Every day there are three things, here are those three things.
This was gonna be the greatest college basketball weekend in the history of Cincinnati!
That's what we said. NKU was gonna provide a nice little appetizer with a key Horizon league tilt at Wright State, then the main courses would be served up with Xavier/Villanova and UC/Wichita State. Two top-five teams hosting nationally ranked opponents! What could be better?!
(Photo: Getty Images)
1) The Bearcats. As was the case when UC lost to Houston last Thursday, their loss to Wichita Stat, in a vacuum, is no big deal. A really good Shockers team came in and beat the Bearcats by four in a hotly-contested, entertaining game in front of a raucous BB&T Arena crowd. BUT....
That loss was pretty damaging, especially coupled with what happened against the Cougars, when UC blew and early 13-point lead before falling on the road.
Any hopes of a one seed in the NCAA Tournament, which was a distinct possibility one week ago, have been seemingly extinguished.
An unshared regular season conference title, which seemed like an inevitability not long ago, is very, very much in doubt, as is the number one seed in the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
And doubters of the Bearcats - and there are many - have all the fuel they need.
That last one might not matter much - those who aren't buying to UC being a major contender in March won't be dissuaded from how they feel until the Bearcats actually make a run - but the reality is that most people who are hedging their bets on Cincinnati being a second weekend or deeper team are doing so because they're not sure the Cats can score enough to keep up against really good teams.
Not that Cincinnati's offense was the only issue on Sunday. You expect the Bearcats to win when they score more than 70, especially at home. They allowed Wichita State to shoot nearly 53 percent, they barely maintained an edge on the glass, and Mick Cronin was justifiably upset over his team's uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns.
And yet, the game was there for the taking had UC executed at least a little better offensively, especially down the stretch. There was a startling amount of missed open looks as well as a few possessions that seemed, well, broken. For the second consecutive game, the Bearcats struggled to hit open threes while lacking anyone (besides, at times, Cane Broome) who could create on their own. Add the very troubling lack of offensive rebounding as well as the fact that UC seemed almost surprised by Wichita State's toughness and physicality, and you understand why I was often shaking my head while sitting courtside.
The immediate reactions after the game on
The Fellowship Of The Miserable UC Twitter was either about how these last two losses will affect NCAA seeding or that the Bearcats are screwed no matter what the selection committee does with them.
I tend to worry less about things like seeding and more about actual basketball, although I'll admit that it's hard to not think about what could've been in relation to their eventual seed had they won these last two games. And I'm not abandoning the idea that this team can win games in the NCAA Tournament, even as dismayed as I am by what's happened the last two weeks.
There was talk after the game about UC re-restablishing its identity, and I walked about of BB&T Arena hoping that their three most experienced players - Clark, Evans, and Washington - each of whom contributed to the disappointment - could do what's needed on and off the court to get the season back on track.
But with losses in what might be considered UC's four most difficult games this season, the Bearcats have some work to do to quiet the skeptics.
2) The Musketeers. Villanova can be staggeringly good at times.
There's my big takeaway.
(Photo: Getty Images)
On Saturday, the Wildcats hit 47 percent of their threes, shot 60.3 percent from the field, had six turnovers and most impressive, Villanova had 25 assists.
No fair observer would call the Musketeers a good defensive team, but I don't even think Xavier defended that poorly. Instead, Villanova hit a bunch of threes in the first half, then executed almost flawlessly at times to keep XU's second half run (which was fueled by their defense) from completely erasing their lead. There was a Tyrique Jones miss right before the weird Omari Spellman/Paul Scruggs mini-confrontation that could've cut the 'Nova lead to one, which might have changed things, but honestly, once the Wildcats started building their lead in the first half, it never felt like the Musketeers were going to win.
If you want to harp on what Xavier didn't do well, you could focus on the way ball movement came to stop as Villanova rebuilt its lead in the second half, and how demoralized the Musketeers looked once it started to appear that their comeback wasn't going to be enough.
But really, Saturday's game was about how good Villanova is.
If you're trying to project ahead to March, using what happened at the Cintas Center on Saturday, simply hope that Xavier's doesn't play them.
3) Joey Votto. Conscience of the fan. From Cincinnati.com....
“I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball,” Votto said. “I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction."
Yes, Joey. Yes we are.
Yes, Joey. Yes it does.
Radio Show: It's President's Day, which I always celebrate so I'm off today. Back at it tomorrow on ESPN1530.
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