Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Panthers

Indiana to play host to Pittsburgh in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Thanksgiving break was everything but a break for Indiana basketball. The Hoosiers suffered their first home loss in November under Indiana coach Tom Crean on Monday to Eastern Washington and in their victory against UNC Greensboro, their lead was cut to six in the final minute.

The road doesn’t get any easier for the Hoosiers.

Pittsburgh (4-2) will square off against Indiana Tuesday night at Assembly Hall in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

While Pittsburgh’s trip to Bloomington is its first since 1941, it’s an opponent with whom Crean is very familiar. He was an assistant at Pittsburgh for a season in the mid ‘90s and he’s 6-3 against the Panthers in his career after facing them in the Big East when he coached at Marquette.

Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon has a consistent blueprint, Crean said Monday, and it doesn’t matter what players are on his roster.

“They’re going to be hard-nosed, tough, physical, aggressive, and they’re not going to beat themselves,” he said. “They are tremendous at execution.”

Pittsburgh’s mentality is to be dominant on the boards and aggressive on defense, and to play inside-out on offense, Crean said.

The Panthers are among the top 30 teams in the country in offensive efficiency (108.8, 15th), offensive rebound percentage (39.7%, 27th), and three-point percentage defense (24.7%, 20th).

Similarly to Indiana, Pittsburgh is still finding itself. The Panthers played their last four games in Hawaii, where they were upset by Hawaii, lost to No. 15 San Diego State and then demolished Kansas State.

Pittsburgh has had to adjust to life without two upperclassmen who would play prominent roles in its rotation.

Dixon announced in November that redshirt junior forward Durand Johnson was suspended for the entire season and senior guard Cameron Wright, a projected starter, is sidelined until Christmas after suffering a broken left foot in September.

In their stead, 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Michael Young has established himself as the team’s most dangerous offensive weapon. He is averaging a team-high 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, including more than four offensive rebounds per game.

“Michael Young is a hard matchup for anybody, but especially for us,” Crean said.

Crean said that when he studied Pittsburgh’s game film earlier this year, he could tell that Young was on the cusp of being a great player.

“His statistics and the way he’s played definitely show that,” he said.

Young is shooting 59 percent from the field, he rarely commits turnovers or fouls, and he already recorded a 27-point, 15-rebound double-double this season.

Pittsburgh’s starting big man will match up against Indiana junior forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who has been inconsistent this season.

“We need Hanner to do everything he’s capable of,” Crean said. “We need more from the front line.”

Indiana, who was sixth in the country in rebound margin last season, has been out-rebounded in half of its games this season and has struggled keeping opponents out of the paint.

If Mosquera-Perea, who is averaing just shy of 23 minutes per game, isn’t the answer in Indiana’s frontcourt against Pittsburgh, then forward Troy Williams, Collin Hartman and Emmitt Holt will have to play big and man the paint for the Hoosiers.

All three are in the midst of mini individual redemption stories. Hartman tore his ACL days after last season ended but made a lightning fast recovery to earn a spot in Indiana’s rotation. Holt and Williams were suspended for four games apiece earlier in the season and are beginning to integrate themselves in the flow of the team’s offense and defense.

Crean said the only similarity between Hartman’s play last season and this season is his face.

“We’re talking about a guy that really shouldn’t be playing at the athletic level that he’s playing because he’s coming off this knee surgery,” he said. “Collin is one of those guys that could do whatever we need him to do right now defensively.”

Similarly to Indiana’s matchup against then-No. 22 SMU, Tuesday night’s game is one that will carry more weight than most of the Hoosiers’ non-conference games. Not only could it have potential postseason implications for both teams, but it may help decide whether the ACC or the Big Ten—arguably the two best conferences in college basketball—is the king of the land.

“But arguably the two best leagues in the country going at one another and everybody takes notice that follows college basketball,” Crean said. “So I think it’s a big deal.”

