Tag Archives: Mick Cronin

The first college basketball stock report of 2013

Conference play is officially underway in most conferences, which means that it’s time to evaluate whether it’s time to buy, sell or hold stock in some of the country’s top college basketball teams.

BUY

Butler

Brad Stevens has the Butler Bulldogs looking up as they head into A-10 play. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1446736-butlers-brad-stevens-the-most-job-secure-coach-in-college-basketball)
Brad Stevens has the Butler Bulldogs looking up as they head into A-10 play. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1446736-butlers-brad-stevens-the-most-job-secure-coach-in-college-basketball)

The Bulldogs’ two losses came in the team’s first five games and since their loss to Illinois, who is currently ranked eleventh, Brad Stevens’ squad has rattled off nine straight victories, including a win over No. 1 Indiana. Butler is playing their trademark tough defense and the Bulldogs have wins over Marquette, North Carolina and Northwestern in addition to knocking off the Hoosiers. Butler is the favorite to win the A-10 and its stock can continue to rise with a good conference record.

VCU

The Rams suffered three early losses to Wichita State, who is likely the second best team in the Missouri Valley, Duke and Missouri. However, VCU rebounded and is 12-3 with favorable chances to win a wide open Atlantic 10.

Minnesota

The Golden Gophers started the season unranked but have won their way to the ninth spot in the rankings. Their lone loss was to Duke, which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of considering the Blue Devils’ success this season. Minnesota is on a nine game win streak and has won six consecutive games by double digits, with the latest being a 76-63 home win against No. 18 Michigan State.

Kansas State

In Bruce Weber’s first year as head coach of the Wildcats, Kansas State is off to an impressive 12-2 record. K-State lost to Michigan and Gonzaga early in the season but have put those behind them with wins over Florida and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats will be in the mix of teams competing for second place in the Big 12 behind Kansas.

Kentucky

UK was way overrated at No. 3 in the preseason but the Wildcats have had time to work out some of their kinks in their non-conference schedule. Ryan Harrow gives them a good option at point guard that they were missing early in the season. They lost to Duke and Louisville, two of the top four teams in the country, and Notre Dame in their first true road test. Many of the growing pains are out of the way and a top three finish in the SEC isn’t out of the question as the will compete with Florida and Missouri for the conference title.

SELL

Ohio State

Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini handled their business against Ohio State and make basketball fans wonder how good the Buckeyes really are. (Image courtesy of http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-State/2013/01/05/No-11-Illinois-rebounds-with-home-win-over-No-8-Buckeyes-74-55.html)
Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini handled their business against Ohio State and make basketball fans wonder how good the Buckeyes really are. (Image courtesy of http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-State/2013/01/05/No-11-Illinois-rebounds-with-home-win-over-No-8-Buckeyes-74-55.html)

The Buckeyes have faced three ranked teams-Duke, Kansas and Illinois-and lost all three games. With six ranked teams in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes will have to win big games, especially on the road, and they haven’t proven that they’re up to the challenge just yet.

Pittsburgh

The Panthers cracked the AP Top 25 with an appearance at No. 24 but it will be short-lived after losing to Cincinnati and Rutgers in their first two Big East games, which makes then tied for last place in the conference. Pittsburgh had two freshmen in the starting lineup, which could make for a slow start to conference play.

Cincinnati

Mick Cronin’s Bearcats reached as high as eighth in the rankings but Cincinnati lost to New Mexico and St. John’s in the team’s last three games. UC has a challenging next matchup when it hosts No. 21 Notre Dame on Monday.

Wisconsin

The Badgers entered the season in the AP Top 25 but fell quickly out of the polls after losses to Florida, Creighton, Virginia and Marquette. Wisconsin plays Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State in consecutive games in January, which bodes for a difficult month and a bad start to Big Ten play.

HOLD

Duke

The Blue Devils have passed every test that has been thrown at them this season but they can only move down in the rankings from the No. 1 spot. Duke will be expected to win the ACC but North Carolina State, North Carolina or Maryland all have the talent to upset the Blue Devils in conference play.

Arizona

Sean Miller’s Wildcats are the best team out West but San Diego State, Colorado and Utah’s close losses have shown that Arizona is vulnerable and it could suffer its first loss to a PAC-12 opponent this month.

Illinois

The Fighting Illini are a very difficult team to examine. They won by double digits against Butler and on the road against Gonzaga. Then Illinois lost to Missouri and Purdue in a three-game stretch, followed by a dominating win over Ohio State. Illinois is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten but their up and down play gives the impression that they will have their share of impressive wins and tough losses this season.

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys blew out North Carolina State early in the season but have lost consecutive games to No. 10 Gonzaga and No. 25 Kansas State, which means that Oklahoma State still has room for improvement in the remainder of the season.

Michigan

The country’s No. 2 team is off to a 15-0 start but it is only a matter of time until the Wolverines lose their first game. The Big Ten schedule for every team is a mine field–one bad step or slip up and Michigan can receive the first blemish on its 2012-13 campaign. However, the Wolverines are one of the best teams in the country and will give Indiana a run for its money to win the Big Ten.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.!

Crosstown Classic Preview

On December 10th last year, the Cincinnati Bearcats and Xavier Musketeers met for the seventy-ninth time in the annual Crosstown Shootout. Xavier entered the game ranked eighth in the country and proved to be the better team in the rivalry with a 76-53 win but a brawl in the final seconds embarrassed both programs on a national level.

