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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cats Chat with NeumannKy!!!

I know, I know...The NeumannKy made promises that he didn't keep with regards to UC Basketball coverage and for that I feel about as worthless as a Xavier Grad in a job interview. I've had a lot going on lately getting re-acclimated to the ways of the working man. After 5 months of searching, I finally landed a gig in Cincy! I make no excuses and offer my apologies to the millions of NeumannKy fans that have been checking daily, holding out hope for another witty installment. Well, here it is Basketball Style! UC Basketball is The NeumannKy's first love and much like with your first love, The NeumannKy is going to ease into this "season-to-date" analysis gently and hope that when it ends, nobody walks away hurt. Without further rambling, here we go!

Brief Season Update
Ok, the CATS are 18-10 with 3 games remaining on the schedule and are guaranteed their first winning season under head coach Mick Cronin. Let's take a look at how they got there:

Non-Conference Play
The Cats finished non-conference play 10-3, feasting on the little sisters of the poor and NU (Nobody University). We knew it was going to be this way going into the season and the weak schedule came under a lot of criticism. Mick put it together purposely to bolster the confidence of a young team, something that didn't happen last season as the CATS had one of the tougher out of conference schedule's in the country. The NeumannKy is FIRMLY in the camp of those who believe the CATS should have challenged themselves a little more and here is why:

1) You learn NOTHING about a young team when you win by 30 at home every night - play defense, don't play defense, doesn't matter because every guy on your squad is better than every guy on their squad. The mistakes young players make don't resonnate because, hey, the team won by 30. Sure Alvin Mitchell can drain 3's against Western Illinois at home when we're up by 20, but can he hit one on the road against Georgetown in with 1 minute left when we're down by 2???

2) Young players need to learn how to play for 40 minutes - Almost always was the case in the non-conference schedule, the team went to the locker room with a big lead at half and then sleep walked through the second half. The 30 pt wins should have been 40 - 50 point wins. That's what good teams do. They are relentless. In the BE the games last 40 minutes and your team better be ready to play all 40 of them. Take a 5 minute break, and you're down 15.

3) There is no greater team building mechanism than adversity - This goes hand in hand with number 1. Adversity is great for a young team. They find out a lot about themselves and about their teammates. Adversity helps the players learn, grow and mature.

All in all, after the non-conference schedule, the Cats had the record The NeumannKy thought they would have. Not a bad loss in the 3, although The NeumannKy was really hoping they would pull it off against Xavier Mousketeers. The team however, did not improve much, if at all, over the course of the 13 games. They were lazy getting back on defense, sloppy with the basketball and couldn't maintain intensity for the entire game. The NeumannKy had a very bad feeling going into conference play.

Conference Play
Without question, this year's Big East Conference is THE BEST BASKETBALL CONFERENCE TOP TO BOTTOM in the entire country. Heck as I type this, Georgetown is pulling off a shocking upset over Villanova while Notre Dame is hanging tough against UCONN, all in the same week Providence knocked off #1 in the country Pitt. It's crazy. What do they say? Only a few teams have a shot at finishing first, but everyone in the league can finish 8th. Going into conference play, The NeumannKy was very concerned about how the Cats would fair. Lets dive into the belly of the BEast with a quick game by game recap to this point:

1) UC @ Marquette (L 84-50) - This one was ugly pretty much from the beginning. On the road against great guards with a lot of experience. The Cats showed zero defensive intensity and gave The NeumannKy nothing to feel good about. Was Deonta Vaughn even at this game???
2) UC vs. Providence (L 87-79) - Cats don't play defense yet again, allowing those crazy friars to sink one prayer after another. The NeumannKy wishes we had this one back as it may be the game that keeps us out of the big dance.
3) UC vs. UCONN (L 81 - 72) - Someone got out the paddles and shocked some life into the CATS because they played very very tough against one of the best teams in the country. Deonta Vaughn - 19 pts, 6 assists. The Cats still let the Huskies shoot over 50%.
4) UC vs. Rutgers (W 71-59) - Rutgers sucks. It's a must win. Cats pull it off at home pretty easily. Deonta leads the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals.
5) UC @ DEP (W 59-55) - A lackluster performance on the road against the worst team in the conference. At this point, the Cats have still not learned how to put a game away after they get a lead.
6) UC @ Providence (L 72-63) - Payback? Not quite. Mike Williams has another solid game. Deonta must have missed the flight...another BE road game where our best player fails to show up.
7) UC @ SJU (W 71-60) - Deonta, you decided to show up for at least one half today! This one looked ugly with the CATS down 11 at half, but they stepped up the defensive intensity in the 2nd half outscoring the Red Sprinkles in the second 43-21. DV puts in 18 of his 23 in the 2nd.
8) UC vs. Georgetown (W 65-57) - ADVERSITY BUILD TEAMS - After finding out that they can play at a high level and after a come from behind on the road, the CATS come out and STUN #23 Georgetown.
9) UC @ Villanova (L 71-50) - Not so fast guys...after winning 4 of 5 in league play, the Cats get taken to the woodshed in the 2nd half by one of the hotter teams in the league.
10) UC vs. Notre Damn (W 93-83) - Hey Luke Harongody and Kyle McAlarney, you guys are both bitches (pardon The NeumannKy's language). Love, Larry Davis.
11) UC @ Georgetown (W 64-62 in OT) - Payback for the Hoyas? Not so much. The Cats make a late game comeback to snag this one. Welcome to the NCAA discussion UC Bearcats!
12) UC vs. SJU (W 71-61) - All The NeumannKy wanted on his birthday was a win! The Cats take care of business at home.
13) UC @ Pitt (L 85-69) - Outmatched, out hustled...The Cats come to Earth and realize they have work to do to reach the upper echelon of the BEast.
14) UC vs. Louisville (L 72-63) - The NeumannKy's favorite game of the season and our biggest conference rival. After pulling off a stunning upset last year, L'ville comes to town and shows us who's boss...would have been a great tourny resume win, but the CATS were DOMINATED on the boards in the 2nd half. Mick throws the team out of the locker room in a blind rage following the game.
15) UC vs. WVU - THANK YOU HUGGS...but Mick has your number. Cats mount 2nd half comeback with a big performance by Yancy Gates to give the student (Mick) a 2-0 record against the teacher (Huggs). PS - the NeumannKy thinks you guys in the yellow suits looked stupid...hey everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

So the CATS are 18-10 and 8-7 in the BEast with 3 to play. The Cats will be favored in 2 of the 3. At 10-8, the CATS will firmly be on the NCAA bubble. 11-7 with no upsets in the conference tourny might be enough. An NCAA Tourny appearance puts the CATS 1 year ahead of schedule in the rebuilding process. I do recall people calling for Mick's head after the 0-3 BE start...those people have since disappeared. The next couple weeks will sure be exciting!

I know this post has been long, but The NeumannKy had to make up for lost time. Look for a "Player Development" special, NeumannKy style in the coming days (meaning I will be assigning as many funny nicknames as I can think of).

Until next time CATS fans! Keep rooting on the BEARCATS!

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