(Photo: Getty Images)
By the time you read this - if you're a UC fan - chances are you've already moved on to either focusing on what's next for the Bearcats, Maybe you'er thinking about going, and I'd be lying if I wasn't thinking ahead to what St. Patty's Day night in Nashville might be like with both Cincinnati schools playing the following day.
Once the bracket comes out, one of two things happens. The bitching commences and the long, agonizing wait to the NCAA Tournament begins. This year, there's no reason to complain, at least not for Cincinnati fans. And right now, Friday seems like it's too far in the distance to even fathom.
But before we get too consumed with what this weekend - and hopefully, beyond - has in store for the Bearcats, this UC fan is gonna take just a second and talk about this season and I've liked it so much.
And trust me, I don't mean to do this at the expense of the outstanding season the Xavier Musketeers have had, nor am I doing this in an effort to blow past the marvelous SEC Tournament run the UK Wildcats put together. And in an effort to keep everyone off my back, here's where I will mention that Chris Holtmann's first season in Columbus deserves to be extended by another game or two.
But speaking as a UC diehard, this season has been a blast. If you love the Bearcats, I hope you've enjoyed it as thoroughly as I have.
This season has been the most fun I've had rooting for the Bearcats since Kenyon Martin's senior season. Not just because the team has been good, but because all throughout this season, there's been a building sense that things that you don't expect to go Cincinnati's way actually will.
Last week, they won a game against Wichita State that seemed destined to not go their way.
Yesterday, they won a game against a quality Houston club when it felt like things were going to conspire against them. They got off to a great start, allowed the Cougars to come back, then went dormant offensively as fatigue seemed to set in.
There was a brief stretch when it felt like the program's first conference tournament title since 2004 wasn't meant to be. With 3:19 remaing, the Bearcats led by a point and had Gary Clark at the free throw line. Gary was fantastic yesterday, but he missed two free throws that would've added to UC's lead. On their following possession, the Cats committed a shot clock violation. Seconds later, Houston took a one-point lead, then added to it on a Devin Davis jumper with 1:15 left.
UC would erase that lead on a Kyle Washington three. I'm not allowed to type on this page the things that Kyle's shot selection and defense has made me either mutter under my breath or full-out scream. I'm also not able to spell what sound came out of my mouth when Kyle drained his game-tying three.
After Washington's trey, the Bearcats dodged some bullets before taking a one-point lead on Gary Clark's free throw with 4.3 seconds left. During the ensuing timeout, which lasted for about an hour, Houston was set to go the length of the floor for the game-winning, soul-crushing bucket.
Except that Rob Gray flung the ball out of bounds, triggering a happy dance by me that you'd have to pay me a large chunk of money to repeat. It was exactly the kind of thing that happened to a UC basketball team that I've spent my entire life expecting to not happen to a UC basketball team.
It was the kind of play that I'm not quite starting to expect to go Cincinnati's way, but it was the kind of play I'm getting used to at least thinking could go Cincinnati's way.
That's not a bad feeling to have heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Here's Some Stuff for today....
It's refreshing not hearing either UC or XU fans piss and moan about where their teams are headed or who their teams have to play. Take care of your business, and the committee rewards you. I rarely spend much time griping about things like seeding and placement, because to me, teams have four months to do as much as possible to put those things in the committee's hands. When you have the kind of seasons the Bearcats and Musketeers have had, there really isn't much the committee can do to you.
It's refreshing not hearing coaches of teams from high-major programs that didn't get in go on and on and on and on and on about how their teams got screwed. This has been the most pleasant byproduct of the expansion to 68 teams.
The Cleveland Browns are nowhere close to being better than the Cincinnati Bengals. However, right now, they might be more interesting.
Stop me if you've heard this before. Brandon Finnegan and Anthont DeSclafani are dealing with soreness. Obviously, I hope they're both okay, but when I get frowny faces from folks when I say that I believe the Reds will lost 90+ games, I ask how they can count on health and effectiveness - two things that are mutually exclusive - from Finnegan, DeSclafani, and Homer Bailey.
Usually, there's no response.
Those three guys can't be counted on, at least not yet. Until they can be, or at least until some other trio can be, most of us are gonna assume that the Reds are still very, very far away from contending.
Both Disco and Finny ending up with injuries would be devastating.
Here's a thought. Joe Morgan, Barry Larkin, Lou Piniella, Delino DeShields and Billy Hatcher have all been giving Billy Hamilton special instruction this spring. So far, Billy has just one hit in Cactus League games.
Maybe, you know, Billy just isn't a good hitter?
I don't believe for a second that Adam Jones has played his last game as a Bengal. I do believe that cutting him loose, renegotiating, and using the money they save on free agents is exactly the kind of move I've been begging for them to make, not just with Adam, but with other past-their-prime guys.
Although it remains to be seen what happens with that money.
Some Stuff I Like....
I think we spend way too much time around here talking about the Cleveland Browns (I include myself when I say "we.") But this is a good look at everything they did over the weekend.
Here's everything you ever wanted to know about James Rapien.
This year's NCAA Tournament backet was tough to nitpick....this guy tries to do it anyway.
Some Stuff About Me...
Radio Show: Wall to wall college basketball...with maybe some Bengals free agency and an update from Goodyear thrown in. Join us this afternoon on ESPN1530, with Cincy 3:60 at noon, and then my show at 3:05.
Also...we are doing a show from the Holy Grail next Thursday before the NCAA Tournament, from 10:00 until 12:00. The first 64 in the door will get a team drawn at random. If your team wins the national title, you win a weekend golf getaway from French Lick Resort. I hope to see you there.
ICYMI....I wrote this over the weekend for The Athletic: The Cincinnati Gardens Deserved A Much Better Finale.