.  In the first half Notre Dame shot the lights out from 3-point range to loosen up the UC defense.  In the second half they used screens and back door cuts executed to perfection to get easy layups.  The way Notre Dame played I thought they were a lock to win the Big East tournament and get a #1 seed in March Madness.  But against Louisville their shooting came back to earth and they played just an average game and lost.

For the Bearcats there are two ways they could respond to this loss:  They could question their play and their defense and come out flat and tentative in their next game, or they could re-focus and play determined to show everyone that they are a good team that plays great defense.  I think the latter will occur.  They need to move forward and put the ND game in their rearview mirrow, and just look forward to finding out their seed and matchup on Selection Sunday tonight, and start preparing for their opponent.  It's been a fun season and its not over yet!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

UC vs South Florida highlights

In case you missed it:

The Bearcats are Hot

The Bearcats are on a roll.  Following last nights 87-61 rout of South Florida, Cincinnati has now won 3 in a row and 6 of their last 7.  UC dominated the Bulls defensively, and Yancy Gates had a stellar game.  Still there has been little mention of UC's recent streak.  On the major sports websites, I've seen a few feature articles on some of the top teams in the country, the up-and-coming teams, or the teams to watch out for.  None have mentioned the Bearcats.  But that's ok.  That's the way Mick Cronin likes.  Keep disrespecting us and we will keep winning to prove you wrong.  Fine with me.

Tonight UC faces an equally hot Notre Dame team that is currently one of the darlings of college basketball.  The writers seem to love Ben Hansbrough, coach Mike Breen, and the golden dome in general.  UC lost at Notre Dame in January, and the Cincinnati Enquirer's Bill Koch gives a nice recap of that game on his blog.  A win tonight would give UC a nice boost in prestige, respect, and possibly NCAA tournament seeding come Sunday.  More on that later.

The blog is back

Ok, its been far too long since I've posted here and I've missed it.  I've been so wrapped up in work crap, that I haven't taken the time to do the things I like.  Life is for living.  I love my Bearcats, so will post through the last couple weeks of the basketball season, and then pick it up when football starts.  More to come.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cincinnati at NC State Preview

The Bearcats make their first nationally televised TV appearance tonight when they travel to Raleigh, NC to take on the North Carolina State Wolfpack at 7:30 pm EST.  After a terrible game at Fresno State and a shaky first half versus Indiana State, UC needs a quality win, especially the offense which has not looked like the point producing powerhouse of the previous two seasons.

The key to the game will be the play of the offense line, which has not performed well thus far.  NC State likes to blitz, and after giving up 8 sacks at Fresno, the line will be tested early and often.  Zach Collaros will need to make quick decision and not hold the ball too long.  UC can neutralize the pass rush with a strong run game.  The Bearcats had 263 yards rushing against Indiana State without their #1 rusher, Isiah Pead, who sat out with a sore knee.  Pead will be back tonight and will need to be productive.

Another thing that has been missing this season is the big plays that characterized the offense the last two seasons.  This year, the Bearcats longest pass completion is only 29 yards.  Pead, Armon Binns, or DJ Woods need to break a long one early to get the momentum going in UC's favor.

NC State is not an offensive powerhouse, but stays in games because of its stout defense.  If UC can grab a lead, the NC State offense might not be able to catch up.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bearcats back on track? Maybe.

Due to a hellish 10 days at work and the loss to Fresno State that left me speechless, I haven't posted in a while.  Regarding the Fresno State game:  I was stunned at how bad we looked.  I expected the offense to pickup where it left off and for the defense to struggle.  Boy was I wrong.  The defense actually looked pretty good, especially against the run, and the offense looked horrible. 

Fresno State recorded 8 sacks after getting only 11 all of last year (ranked 119/120 teams), plus had many more QB hits and hurries.  Some of this was Zach Collaros fault for holding the ball too long, and trying to make too many plays with his feet when he should have thrown it away, but much of it was the offensive lines fault.  Center Jason Kelce stated that the problem wasn't that the line was being man-handled, as it appeared, but rather that "There were a lot of mental breakdowns, which can't happen.  That's the number one thing in football. Everyone has to be on the same page, especially on the offensive line. If guys aren't on the same page, bad things are going to happen."  Zach Collaros often looked lost.  The wide receivers seldom were open.  The running game barely averaged 2 yards per carry.  Adding injury to insult was the loss of WR Vidal Hazleton to a torn ACL.

