Cincinnati opened up the first game of February with a win over the Seton Hall Pirates, moving their record to 18 – 4 with a 6 – 3 Big East record. Despite a couple of tough losses to Syracuse, New Mexico, and St. John’s the Bearcats were clear locks for an NCAA tournament bid. Now three weeks and 4 losses later UC is firmly on the bubble after falling to 7 – 7 in the conference with the loss to the UConn Huskies tonight.
This time around I can’t find a reason to put the blame on Mick Cronin. He drew up plays and forced his guards to move the ball inside and out as well as drive the lane. Unlike against Georgetown they attacked the rim and kept the UConn defense out of sorts for most of the evening. But when the lights shined the brightest Cronin’s stars dimmed. Cashmere Wright didn’t make a bucket in overtime. Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker weren’t much better scoring just 6 points during that frame, which wasn’t nearly enough to keep up with Shabazz Napier who made three clutch shots from beyond the arc to seal UConn’s victory. In the end players the Huskies lean on in crunch time stepped up while those on the Bearcats didn’t answer the call, and it cost them tonight.
So what next? Well the road doesn’t get much easier from here for Cincinnati. They are in the midst of an extremely difficult stretch that will see them take on UConn again, Louisville, and Notre Dame, who they will play on Sunday. After a few tough losses, I can understand why those games look like daunting tasks for this team. But the Bearcats showed encouraging signs of breaking out of their offensive funk tonight and the Cincy big men were outright dominant against UConn. If Mick Cronin, the magician that he is, can get his team to put it all together the Bearcats can still save this season.