Bracketology Report: Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati Bearcats—(19-7, 7-6)—10th in the Big East

Strength of schedule: 31

RPI: 42

BPI: 21

Good wins:

  • 77-66 vs. Oregon
  • 70-61 @ Pittsburgh
  • 71-69 OT vs. Marquette

Bad losses:

  • 54-50 @ Providence

Remaining schedule:

  • 2/21 @ Connecticut
  • 2/24 @ No. 24 Notre Dame
  • 3/2 vs. Connecticut
  • 3/4 @ Louisville
  • 3/9 vs. South Florida

Even though Cincinnati has six conference losses and sits towards the bottom of the Big East standings, the Bearcats have been competitive in every game they’ve played in this season. Four of their losses have come against ranked opponents and another was against an unranked New Mexico squad that is now No. 16. UC has lost two games by one point, in addition to three other losses by six points or fewer. The Bearcats have proven that they’re a tough out but they lack quality conference wins, which are readily available in a conference with six ranked teams.

Cincinnati has held its opponents below 70 points on 23 occasions this season. However, the Bearcats’ offense leaves them susceptible to close losses in low-scoring games. Junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with his 18 points per game average on 41.6% shooting. Senior guards Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker are the only other Bearcats to average in double figures in scoring. UC’s offense is too guard heavy and Cincinnati is lacking an inside scoring presence that the team had last season with center Yancy Gates.

Cincinnati junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with an 18 points per game scoring average. (Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com)
Cincinnati junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with an 18 points per game scoring average. (Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com)

Cincinnati’s résumé is certainly tournament worthy but the Bearcats still have lots of room for improvement. At this point, UC is on pace for a seven, eight or nine seed. With four games remaining against Louisville, Notre Dame and Connecticut, who are fourth, fifth, and sixth in the Big East, respectively, the Bearcats could move up to a No. 4 or No. 5 seed if they run the table. A strong showing in the Big East Tournament would allow Cincinnati to be in the discussion as a No. 5 or No. 6 seed.

Prediction: Cincinnati will lose at Connecticut and Notre Dame, then end its three-game losing streak with a home victory over UConn. The Bearcats will lose on the road to Louisville and end the regular season with a win over South Florida to finish the season 21-10 (9-9). UC will be the No. 10 seed in the Big East Tournament. Cincinnati will win its first game and lose the second. The Bearcats will be a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

College basketball stock report for week 16

After five consecutive weeks of teams moving up to the No. 1 spot one week and then back down the next as if there was a revolving door for the top spot, Indiana has held on to the No. 1 rank for the past three weeks. Miami (FL) has continued its ascent up in the polls from No. 25, No. 14, No. 8, and No. 3 to No. 2 and 23 first place votes behind the Hoosiers.

The Big East leads all conferences with six ranked teams, followed by the Big Ten with five and Big 12 with three.

With three weeks left of regular season conference play, here is my college basketball stock report:

BUY

Michigan State Spartans-(22-4, 11-2)-Ever since losing by five on the road to No. 7 Indiana, the Spartans have rattled off five wins in a row, including a 23-point drubbing of No. 4 Michigan. Michigan State is tied for first in the Big Ten with the opportunity to have sole possession of first place with a game against No. 1 Indiana tonight in East Lansing, Mich.

Adreian Payne and Michigan State are heating up as March approaches. The Spartans are tied with No. 1 Indiana for first place in the Big Ten entering their game on Tuesday.(Image courtesy of buckey extra.dispatch.com)
Adreian Payne and Michigan State are heating up as March approaches. The Spartans are tied with No. 1 Indiana for first place in the Big Ten entering their game on Tuesday.
(Image courtesy of buckey extra.dispatch.com)

Georgetown Hoyas-(19-4, 9-3)-The Hoyas have taken advantage of Syracuse’s three losses in the Orange’s last six games; Georgetown has won seven straight games, including three against ranked Big East opponents, and is in a three-way tie for first place.

Gonzaga Bulldogs-(25-2, 12-0)-Gonzaga has won 16 of its last 17 games and the Bulldogs’ only loss in the new year was a one-point defeat at the hands of Roosevelt Jones and the Butler Bulldogs on the road. Gonzaga played and defeated the four teams remaining on its schedule by an average of nearly 13 points this season. It would be no surprise if the Bulldogs do not lose until the NCAA Tournament.

SELL

Butler Bulldogs-(21-5, 8-3)-Butler has proven that its best is very good after the Bulldogs defeated No. 1 Indiana in December. However, Butler has lost three of its past eight games. Even though the Bulldogs play in an improved A-10, they have gradually fallen from their top 10 ranking.

