Every day there are three things, none worth devoting an individual post to, but each worth at least mentioning.
1) Why not the Bearcats? The most common questions I've gotten over the last two months have been about how far UC can go in March. I've usually held off giving a specific answer, instead preferring to see the teams they'd play, assess how the Bearcats are playing, and maintained that if they're at their best, they can win multiple games in March.
And usually I've been told back that worst-case, the Cats are a Sweet Sixteen team.
Yet now, with the bracket set, I'm hard-pressed to find any fellow Bearcat fan who's feeling the optimism that's permeated through the fan base for months.
So let me get this straight...
For weeks on end, their seed, their potential matchups, and the way they were playing mattered so little that we penned them into the second weekend of the tournament regardless of those things, but now that we know those things, they trump everything we've said about this team all season?
Not for me.
I'm not guaranteeing two wins this weekend. Hell, I won't guarantee one. I do, though, feel the same about this team that I have all season. If good Troy and aggressive Jake show up in Sacramento, if they can get Kevin Johnson re-engaged, they're at worst a tough out.
The two teams playing tonight for the right to square off Friday against the Bearcats are in Dayton tonight for a reason. Kansas State relies on turning opponents over, which is hard to go against Cincinnati. Wake Forest's John Collins presents problems, but the Demon Deacons don't defend. With time to prep for both, get some rest, and get focused, I see no reason why UC can't win on Friday.
On Sunday...UCLA was the most fun team in college basketball to watch, primarily because of Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf, and an offense that scored 1.2 points per possession in league play. They also pay almost no attention to defense, ranking among the least-efficient defensive teams among Power Five schools in the tournament. Are they good? Absolutely. Capable of winning the region even. Are they immensely entertaining? Enough to make me stay up to watch them nearly every time they played. Are they beatable? By a team that can slow them down a little and punish teams that are weak on the defensive end? Definitely.
I haven't done a bracket yet, because I prefer to give it some thought and do some research. When I do start to make some educated guesses, there's a good chance that I'll pick the Bruins to not only beat the Bearcats, but advance further. They're that good offensively. But to blow off the possibility that the Bearcats can beat them ignores all of the strengths that Mick Cronin's team will take with it to NoCal.
2) The Hunt is over. Margus Hunt has moved on, leaving the team that drafted in in 2013 to go block the occasional kick for the Colts. Nice guy. Neat story. Fun haircut. Lousy football player. At least here.
The Bengals get a lot of credit for how they've drafted, and much of it is deserved.
But Hunt is one of eight players taken by the Bengals in the first three rounds of the 2012 through 2015 drafts who could be considered a disappointment. Among Devon Still, Brandon Thompson, Hunt, Darqueze Dennard, Jeremy Hill, Will Clarke, Cedric Ogbuehi, and Jake Fisher, there are a lot of players who have - for a variety of reasons - not given the Bengals production commensurate to their draft position. Add in the injuries that kept two of last year's top four picks from getting on the field, and a big reason why the Bengals have had so many holes open up is that these drafts - while yielding some very valuable contributors elsewhere - haven't been a deep as perceived.
3) Old Home Week at PBS. Andre Smith and Connor Barwin are reportedly drawing interest from the Bengals. Barwin has visited. Smith apparently will.
I'm biased on Barwin, who's one of my favorite Bearcats of all-time, and a player I've continued to root for as both a Texan and an Eagle. He'll turn 31 during the season, but he's been among the league's most durable players since missing all but one game in 2010, he's not that terribly far removed from a 14.5 sack season, and while the Bengals do need more youth on the edge, he'd possibly be a nice rotational piece at a position that needs more production.
That said, Barwin was also not as productive as a pure defensive end as he was at outside linebacker, and given that the Bengals are a 4-3 team, and that they've tried to fit round pegs in square holes with underwhelming results, I'm a little wary.
But among the current crop of available veteran front seven guys, are there many who are better?
Andre Smith coming back would be....fine. I guess. Honestly, I'm still pissed about losing both Whitworth and Zeitler to really say anything nice about what their plan is on the line moving forward. Smith was a good player here. Maybe he'd be good again. But he's a fallback that'd be playing on a line that right now seems filled with them.
Radio Show: Dan Dakich at 3:20 and UD play-by-play guy Larry Hansgen at 4:20 are among today's guests. Plus, I'm going to make James track down famous alums from every school playing against one of our local teams. Join us today at 3:05 on ESPN1530.
Also...We're on Thursday morning from the Holy Grail. Join us.