Sleeping with the Enemy: The Bearcats of Cincinnati

THE GLOBAL PHENOMENON is wrapping up its monumental coverage of three games in six days as the Cincinnati Bearcats mope into Verizon to face the Hoyas tonight. To bring you the best Bearcat bonanza of all-time, we're using not one but two Cincy sources to bring the noise. Special thanks to Down the Drive and the Bearcats Blog for providing answers to our hard-hitting questions. Gents, this round's on us. Let's get to it.

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Tell us about the brawl. Just kidding, I'm sure you've discussed it enough. How do you expect Yancey Gates to perform now that his suspension is over? Do you think he will give Henry Sims trouble in the post?

DD:
Gates can give a lot of people trouble in the post particularly with the spacing afforded with the four guard offense. If the spacing is good and Gates is in the mood he can dominate games. He has shown some rust from being off for 6 games, as you would expect, and he still doesn't have Mick Cronin's trust. He wasn't a part of the crunch time rotation against St. John's.

BB:
From what we've seen so far, Gates is playing pretty much like he was when he left. He might be shooting a little better, because he gets 12-15 footers that are wide open because of the spread out offense. Of course you would want your 6-9 player getting the ball on the block every once in a while, but hey, any time you can shoot 30 three pointers, you just have to do that instead.

Gates could give Sims trouble in the post. He's not the best defender in the world, but he uses all his frame to guard. Except his shins. I wouldn't be surprised if Justin Jackson, a more active defender, ended up on Sims quite a bit. The size issue is a pretty big key. UC has thrived in the 4 guard, 1 big offense. When they have Jackson with Gates, the offense just isn't as good. I expect some zone with the shorter lineup.

More fun with Cincy after The Jump:

Envision a battle royale between Xavier, Cincinnati, Georgetown, and the Bayi Rockets. Who comes out victorious?

DD:
That's a tough call to make. Xavier loses. That much is for sure. All they are really good at is pushing over defenseless players and crawling on their knees out of the impact zone. Not the effort you want to see in a massive riot/fight. UC is probably good in a short burst, but maintaining that higher level of activity can be struggle. So between the Rockets and the Hoyas I guess it goes down to the home court advantage. An underrated aspect in all fights.

BB:
You can call me a homer, but I'm going to say Cincinnati. While Bayi used the isolate and stomp strategy, the Bearcats used the sucker punch strategy much better. Not only that, but they had a guy stomp a man while he was down. Plus, they have the wildcard who runs off the bench throwing punches. I watched the Georgetown brawl again. If Bayi could have used the chairs effectively, they would be the hypothetical winners.

What is the best case scenario for Cincinnati this year? What is the worst case?

DD:
Hard to tell because the sample size for this team being fully healthy is oh so small. Jaquon Parker and Cheikh Mbodj missed several games early in the year due to injury. They both got back just in time for the Xavier game and then all hell breaks loose with the fight and then Mbodj and Gates miss six games. The potential is there for a 12 or 13 win Big East season. But as today's loss shows there is an inherent risk to the Bearcats new style of play. I wouldn't be totally surprised to see a collapse down the stretch falling to the NIT or some other tournament. I am leaning to 10 or so Big East wins with an outside chance at the tournament right now. That could always change.

BB:
The best case for this season is making the NCAA tournament and making the Sweet 16. A win more than last year would be an improvement. The worst case would be losing to every above average team in the Big East and going to the NIT. Expectations were high this year. Not making the NCAAs would be a pretty big blow.

Grade Mick Cronin on a scale of 1-10. What is the best thing he has brought to the program? What is the worst thing?

DD:
For his entire tenure I would give him a 9. The way that he built this program back up from nothing. He inhereted a mess, a program that basically didn't do any recruiting for two years and was getting ready to enter the biggest and best basketball conference in the country. Cronin built the program back up, and what's more he did it the right way. He didn't take shortcuts. He built methodically. Maybe not as quickly as everyone would have liked. But looking back it's hard not to marvel at what he has done. Off the court he is the perfect guy for this job. He might not be the brightest coach on the court, but as a representative for this University he is as good as it gets.

BB:
I'd give him a 7. The best thing he's brought back to the program is a stability. He's turned Cincinnati back into a program where being Cincinnati means something. It took a little while, but UC is out of the Big East cellar and in the middle of the pack. He's got to take the next step to the top now.

The worst thing he's brought to Cincinnati is no offense. I don't remember his teams at Murray State being so inept at times offensively. That was a bugaboo last season. That's been a problem in every loss this season. If you look at the offense now, it's kind of the Louisville way of bombing a ton of 3s and hope they go in. If they don't, then it's oh no, we are going to lose or this game is going to be ugly.

If you were to start your own university, which Big East coach would you want running your basketball program? Who is your last choice of the Big East coaches?

DD:
It would probably be Mike Brey. I love Notre Dame's style of play and I think that the way that he has managed to thrive at Notre Dame despite the restrictions that are inherent with coaching at a place like Notre Dame. As for the worst hard to tell but I guess Stan Heath would fit.

BB:
I would pick Boeheim. 95% of that is for the press conferences. My second choice would be Jamie Dixon, but really, he's Bob Huggins of the 90s. Highly ranked teams and they all flame out every March, except Huggins has 2 Final Fours.

My last choice is Stan Heath. Providence will recruit an NBA player or two, DePaul seems like they have some hope. South Florida is just there.

Who are the team's best scorers and rebounders? Who has been the biggest surprise? Who has been the biggest disappointment?