Michigan Wolverines-(22-4, 9-4)-There is no doubt that the Wolverines have a roster that has the ability to play in Atlanta for the Final Four but Michigan has slipped up several times lately. The Wolverines lost three of their past five games. All four of Michigan’s losses this season have come on the road and the No. 7 team in the country will have to be able to play away from Ann Arbor, Mich. in order to go deep in the tournament.

Cincinnati Bearcats-(19-7, 7-6)-Cincinnati has been ranked for most of the season but fell out of the top 25 this week after losing three of their past four games and four of seven. All of the Bearcats’ losses have been by ten points or fewer, with four of them being by less than five points, UC has struggled to emerge as one of the best teams in the Big East. Cincinnati is tied for ninth in the conference with games against Connecticut, Notre Dame and Louisville remaining on its schedule. The Bearcats were projected to be a No. 3 seed in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s projected NCAA Tournament but they are falling quickly.

HOLD

Notre Dame Fighting Irish-(21-6, 9-5)-In the past two weeks, Notre Dame defeated No. 11 Louisville in five overtimes and No. 20 Pittsburgh on the road. However, the Fighting Irish also lost to No. 9 Syracuse by 16 and unranked Providence by 17. Notre Dame has a lot of potential but the team has been too inconsistent.

Marquette Golden Eagles-(18-6, 9-3)-With the exception of a loss at Green Bay in December, Marquette does not have any horrible losses this season. The Golden Eagles were routed by Florida and Louisville, two teams that have been at the top of the polls for most of the season, but they have faired well in their conference schedule. Marquette hasn’t proven that it’s a great team but has exceeded expectations in one of college basketball’s toughest conferences. With four road games and two matchups against ranked opponents remaining on their schedule, the Golden Eagles have a challenging home stretch before the Big East Tournament.

Making cases for Kansas, Michigan and Florida to be ranked No. 1

Last week was a bloodbath for the AP Top 25. No. 1 Duke lost at Miami (FL) by 27. Louisville lost three consecutive games in the Big East to No. 6 Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown. Minnesota lost four straight games in the Big Ten. With all of the losses by ranked teams, the No. 1 position is up for grabs and three teams have cases to claim the top spot in this week’s updated polls.

Kansas’ case to be ranked No. 1

The Kansas Jayhawks have won 33 straight games at Allen Fieldhouse and are one of the hottest teams in college basketball. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1501647-kansas-basketball-jayhawks-lack-of-offense-isnt-a-big-concern)
The Kansas Jayhawks have won 33 straight games at Allen Fieldhouse and are one of the hottest teams in college basketball. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1501647-kansas-basketball-jayhawks-lack-of-offense-isnt-a-big-concern)

The Jayhawks are 18-1 and their only loss was by three points to then-No. 21 Michigan State in the second game of the season. Since its only blemish on its 18-1 record, Kansas beat No. 7 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio and topped No. 11 Kansas State on the road. Bill Self’s squad is off to a 6-0 start in the Big 12 and the team has won 33 consecutive games at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas is nearly unbeatable at home and its two victories against ranked opponents were on the road, which proves that the Jayhawks can win anywhere they play. They also beat Ohio State, who gave Michigan its only loss of the season, by eight points.

Michigan’s case to be ranked No. 1

Similarly to Kansas, Michigan only has one loss this season and it was also by three points when the Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Wolverines on Jan. 13. Michigan has two wins against ranked opponents. The Wolverines defeated then-No. 18 North Carolina State at home and then-No. 9 Minnesota on the road. The co-leaders of the Big Ten are 19-1 (6-1) and have 15 double-digit wins this season. Michigan’s resume also includes wins over Pittsburgh, Kansas State and Illinois, who are all teams that have been ranked at some point during the season but weren’t when they lost to the Wolverines.

Florida’s case to be ranked No. 1

The Florida Gators are 16-2 (6-0) and tied with Ole Miss for the SEC lead. Their only two losses are a 65-64 loss at Arizona, a competitive game in which Wildcats guard Mark Lyons hit the game-winning jumper with seven seconds left, and a six-point loss to Kansas State. The Gators have rattled off eight straight wins and have dominated their SEC opponents in conference play. The most points that Florida has allowed in an SEC game is 52 and four of the Gators’ opponents have scored in the forties. Florida’s average margin of victory in conference play is over 26 points and earlier this month they defeated then-No. 17 Missouri 83-52. Granted, the SEC lacks proven teams and depth outside of Florida, Ole Miss and Missouri but the Gators are the team to beat down South.

