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Lance McAlister

UC: Did the Bearcats overachieve or underachieve?

UC: Did the Bearcats overachieve or underachieve?


Audio: Dan Hoard has a season wrap-up with Mick Cronin

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 20: Justin Jackson #5 of the Cincinnati Bearcats reacts after Harvard Crimson beat them in their second round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 20, 2014 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) 

Harvard 61 Cincinnati 57
*Be honest, was it really all that shocking? Didn’t we say it would be a tight game, played in the 50’s?
*Talk about a fade: Bearcats went 5-5 in last 10 games.
*How long were the scoring droughts yesterday? I counted 8 minutes and 5 minute scoreless stretches. So many empty trips down the court. I wrote down seven consecutive trips that included five turnovers, two shots that missed the rim and two missed free throws.
*How about the seniors in crunch time?: Justin Jackson missed a lay-up, down one, with 2:30 to go, Sean Kilpatrick called for charge, 1:33, Titus Rubles missed lay-up, :50, Kilpatrick turnover :40.
*SK went from the 16:27 to 3:45 of second half between field goals. He managed just four FGA in second half.
*While SK was clearly the focus of opponents, as they shifted the burden of scoring to his teammates, and limited his touches, he still seemed to be too passive down the stretch of the season.
*Jackson stretched his missed FT streak to 11 in a row and 17 of 21, before finally hitting.
*Dan Hoard counted 16 missed shots around the basket. Jackson missed 10 of 15 FG’s.
*Defense was woeful in first half, allowing Harvard to shoot 50%, including 6 of 11 on 3’s, after averaging just 5.7 three per game on season.
*Defense locked down in 2nd half, only 25 points and no three pointers.
*UC lost on a day they held their opponent to 61 points and 43% FG.
*UC’s scored just 57, 56, 45, 57, and 55 in their last five losses.
*UC allowed just 61, 58, 51, 58 points in last four losses.
*How about a technical for not writing Jermaine Sanders’ name in the official scorebook?
I called a former coach, while trying to figure out if Sanders would be allowed to enter the game? He said, “good question, not sure, we were never dumb enough to do that”.

Defining the season

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 20: Head coach Mick Cronin of the Cincinnati Bearcats covers his face during their game against the Harvard Crimson in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 20, 2014 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Defining the season
Mick said earlier in the week that he would not allow the NCAA tournament to define the success of their season. So, how do you describe this season?
They won 27 games, shared the American Conference regular season title, and earned the highest seed (5) of the Mick Cronin era. Yet, they lost to a lower seed in their opening game.
I said last night, UC overachieved, more than they underachieved.
Don’t look at the record, look at the team. Does it look like a 27 win, NCAA tournament, conference champ team? They locked teams down on defense, but had 1.5 scorers, no post scorer and no real point guard. I’m reminded of the shower scene in Bull Durham, between the manager and Robert Wuhl.

Manager: "Larry, what's our record?"
Wuhl: "8-16"
Manager: "How'd we ever win eight?"
Wuhl: "It's a miracle.”

You can say all of this is on the coach, that he is ultimately accountable for his team.
I’d counter this might very well be the best a coach can do with one hand tied behind his back, by poor facilities and a limited budget.
Any rational UC fan would have to worry that Mick comes to that conclusion as well.
It would be impossible for Mick to walk into the office each day and not notice $80M being put to use on renovation of the football stadium.
According to some, those statements make me a  “Mick apologist.” I say it makes me a realist.
Answer this short survey:
If you were a top high school talent, and you had options, would you:
A. Want to attend UC and walk around a campus/area that seems to make the daily crime blotter?
B. Want to play in a glorified high school gym?
C. Want to play in a conference that was put on the ‘pay no mind’ list by the NCAA selection committee and loses Louisville to the ACC?
Once you have answered those questions, you tell me how much blame Mick deserves.
I can answer all three questions: no, no, and no.
He has resurrected the program and guided the Bearcats to four consecutive NCAA tournaments. Mick deserves a statue in front of 5th/3rd Arena  He’s a miracle worker.
Is he perfect? Nope. I still think he needs to figure out a way to shift at least some of the focus, from defense to offense. You just can’t be a team built solely on defense and rebounding your missed shots. It always be about needing to be “great” on defense to win.
The Bearcats were 9th in Ken Pomeroy defensive efficiency this year, but just 109th in offensive efficiency. 
Next year, SK is gone. How does UC fill the void? Better hope there is a next level for guys like Shaq Thomas, Jermaine Sanders and Kevin Johnson. Of added concern is looking at the incoming recruiting class and not seeing a shooter.
Of immediate concern is why UC hasn’t finalized that contract extension for Mick. Let’s be honest, each new coaching opening around college basketball creates another test of patience and loyalty for Mick. It would be unwise for UC to take Mick’s loyalty to family, school and city for granted much longer.


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