DD:
The top scorer is Sean Kilpatrick. Cronin likes to say that he falls out of bed and scores 10 points. He has gone for double digits in 14 of the Bearcats 16 games. Gates is the lead man on the boards, though the Bearcats guards really do get after it on the boards. The biggest surprise has been Jaquon Parker. He barely played last year and was injured early in the season. But once he got healthy he has been a god send. He has guarded power forwards and held his own as a 6'3 210 guard forced to play as a forward. As for a disappointment its Justin Jackson he was one of my favorite guys last year because he played hard and aggressive basketball. This year he has not been himself. Playing without confidence and making at least 4 WTF decisions a game and picking up a foul a minute, or so it seems. I expected more from Jackson.

BB:
The best scorers are Sean Kilpatrick, Gates and probably Dion Dixon. I say Dixon because he's gonna shoot, and he's gonna shoot a lot. Cashmere Wright has been pretty good as well. Rebounding wise, it's Gates and JaQuon Parker. Parker rebounds surprisingly well for a 6-3 guard playing down low. Kilpatrick has pulled in around 6 boards a game in Big East play.

The biggest surprise has been Parker. He had a year from hell as a sophomore, making 9 shots all season. Now he's averaging 10.6 points a game on 48% shooting. He's been great from 3, great on the glass, and a leader on the floor. His return coincided with the suspensions and as a result, he's stood out in a positive way.

The biggest disappointment has been Dion Dixon. His shot selection is the reason why. When he takes 2s, he's hitting 48% from the floor and is the only Bearcat guard who will draw fouls. The problem is that he loves shooting 3s. They just aren't falling this year. He's at 26%. Cashmere Wright has 6 more makes than Dixon in 5 less attempts. Parker has 6 less makes than Dixon in 54 less attempts. You hope your seniors take the next step, but Dixon has pretty much been the same player as last year, except he shoots more.

Outside of what transpired this year, tell me why Cincinnati-Xavier is the best rivalry in college basketball?

DD:
The fan bases hate each other. Thats always a huge plus in a rivalry. There is the big brother / little brother dynamic. Every season is closely fought basketball and most games go down to the wire. The shootout really divides the city in half which is a really unique thing in college sports. There are several cross city rivalries in college basketball, but none of them vibrate with anything approaching the frequency of the UC / Xavier series.

BB:
The game is unpredictable every year. Since the 70s, the longest winning streak by either team has been 3 games. There has been a blowout sprinkled in, but for the most part you are getting a tightly contested game that comes down to the wire. Unfortunately, Cincinnati being ranked very high and losing to Xavier helped put the game on the national scope. One of the Shootouts I remember the most fondly is when Steve Logan's team beat Xavier by 20. It followed back to back heart breakers and was cathartic for the players and fans to finally just destroy X. Getting smack talked by Xavier's ugly girls is horrible. coughIThinkLouisvilleKentuckyIsBettercough.

What are your emotions towards Bob Huggins when you see him on the opposing sideline?

DD:
I am over it. I loved the Huggins years, I enjoyed what he brought to the University. His program was a huge reason why the Bearcats are even in the Big East. I understand all of that. But I still feel no continuing and underlying adulation towards the man. He left his mark here. But he has moved on, and so has UC.

BB:
The game at West Virginia was so weird at first, then it was very sweet when Cincinnati beat the hell out of West Virginia. The closing of the book moment was Huggins return to the Shoe. There was a nice video package before the game. And UC won. Since then, he's pretty much been another coach. I am still fond of him and his work, but I don't really care if West Virginia wins or loses.

I've never seen such varied reactions to a foodspot like Skyline Chili. What are your feelings on it?

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via esrati.com

DD:
Hate it, hate it, hate it. I am not a native of Cincinnati, so I didn't grow up on the stuff and I never saw the appeal. Basically I feel the same way about people who like Skyline and people who like Glee, like I can not relate to them in any meaningful way. And yes that is slightly hyperbolic.

BB:
I'm a fan. It helped a great deal that my parents liked it and I grew up near one. If Skyline didn't get the hype machine behind it, I'm sure people wouldn't rail against it like monsters. Gold Star sucks.

Imagine that tomorrow you are going to have your last meal in Cincinnati. Where are you going and what are you ordering?

DD:
I would go with a Habenero Burrito. I lived on their burritos for my last two and half years at UC. I still love the place. Good selection of beers, and great burritos. I am a man of simple tastes who like simple things. If I get one meal in Cincinnati that would be it.

BB:
I've talked about this with quite a few people. I would go to the Hofbrauhaus and get the wurstplate because that's what I always get and I'm boring. One of my friends said they would get McDonalds so they could eat in the car on the way to doing something more fun than sitting around and eating. I just wanted to shame them for their horrible suggestion.

When all is said and done, who are the top 4 teams in the Big East?

DD:
Syracuse, Louisville, Connecticut and Georgetown. I think those four will separate themselves from the field down the stretch.

BB:
Syracuse looks like far and away the best team. Georgetown is going to be up there. I think Louisville will bounce back. Picking UConn would be boring, so I'll say Seton Hall. They should win their next 4 going into their home game with Louisville and if they lose 5 conference games, they could still be 4th.

How do you see this game playing out? What is the final score?

DD:
I have to take Georgetown in this one. The Bearcats haven't done well in Washington in the past and I think Georgetown presents some match up problems for the Bearcats small ball approach.

BB:
I have a bad feeling it's going to be more like the game 2 years ago in DC than the one last year. Not quite by the margin, but by the losing. I don't know how this Cincinnati team plays on the road, and they haven't played that well lately. I'll go Georgetown 69-60.

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