The future of the Crosstown Shootout was up in the air after multiple players from each team were suspended and a dark cloud settled over the city. School officials from the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University met and determined that the series would continue but at a neutral location and under a new name. The “Crosstown Shootout” went out the window and has been replaced with “Crosstown Classic.” The game has been moved off-campus to U.S. Bank Arena in downtown Cincinnati.

The brawl that ensued at the end of the 2011 Crosstown Shootout called for a change in venue and image in the annual Cincinnati rivalry. (Image courtesy of http://www.midwestsportsfans.com/2012/02/xavier-cincinnati-crosstown-shootout-may-be-a-burden-but-its-also-a-necessity/)
The brawl that ensued at the end of the 2011 Crosstown Shootout called for a change in venue and image in the annual Cincinnati rivalry. (Image courtesy of http://www.midwestsportsfans.com/2012/02/xavier-cincinnati-crosstown-shootout-may-be-a-burden-but-its-also-a-necessity/)

Cincinnati is entering the showdown in similar position to Xavier last season. The Bearcats are eleventh in AP Poll after a 10-0 start. Mick Cronin’s team is sixth in the country in scoring average and first in rebounds per game. Cincinnati junior guard Sean Kilpatrick is averaging 19.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, which leads the Bearcats in both categories.

Chris Mack and the Xavier Musketeers are 7-2, with the team’s only losses coming by three points on the road to Pacific and two points in overtime to Vanderbilt. The Musketeers are in a rebuilding year and in all likelihood, will exceed expectations this year. Xavier beat Butler by 15 points in mid-November and defeated Purdue on the road. Even though most of the Muskies’ production players from 2011-12 are no longer on the team, Semaj Christon, Dee Davis, Justin Martin, Travis Taylor and Jeff Robinson have stepped up to fill the voids left by Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons, Kenny Frease, and Dez Wells.

The Cincinnati Bearcats come into the game as an 8.5 point favorite and it would be no surprise if UC wins the game by twice that margin. Tonight’s matchup will be the toughest game of the season for the Musketeers and will give Xavier a chance to see where the team stands against one of the country’s elite programs.

The Future of the Crosstown Shootout

It is difficult to describe with words the importance of the Crosstown Shootout for college basketball fans living in Cincinnati. As soon as the college basketball schedules are released, both Xavier University and University of Cincinnati basketball fans focus their attention to the Crosstown Shootout. With both teams being traditionally nationally competitive in their respective conferences, as well as the NCAA Tournament, the Crosstown Shootout is a chance for both squads to see how they stack up with their opponents outside of conference play. While UC leads the series 48-31, Xavier has taken 11 of the past 15 games and each meeting is a hard-fought matchup for the city’s bragging rights. However, the future of the Crosstown Shootout was put in jeopardy on December 10th, 2011 after a bench-clearing brawl marred Xavier’s 76-53 blowout victory over the University of Cincinnati. Both Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati, as well as the Atlantic 10 and Big East conferences reacted strongly and publicily in the wake of the incident. UC head coach Mick Cronin told the media in his post-game press conference how he made all of his players take off their jerseys and that he was hoping University of Cincinnati President Gregory H. Williams was not going to fire him. A total of seven players were suspended between the two teams and the brawl was a black eye for the city of Cincinnati. Every time that either team was playing in a nationally televised game after the 2011 edition of Crosstown Shootout, a video of the brawl was shown and the commentators talked about the teams’ seasons in context of their December 10th matchup.

The presidents of the two schools released a statement publicly that they have not finalized a decision about the future of the Crosstown Shootout and contradicting various reports, the two universities have not made an attempt to arrange the game to be held at Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena. Fans can only speculate about the venue and conditions of next year’s Crosstown Shootout for now until the XU and UC reach an agreement.

There is a fork in the road and it splits into three different avenues. The first is that the Crosstown Shootout continues in its traditional, alternating home-and-home format in which the matchup switches between Xavier’s Cintas Center and UC’s Fifth Third Arena on a yearly basis. Ideally, this is the best option. The students and fan are largely what make the rivalry so strong due to the competitive atmosphere in the arenas. Also, even if other measures are placed on the Crosstown Shootout, they would not be noticeable because the venues would not be different from past games. The second option is to play the game at a local, neutral site such as U.S. Bank Arena. More fans could go to the game this way but it would have the stigma of being a punitory measure because of last year’s brawl. Also, the culture of the rivalry would be much different if the matchup was not held on a campus full of students who are passionate about their team. The final choice is the least desirable and also the least likely of the three–postponing the game for at least one season. From the joint statement between XU and UC, it is clear that they want to continue the Crosstown Shootout but if they can’t agree to the specific terms of their annual matchup, then it may be put on hold for the near future, similarly to the Indiana-Kentucky rivalry.

Both schools and basketball teams learned from last year’s brawl and its aftermath, as shown by Mick Cronin’s dismissal of freshman forward Octavius Ellis after he punched a bouncer at a nightclub in mid-May. The question is not if there is going to be a Crosstown Shootout next year but how the matchup will improve the image and reputation of the city as well as the schools involved. It would be very smart for Xavier and UC to find a way to issue an olive branch to each other as well as to find a way to reach out to the community. It would go a long way for the two teams to embark on a joint community service project such as building a Habitat for Humanity house together or volunteering at a soup kitchen. Doing so may even convince the university presidents to continue playing the series on Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati’s campuses. While I would not be opposed to the game being played at U.S. Bank Arena for a season or two so that the hostility can die down, it is possible for the two teams to find a way to unite the community as the result of a regrettable event. Hopefully fans will be excited to watch the Crosstown Shootout at Fifth Third Arena at the University of Cincinnati when college basketball schedules are released later this year in a continuation of the traditional home-and-home series.