Against Indiana State, a far inferior team, things didn't start any better.  UC led only 12-7 at halftime, as the offense again looked inept.  One of the stars of the team, WR DJ Woods, lost 2 fumbles and had an unsportsmanlike penalty against him.  The passing game was again mediocre.  I don't know if its the new system, or the pressure of being the full-time starter, but it's was hard to believe Collaros is the same guy who won 4 starts in relief of Tony Pike last season.  UC blew the game open in the 3rd quarter with 4 touchdowns, but much of the output came from the running game.  The 4th quarter was scoreless with reserves getting reps. 

I would have like to see UC throw more even when they had the lead.  It would have given the offensive line a chance to work on their pass blocking a little more.  It's not time to hit the panic button yet, but certainly things need to start clicking soon.  UC is at NC State on Thursday and will provide a much stiffer test than Indiana State.  UC then has 9 days to prepare to host top 10 Oklahoma.  The Bearcats could get embarrassed if they don't get their offensive woes behind them soon.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Now it's time: to represent the C!

Cincinnati @ Fresno State: Keys to the game

Cincinnati travels to "the doghouse" as a 2.5 point underdog versus Fresno State.  Since 1990 Fresno State has won 78% of their non-conference games at Bulldog Stadium, which seats 41,000.  The place is sure to be packed with a rowdy crowd anxious to beat a BCS opponent.  Fortunately UC has experience with this as they went into Corvallis, Washington last year for a rare win at Oregon State.

In last season's 28-20 UC victory, the Bulldogs ran the ball for 290 yards, which allowed them to hold the ball (and keep UC's offense off the field) for nearly 45 minutes.  Expect more of the same this year.  Gone is RB Ryan Mathews to the NFL, but he is replaced by Robbie Rouse who is only 5-7, but a solid 185 pounds.  Last year against the Bearcats, Rouse had 5 carries for 50 yards.  Even more daunting is the fact that Fresno State returns all 5 starters on the offensive line (and 18 starters total) from last years team.  In addition to the running game, Fresno State boasts as experienced senior quarterback and wide receiver.  I expect them to test UC's pass defense early to keep the defense off balance and setup the run.

If there is one weakness for Fresno State it is their defensive backs.  Two senior starters are gone and are replaced with two sophomores who have never started a game.  Expect Zach Collaros and company to take advantage.

For Cincinnati, they need to take what Fresno State gives them and not hurt themselves with penalties and turnovers.  If they do that, I don't think the Fresno State defense can stop them.  Fresno State's best chance is a repeat of last year's game plan:  run, run, and run some more so that the UC offense doesn't get many opportunites.  UC's reconfigured 4-3 defense will need to do a better job of stuffing the run than last year's 3-4 did.  If they can get off the field, UC should win this game.  Both team's are strong offensively, but UC's is better.  If the defense can hold up, I don't see Fresno State matching the Bearcats score for score.

I don't think the score will be as close the what some of the experts are predicting.  I expect UC to pull away and win fairly easily.  My prediction:  34-23.

Say What??? - Experts Predictions

The two-time defending Big East Champion Bearcats aren't getting alot of respect in the preseason, with most experts picking someone other than the men in red and black to win the Big East title this year.  I'm sure Butch Jones and the players are using the lack of respect as motivation to prove everyone wrong....again.

UC is unranked in the AP and Coaches poll's, coming in at #26 in the voting in each.  Some other predictions:

  • ESPN's Brian Bennett:  Pitt wins Big East, UC "most likely to disappoint"
  • ESPN's 2010 predictions:  Of 12 "experts", 7 pick Pitt to win the Big East, 3 pick UConn, 2 pick UC.
  • Sports Illustrated's 2010 Crystal Ball:  None of the experts picked UC to win the Big East:  5 picked Pitt, 1 W.Va., 1 UConn.
  • Tailgate365: Picks UConn to win the Big East, UC 3rd.
  • Whatifsports, a computer simulation site, picks UC to finish 2nd to Pitt in the Big East with a 9-3 overall record.
  • Foxsports Big East Preview:  Big East title will come down to Pitt or W.Va.
  • Sporting News Big East Predictions:  picks Pitt to win the conference

And what about tonight's game at Fresno State? 

