Good Monday Morning!
We were talking about this other day at work. In between the six and eleven o’clock newscasts, there’s a little bit of downtime when you can kick around a few topics. Between three and six, it’s a little hectic. After six, things tend to even out. So here’s what came up.
If you’re the university of Cincinnati, would you not want to follow the model Xavier has perfected? Xavier goes to the NCAA Tournament every year, rarely misses a trip. It builds it’s team around good shooters and playing well without the ball. Sometimes it wins it’s conference regular season championship. Sometimes, not quite so often, it wins its conference tournament. But always it seems, it makes the NCAA Tournament. It usually wins a game, maybe two, gets to the elite 8 every so often and that’s it. It’d like to win the NCAA Championship, what team wouldn’t. But its fan base seems happy with a strong regular season and not being one and one in the Tournament.
So somebody at channel 5 said why doesn’t UC adopt the same strategy. No pretense of building a championship team, just get to the Tournament and win a game or two. Everybody would get off Mick’s back, you play games until the final couple of weekends of the season.
Is that a fair assessment of Xavier? Is it settling and opting for keeping the natives at rest, rather than restless?
Think about what Xavier does, historically. It recruits players that big time schools take a pass on. Jason Love fits that description. Somebody, Sean Miller, one of his assistants saw raw talent in Love and took a flyer on him. Go back in Xavier’s basketball history, it happens all the time. UC, it seems historically, gets caught up in a player’s pedigree. Now to be fair, Xavier gets players that other schools go after and UC will take a guy that other schools pass on. Kenyon Martin wasn’t pursued heavily by a lot of teams.
But, by and large, Xavier has a system, seems to be the same system regardless of the head coach, and finds players to fit.
This was the discussion we were having the other day.
UC seems to get caught up in labels. Forever, whether it’s Mick, or Huggins or Andy Kennedy, we hear about a player being a ‘leaper’ or his great ‘athleticism’. At Xavier, it’s whether or not the kid can play basketball.
Playing basketball is a lot of things. But one of the most important things is putting the basketball into the net. UC has struggled a lot to find guys who can do that. Xavier never seems to be in need of a scorer. Holloway’s not hitting, there’s Redford. Lyons gets hurt or gets into foul trouble, there’s Crawford.
Well, wait a minute now somebody else said, there’s a huge difference between the kinds of players Xavier needs to recruit to win the Atlantic 10 and the kinds of players UC needs to recruit to win the Big East. UC plays in a better conference. It needs better player than Xavier recruits.
Is the Big East a better conference than the A-10? Yeah. But you get more bids to the NCAA Tournament every year from the Big East than what the A-10 gets. Everyone was howling at me when I said back in January the Atlantic 10 would get two, maybe three bids. Joe Lunardi, mister bracketology was on this program a month ago right after he wrote that the A-10 would get six team in. Told me, you, that day it’d be four minimum. They got three. The Big East got eight.
So the point of the argument was you get eight chances to make the Tournament, you don’t’ have to be a great team to make it from the Big East. You basically have to be a game better than ‘500’ inside your conference. Georgetown and Notre Dame made the tournament this year with 23 wins and 10-8 conference records. That’s it.. You don’t even have to contend for your conference championship. All you have to do to satisfy your fan base is ‘get in’. If you get in and get the right match ups, you might win one, maybe two. This is what Xavier seems to do every year. Why not, if you’re UC follow that blueprint.
So if I’m Mick Cronin, I’m not trying to build a championship team for next season. I’m not telling anyone that of course. I’m building a team that’ll win ten games inside of my conference and about 24 total and simply qualify for the Tournament. At least for awhile, it'll get the wolves off his back.
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