larry davis

Part 2 of 3-Game Payback Tour Complete; Bearcats Backhand Tulsa, 56-47

Yak-yak!

Yak-yak!

Can I get a scowl, a left-handed fist pump and a “That’s what I’m talkin’ about” from you? Farad Cobb, Larry Davis, Mick Cronin and the rest of the Cincinnati Basketball program deserve those three things right about now.

Fifteen years after the Tulsa Golden Hurricane knocked UC out of the NCAA Tournament (the year Kenyon Martin broke his leg and the Committee saw fit to relegate the Bearcats to a #2 seed matched up with 7-seed/#12-in-the-country Tulsa in the second round!), UC may have in effect done the same to Frank Haith’s team Wednesday night.

Led by your boy “Farad Salad” (Cobb), who poured in a career-high 22 points (with 2 steals and nary a turnover), the Bearcats went down to Tulsa and suffocated the first place team in the American Conference in front of their home crowd. The final score was UC 56, Tulsa 47, but it should’ve been worse for the Golden Hurricane because seven of Tulsa’s points came on unplanned bank shots and the referees negated an Oc Ellis tip-in on suspicion of goaltending. So, the adjusted score would be UC 58, Tulsa 40. Beat Down.

Lock Down

Yet another Cincinnati road win over a tough opponent due to squeeze-the-life-out-of-you defense. Remember the post I wrote looking back over all the big road wins in the Cronin Era? Add this one to the list. Tulsa shot a wiggy-wack 34 percent from the field, and its two best players, James Woodard and Shaq Harrison, shot 7-for-28.

Balance & Options

In addition to Cobb’s diabolical double-deuce, Davis received strong contributions from Ellis (13 boards, 4 get-that-shit-outta-here’s), Troy “Clyde” Caupain (12 points, 6 boards, 2 dishes and no turnovers), Gary Clark (3-3 FG, 7 points, 8 snares and 2 helpers) and Kevin Johnson (8 points, 2 offensive rebounds and just one giveaway).

Dancin’?

This was an opportunity for the Bearcats to pretty much prove their worth for this year’s NCAA Tournament. Coming into the game, UC’s RPI was right around 50, a precarious number if history serves as any indicator. Well, after dispatching of Tulsa on the road, that ranking is currently in the mid-30’s, and UC now has six wins (three on the road) over the RPI Top 50. (Ohio State has only one, by the way. One. And they’re ranked!)

Is UC a lock for The Dance now? Perhaps. But Davis and his crew don’t care about that. One more leg on the Payback Tour to complete: Sunday at noon (EST) vs. Memphis (regular CBS!). The Tigers shellacked the Bearcats way back when, 63-50. It’s Jermaine Sanders’ Senior Day and it’s a chance for more payback. The way this team has been focused on scouting reports on defense, attacking on offense and extra effort on the glass, you’ve gotta like UC’s chances of a victory in Maine’s final home game as a Cincinnati Bearcat.

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3 Minute Preview Podcast: UConn Huskies (11-7) at Cincinnati Bearcats (14-5)

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Bearcats Grab Road Win; Jux Discovers Taste Heaven on UCF Campus

Sophomore guard Troy Caupain

Sophomore guard Troy Caupain

Central Florida’s campus is the home to a bar and grill called Burger U, and Burger U offers a side item that I had never heard of before. Well, actually, the side item is common, but the dipping sauce accompanying it was truly unique.

We’ll come back to that.

There was a basketball game played between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the UCF Knights in the arena just across the street from the heavenly side item that you’ll learn about shortly. The Bearcats (14-5, 5-2) traveled to Orlando without a conference road win to their credit. And although UCF (9-10, 2-6) is no stalwart, the Knights are no slouch, especially at home. Back on New Year’s Eve, UCF battled conference leader Tulsa for 40 minutes, only to lose by a single bucket. The Knights also played Top 20 RPI SMU tough, eventually losing by nine.

Cincinnati had played two road games in conference play and lost both—-to UConn and Memphis. The Bearcats turned the ball over 37 times combined in those two L’s, so the coaching staff no doubt preached valuing the basketball coming into the game at CFE Arena on Sunday.

UCF wasn’t scared. After a Daiquan Walker trey just after the 10:00 mark, the Knights took an 18-12 lead. But the Bearcats, as is customary, would clamp down, allowing just one more made field goal the rest of the first half, taking a 29-24 lead into the locker room.

The Bearcats came out with good energy in the 2nd half, and after a Farad “Salad” Cobb (more on that nickname later) steal and conversion with 12:35 to go, UC stretched its lead out to nine. But UCF answered with a thunderous right-handed slam by Kasey Wilson, a three-ball by Adonys Henriquez and a lay-up by Brandon Goodwin, while UC managed a single free throw by Shaq “Captain 1-For-2” Thomas.

We’ve got a ballgame. UC 42, UCF 39.

But then Troy “Clyde” Caupain took over, scoring the next five for UC while Goodwin notched a bucket in between, and then a three by Kevin Johnson stretched UC’s lead out to nine again. From there, the Bearcats played exceptional defense and made their free throws down the stretch, eventually leaving the building with a 56-46 victory. UC committed just nine turnovers in the ballgame.