  • Las Vegas:  Most have the line favoring Fresno by 2.5.
  • Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel:  Fresno 27 UC 22
  • ESPN's Brian Bennett:  UC 35 Fresno 34
  • Whatifsports, a computer simulation site, picks UC to win 71.9% of the time by an average score of 41-35
  • Team Rankings another computer simulation site, predicts UC to beat Fresno just 52.4% of the time.
  • Scout: UC 34 Fresno 30
  • Sporting News:  Fresno 36 UC 33

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bearcats Preview: Defense

At the beginning of every season there are numerous questions.  For UC this is no exception.  Perhaps the biggest questions this year concern the defense.  Most pundits see the defense as the weak link that will hinder the Bearcat's quest for a 3rd straight Big East title.  Last year, Brian Kelly brought in Bob Diaco as defensive coordinator to switch UC from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense.  The key to success in the 3-4 is huge lineman who can tie up a blocker or two to allow the linebackers to make plays.  Unfortunately, UC was not built to run the 3-4 and it showed.  Despite winning 12 regular season games, the defense was near statistically one of the worst in the Big East.

This season, Butch Jones and his staff have reverted to the 4-3 which allows for lineman to use their speed and athleticism to get past blockers.  This defense is a much better fit for the personnel on hand and hopefully will result in noticeable improvement over last season.  The biggest knock against this defense is that it only returns 5 starters.  With early tests against Fresno State, NC State, and Oklahoma, there better be a steep learning curve.

The defensive line is anchored by experienced junior Derek Wolfe at defensive tackle.  Joining him will be junior John Hughes.  At the ends will be sophomores Brandon Mills and Dan Giordano.  Both saw extensive playing time coming off the bench last season.

At linebacker, junior and veteran starter J.K. Schaffer anchors the group and will be joined by sophomores Walter Stewart, who started 12 games last season, and Maalik Bomar.  This position group is reportedly the most thin, in terms of talent and depth, on the team.  The starters will have to stay healthy and the backups will need to learn and improve quickly.

In the defensive backfield, junior CB Dominique Battle and sophomore S Drew Frye return, and are joined by sophomore CB Reuben Johnson and junior S Wesley Richardson.  Their backups are all freshman and sophomores, so this is another group that needs to stay healthy.

Last years defense had a hard time stopping the run and will be tested early by Fresno State.  According to reports from training camp, this years defense is more aggressive and holding its own against the offense.  In addition, they have a bit of a chip on their shoulder and something to prove to all the "experts" who have cited the defense as the reason the Bearcats will not 3-peat as Big East champs.

Bearcats Preview: Offense

Depending on what publication you read, and how you define "starter", Cincinnati returns 11 or 13 starters from last years team, with most of those on the offensive side of the ball.  The general consensus is that the offense is loaded and should be as good if not better than last year.   New head coach Butch Jones uses the same spread offense style as Brian Kelly, but runs it at an even faster tempo.  The goal is to keep defenses on their heels.

At quarterback, UC is lead by junior Zach Collaros.  Collaros started 4 games in relief of the injured Tony Pike last season and went 4-0.  In fact, Collaros hasn't lost a game as a starter since his sophomore year of high school.  Collaros makes the offense even more dangerous because he is a dual-threat that can hurt you with his running as well as his passing.  One of his first plays in relief of Pike last season was a 75 yard QB draw for a TD against South Florida.  The QB position is deep with junior Chazz Anderson and sophomore Brendon Kay both looking impressive during the preseason, and some highly touted freshman waiting in the wings.

At running back, Isiah Pead will be the featured back this year.  Pead led the Big East at just under 7 yards per carry last season, but never carried the ball more than 18 times in a game.  Coach Jones has indicated that Pead will have a bigger role in the offense this season.  Pead is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, and in previous years Jones' RBs at Central Michigan featured prominently in the passing game.  Behind Pead on the depth chart is senior John Goebel who returns after an injury-plagued 2009.  He is the biggest back on the team at 213 pounds.  Sophomores Darrin Williams and Quentin Hines could also see some playing time.

