Every day there are three things, here are those three things.
1) The Bearcats. Before we get to yesterday's game, I've already written about Mick Cronin's postgame comments, what he meant by them, and why made them.
As for the game that preceded Mick at the podium and Gary with Dan and Terry, there was a lot to like....
*Jarron Cumberland. Yes, his shot-making was crucial, especially during a stretch when Tulsa seemingly couldn't miss, but equally important was how he set up teammates, handing out eight assists. Cumberland is both this team's most creative passer and the guy most likely to make things happen when he's running the break. If the Bearcats are going to be at their best next month, it'd be a big help to have the Jarron Cumberland who showed up against Tulsa.
*The point guards. As much as "Unleash Cane" has become the latest cause célèbre for Bearcats fans (myself included), the idea is for both Cane Broome and Justin Jenifer to play effectively.
Both were effective yesterday, with the pair combining for 21 points on seven of nine shooting, nine assists, and two turnovers in 36 total minutes. There were no blown defensive assignments, and the offense was mostly fluid no matter which player was on the floor. Both guards are going to play. The Bearcats will be better off if both play well.
*Trevon Scott. He scored zero points in 21 minutes and yet he was one of the most important players on the floor, with his hustle, his defense, and his rebounding. When UC has allowed leads to evaporate, it's often been because the bench has allowed opponents to come back on them. Tre might not do much to help against good teams offensively, but if he can enter the game and do the things he did yesterday, the second unit will have gotten an important boost.
*Gary Clark. Not sure what made me want to cry more....listening to the BB&T Arena crowd chant Gary's name during the Senior Day ceremony, hearing his postgame interview, or thinking about what watching UC basketball next year will be like without him.
2) College basketball, the FBI, and questions. On Friday, Yahoo Sports dropped this story, which I'm sure you've seen by now. In it, it's revealed that a former ASM Sports associate listed Edmond Sumner's name on an expense report, indicating that either he or his father was given $7,000.
Friday night, there was this, from ESPN.....
FBI wiretaps intercepted telephone conversations between Arizona coach Sean Miller and Christian Dawkins, a key figure in the FBI's investigation into college basketball corruption, in which Miller discussed paying $100,000 to ensure star freshman Deandre Ayton signed with the Wildcats.
Let's deal with the first story. If you read the Yahoo piece and came to the conclusion that Xavier University and its coaches are cheating, you're interpreting it differently than I am. I see nothing that suggests that Chris Mack or his assistants have done anything wrong, and I believe the statement he made to Yahoo that's included in the story.
But it's fair to wonder if, even unknowingly, Xavier used an ineligible player, and if they did, what their consequences will be. It's fair to ask questions as this FBI probe continues, and as understandably uncomfortable as this whole thing might make you if you're a Xavier fan, when one of your former players has their name appearing on a document that's being reviewed by the Feds, we don't just sweep it under the rug and move on.
At the same time, if for whatever reason you've been following this whole story hoping for something that would reveal Xavier to be violating rules, I don't think you've found what you're looking for in the Yahoo piece.
On to Sean Miller...
It is also fair to ask questions about him, given the seriousness of what he's being accused of, and for our purposes, where his head coaching career started. If he is indeed guilty of committing major NCAA (not to mention Federal) infractions, at what point did he go from compliant, rule-abiding college basketball coach to being a cheater? Was it within the last couple of years? Was it when he took the job at Arizona? Was it prior to him moving to Tuscon?
If you caught your wife cheating on you, wouldn't one of your first questions be about how long her affair had been going on? If your boss found out that someone was stealing from the workplace, wouldn't they want to know how long the thievery had been happening? Had they stolen from previous employers?
It is fair to wonder if Sean Miller was engaged in the same activities he's apparently been engaged in to recruit and retain players while at Arizona when he was the head coach at Xavier. And it is fair to wonder who else here might have been helping him break rules, if he was indeed breaking them. Personally, I believe the combination of pressure to win at Arizona and accessibility to large amounts of money to help broker players took a coach who was clean his entire career and made him start to cheat. But you're not being unfair if you at least want an assurance that Miller did nothing to compromise XU's basketball program. I want that assurance.
At the same time
It is not fair to go ahead and just assume that Sean Miller was cheating while at Xavier. It is not fair to conclude, without any factual basis to go by, that he was running a renegade program while coaching the Musketeers. The only thing connecting XU to any impropriety is that - to the best of our knowledge - the school's former head coach is being investigated for things he may have done in his current (and soon to be former) job.
It is fair to ask questions about Sean Miller and his time at Xavier, though. Even if those questions create some discomfort. As Paul Daughtery wrote on Friday, referring to Xavier as "collateral damage," XU doesn't come close to appearing in the wrong here, but what's being reported is a problem - hopefully a very temporary one - for the school, its basketball program, and the people in charge of it.
3) The Norse. Last year, when NKU made the program's first NCAA Tournament as a Division 1 member, was great. And hopefully John Brannen's team repeats the feat in Detroit next week.
But I believe that winning regular season conference titles are not only undervalued by fans, but are the true mark of a team's quality, depth, toughness, and coaching.
NKU won the Horizon League regular season title yesterday with a 75-56 victory at IUPUI, finishing off what was a great race for the championship while earning the top seed in the league tournament.
There is no better success story in local college basketball than that of the NKU Norse.
To go in six seasons from D1 newbie and also-ran in a misfit league to the NCAA Tournament and now, a first place finish in the Horizon League all while changing coaches and fighting an uphill battle for attention is pretty remarkable.
The Norse play a pretty entertaining brand of ball, and most important, a winning one. John Brannen toils rather anonymously in the shadow of guys like Mick Cronin and Chris Mack, but he's quietly building not only a very good program, but a quality resume. Last night, upon their return to campus from Indianapolis, Norse players celebrated their championship but cutting down the nets....
.@NKUNorseMBB cut down the nets in an impromptu ceremony after returning home from IUPUI and clinching the outright 2017-18 Horizon League Regular Season Championship on Sunday! #NorseUp #TakeNotice pic.twitter.com/1dLMrj9FdE— NKU Norse (@NKUNorse) February 26, 2018
Radio Show: NKU Head Coach John Brannen joins me at 5:45. We'll head to Goodyear for the latest on the Reds. And I'll listen to people tell me why they hate Mick Cronin. The fun starts at 3:05 on ESPN1530.
Recommended Link Of The Day: Hey, NCAA, This is Your Fault