Not to be lost in the shuffle was the defensive gem right before Johnson’s triple. Kasey Wilson drove the lane hard, went up for the shot……and was REJECTED by Jermaine “Far Rockaway Style” Sanders with the right hand. That five-point swing likely sealed the win for Larry Davis and the ‘Cats.

UC now sits at #28 in the RPI (ESPN.com) and third place in the American Conference. A home game against UConn looms this coming Thursday.

Now, back to Burger U on UCF’s campus. The taste-bud-tantalizing side dish was an order of waffle sweet potato fries with marshmallow dipping sauce. Oh baby. Oh baby. I’m telling you. If UC plays in Orlando next season, you better get your behind down there and get yourself some-a that. You’ll thank me repeatedly for the rest of your natural life.

(P.S. As for “Farad Salad” —- I was out with friends down here in Tampa and Cobb salad was on the menu, so I asked, “Do you think when it’s all said and done, it’ll be called a Farad salad?” After taking a few seconds to realize what I meant, laughter followed by a token “You’re out of your mind, Jux” declaration ensued. So if you see or hear me refer to Farad Cobb as “Salad,” now you know why.)

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What Cincinnati Must Do (And Avoid) To Make Its 5th Straight NCAA Tournament

Coreontae DeBerry (#22) and Octavious Ellis (#2)

Coreontae DeBerry and “Oc” Ellis

After suffering its second blowout of the season on Dec. 20, this time to VCU, Cincinnati sat at 7-3 with a head coach out of commission. At that point, hearing “the Cincinnati Bearcats” called on Selection Sunday for the fifth straight season seemed unlikely.

But the Bearcats did have the home victory over #18 San Diego State in the “quality win” category. And as head coach Mick Cronin’s situation settled and associate head coach Larry Davis assumed the leadership role, UC beat the tar out of NC State in Raleigh and followed that up with a Farad-Cobb-sparked 56-50 muscle flex against arguably the best team in the American Conference, hall of famer Larry Brown’s SMU Mustangs.

Now, Cincinnati sits in the mid-30’s in the RPI. For those of you not familiar, the RPI stands for Ratings Percentage Index. It’s a computer ranking system that takes into account your winning percentage, your opponents’ winning percentage and your opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage, as well as a few other factors. The NCAA Tournament selection committee looks to RPI when deciding whether or not to invite a fringe team to the Dance. If your RPI ranking is 40 or below, you’re almost a shoe-in.

So here’s the issue for the now-Larry-Davis-led Bearcats: The American Conference is, all things considered, a pile of garbage. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. Let’s just say that UC will have a hard time boosting its RPI ranking the rest of the way, and it will desperately need to guard against that ranking dropping like a sack of potatoes.

Tonight’s game (Tuesday, 7:00, ESPNU: Mike Couzens [who??] and Brooke Weisbrod on the call) will without a doubt hurt UC’s RPI ranking, win or lose. East Carolina comes to Fifth Third Arena sitting at #283. Cincinnati simply cannot lose this game. It’s out of the question. And so we’ll be watching on pins and needles, shoulders tense and fists clenched, sphincters coiled, until, hopefully, the game ends with more points on UC’s side of the scoreboard. And that will be the case in nearly every game the rest of the regular season.

Take a look at the RPI for each team in the American Conference:

Team RPI
Temple 33 Won at UConn
Cincinnati 34 They have Farad Cobb
SMU 39 My pick to win league
Tulsa 40 (I don’t know how)
Xavier 49 UC’s final non-conference game
UConn 84 Huskies usually wayyyy higher
Tulane 103 Sleeper team
Memphis 105 9 new players
South Florida 199 Get them away from us already
Houston 228 New coach is Kelvin Sampson
Central Fla 238 Pesky but not very good
East Carolina 283 RPI-killer

After battling Jeff Lebo’s East Carolina Pirates, the Bearcats then go to UConn (#84) and Memphis (#105). It’s tough to ask an inexperienced team to grab a sweep on the road, especially against UConn and Memphis, regardless of what kind of seasons the Huskies and Tigers are having to this point. But sh*t, man, you can’t afford to lose to teams near the bottom or outside of the Top 100.

The good news is that the Temple Owls surprised everybody by waxing Kansas by 25 a week and a half ago, so their RPI should hover in the 30’s as long as Fran Dunphy’s boys don’t lose to somebody from the bottom of the standings either.

In my estimation, here’s what has to happen for the Bearcats to make it to the NCAA Tournament (if Oc Ellis and the crew do not win the conference tournament):

1) Undefeated at home
2) Beat Xavier
3) 3 or 4 losses at the most (2 loss max to UConn/Tulane/Memphis)
4) 0 losses to USF, HOU, UCF, ECU

Gonna be a lot of “sweatin’ ’em out,” huh?

We continue the journey tonight, at home, against East Carolina. A loss is out of the question. And that will be the theme for nearly every game the rest of the way. But that can be a good thing, because if you’re playing for your life for two months, and you do sneak into the brackets, you’re tested and you’ve built enough toughness to win some more games.

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