Wide receiver is likely the most talented position on the team, even with the loss of star Mardy Gilyard to the NFL.  Armon Binns flourished last seasons as teams focused on stopping Gilyard.  Binns is fast, tall, strong, and can go up to get the ball.  He finished last season with 61 catches for 888 yards and 11 TDs.  Making his UC debut is highly touted transfer Vidal Hazleton, who last played two seasons ago at USC.  He has reportedly been running over DBs in practice.  Rounding out the starters is junior DJ Woods, who is small but quick and sure-handed.  He grabbed 51 balls for 540 yards and 4 TDs.  In addition to the starters senior Marcus Barnett returns to the WR position after spending time in Brian Kelly's doghouse as a DB.  Adding potency to the passing game is senior TE Ben Guidulgi, who was name 2nd team all-American by the Sporting News.  Guidulgi is big and fast, and creates matchup headaches for opposing defenses.

The offensive line returns 3 starters lead by senior center Jason Kelce.  Senior CJ Cobb and junior Sam Griffin return as the starting tackles.  Junior Alex Hoffman and freshman Evan Davis get their first starts at the guard positions.  In order of how named above, the line weighs in at 290, 304, 260, 293, & 262.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A New Season Dawns!

Are you ready for some football?  I am.  Last season was bittersweet with a fantastic, perfect 12-0 regular season that ended with Brian Kelly leaving for Notre Dame and a crushing defeat in the Sugar Bowl.  Now the Bearcats are back and reportedly hungrier than ever.  Over the next couple of days I'll preview the team, but for now some highlights from last years historic season.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bearcats win 45-44. Big East Champs!

This was the best game I have ever seen in person.  UC overcame a shaky first half and mounted a stunning comeback to shock Pittsburgh for the Big East Championship and automatic BCS bowl bid.  There were a ton of UC fans in the stands, and nobody wanted to leave when the game was over.  A great scene!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Games of interest to UC

If UC wins at Pitt, they will go to a BCS bowl, that much is certain, but with a little help they could go to the national championship game.  The Bearcats are currently #5 in the BCS standings, behind Florida, Alabama, Texas, and TCU.   UC should move ahead of the loser of the Florida-Alabama game.  They also need the following:
  • Nebraska over Texas
  • Oregon State over Oregon
  • Georgia Tech over Clemson
A Texas loss is required to get UC into the title game.  The other two games help UC's computer numbers.  UC beat Oregon State on their field, while TCU's biggest win is against Clemson.  The proper outcome of those two games might not be required, but they would help.  The dominos may start to fall tonight when Oregon & Oregon State square off with the winner going to the Rose Bowl.

Brian Kelly says he's staying, but does he mean it?

One thing that has amazed me during all the Brian Kelly to Notre Dame hoopla is the fact that Kelly has never said that Notre Dame is his dream job.  Yet most "experts" say that if the job is offered, Kelly would take it in a heartbeat.

Fueling the speculation is the fact that while other high profile coaches have come out and said they aren't interested in the Notre Dame job, Kelly has kept mum.  Until now.

On WEBN's Dawn Patrol Kelly responded to Wildman Walker's question about his status saying "I'm staying man, I'm staying, why would I go?".  Later he reiterates "I'm very happy in Cincinnati and our kids love it here, our family loves it here.  We're just going to focus in, obviously, on building this program, getting it bigger and better..."

So there you have it.  Either Kelly is really staying at UC, or he is flat out lying.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Historic rankings

For the first time ever, the Cincinnati Bearcats basketball and football teams are ranked at the same time.  The football team remains at #5, while the basketball team debuted at #22 in the AP after their strong showing in the Maui Invitational.  They were last ranked in January 2006.

The Bearcats first game as a ranked team was a resounding 94-57 win over Texas Southern at Fifth Third arena.  Unfortunately, only 6,825 attended the game.  Hopefully support for the program will pick up soon.
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