Every day there are three things, none worth devoting an individual post to, but each worth at least mentioning.
1) The Bearcats. They're 25-4, they're having a fantastic season, and in 13 days, the word "Cincinnati" will pop up on the screen on CBS's (hopefully re-tooled) Selection Sunday show, making another NCAA Tournament trip official. I'm very glass half-full on the Cats.
It's frustrating, and more than a little concerning when you look at how this team has played away from home. I've felt uneasy about yesterday's game against Central Florida for a while, because when UC played them in Cincinnati, they were pensive on offense, playing exactly opposite of the way they usually play at home. Send them on the road, where they're not as good on offense, against Tacko Fall, throw in Senior Day for UCF, and you had the recipe for an upset.
The Knights are a bad matchup for the Bearcats, and I'd be very willing to dismiss what happened yesterday as a matter of personnel and style just not being favorable for Cincinnati. But with only one home game remaining, the lack of offensive production in road games in troubling. The stats are skewed for obvious reasons, but the Bearcats are averaging nearly 23 points a game more at home than on the road or non neutral sites. Six times - all in true road games - they've been held to less than 60 points. And it's not just pure shooting woes. The offense just looks and operates different than it does at Fifth Third. The ball doesn't move. Bad jumpers are settled for. There's a lack of aggressiveness.
(I'd have played a small lineup all afternoon yesterday, and Jarron Cumberland would've played basically the entire game.)
Ever since the mini-bracket reveal and the loss to SMU the very next day, a lot of UC fans have been wondering what will happen if the Bearcats win out. I've not spent much time on that because I've never really felt totally comfortable thinking that this team - for all of its qualities - was good enough away from home to beat a UCF team it matches up poorly against, win a road game against UConn, then win three on a neutral site, including possible rematches against SMU, UCF, or UConn (the good news is, that if the AAC Tournament began today, all three of those teams would be in the opposite side of the bracket as the Bearcats.)
Now it's fair to wonder, if the Bearcats weren't a top four seed prior to losing to SMU and UCF, how much have they fallen since, and how much more damage can they do over the next two weeks?
The bigger questions, though, are about whether this team can find a way to play they way they do at home on the road, or if they can somehow convince the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee to let them host games in March.
2) The Musketeers. Terms like "lack of toughness" and "closing ability" get thrown out a lot, sometimes too often. XU, playing shorthanded, is playing hard. They're good enough to hang in there in games like yesterday's against Butler. Unfortunately, they aren't tough enough, and wired well-enough to win them.
3) NKU Hoops. Last season, the Norse won nine games. Yesterday, they wrapped the regular season with their 21st victory, secured a top-four seed in the Horizon League Tournament, and on Friday night, they earned some well-deserved love on SportsCenter. They're one of the great feel-good stories of the college basketball season, and in this region, few coaches have done the work this season that John Brannen has done in Highland Heights.
If this was four things, I'd go on and on about what Malik Monk did in the fourth quarter on Saturday. Alas, it's three things, and I have a doctor's appointment anyway.
Radio Show: Chad Brendel on the Bearcats at 3:42. NKU's John Brannen at 4:33. You and I in between, starting at on ESPN1530.