Kansas has the strongest case because they beat the Ohio State Buckeyes, who later handed Michigan its only loss, on the road by eight. Of the three teams, Florida’s case is the weakest because the Gators have two losses and play in arguably the weakest of the power 6 conferences.

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.!

The first week of 2013 in review

College basketball conference wins are hard to come by, especially on the road

Conference play started kicked off in college basketball and it has already taken its toll on some of the top teams in the country. No. 18 Michigan State fell to No. 9 Minnesota 76-63, Purdue upset No. 11 Illinois 68-61, Marquette bested No. 15 Georgetown and No. 24 Pittsburgh is off to an 0-2 start in the Big East after losing to No. 14 Cincinnati and Rutgers.

Minnesota beat Michigan State thanks to a 25-8 run to end the game. (Image courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2012/12/31/3823022/michigan-st-minnesota-final-score)
Minnesota beat Michigan State thanks to a 25-8 run to end the game. (Image courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2012/12/31/3823022/michigan-st-minnesota-final-score)

Colorado was set to hand No. 3 Arizona its first loss of the season thanks to a career night from senior guard Sabatino Chen. Arizona came back from a double digit deficit in the second half and Mark Lyons tied the game with a pair of free throws in the final seconds. Chen hit a pull up three with 00.1 seconds left to win the game and the referees ruled the shot good. Upon further review, they waived off the shot (which was determined in HD replay to have left Chen’s hands before the clock hit zero) and the Wildcats won in overtime.

The NFL Playoffs are under way

For the second year in a row, the Houston Texans ended the Cincinnati Bengals’ playoff hopes, leaving Cincinnati winless in the postseason since 1990. In a game in which the majority of the points were scored by the kickers, Houston dominated time of possession by having the ball for 38 minutes and 49 seconds. Arian Foster moved the chains for the Texans with 140 yards  and one touchdown on 32 carries. Andy Dalton did not target A.J. Green in the first half and the Bengals had -6 passing yards at halftime. Houston settled for field goals instead of touchdowns, which allowed Cincinnati to stay within striking distance but the Bengals struggled to put together a scoring drive in the fourth quarter.

Andy Dalton did not target A.J. Green in the first half against Houston. (Image courtesy of http://www.boston.com/sports/football/2013/01/04/picking-the-nfl-wild-card-winners/IltouiU0yasLRvDydm2TNK/story.html?pg=2)
Andy Dalton did not target A.J. Green in the first half against Houston. (Image courtesy of http://www.boston.com/sports/football/2013/01/04/picking-the-nfl-wild-card-winners/IltouiU0yasLRvDydm2TNK/story.html?pg=2)

Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback Christian Ponder did not start against the Green Bay Packers due to an elbow injury, making Joe Webb the first quarterback in NFL history to start a playoff game without throwing a pass in the regular season. Webb only took three snaps all season–two rushes and a kneel–but looked to beat Green Bay for the second time in as many weeks. The Vikings had the second fewest first half passing yards in NFL Playoff history (6) to only the Cincinnati Bengals, who set the dubious record just hours earlier. The Ponder-less Vikings could not keep pace with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense. Minnesota scored first with a field goal in the first quarter but surrendered 24 unanswered points, which was enough for the Packers to win at Lambeau Field.

Two long streaks end in the NBA

The Charlotte Bobcats ended an 18-game losing streak by beating the Chicago Bulls, who then beat the defending champions, the Miami Heat, in their next game.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles Clippers put together a 17-game win streak before falling to the Nuggets in Denver.

Kobe Bryant may be 34 years old but the Black Mamba still has some gas left in the tank for the Lakers. He posterized Chris Paul on a fast break in Friday nights matchup between the two Los Angeles teams. Kobe also joined Twitter this week, giving social media users insight into his life, including his acupuncture therapy and his love to challenge himself. You can follow him @kobebryant.

Kobe Bryant showed that he still has youth left despite being 34 years old. (Image courtesy of http://elitedaily.com/elite/2013/kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video)
Kobe Bryant showed that he still has youth left despite being 34 years old. (Image courtesy of http://elitedaily.com/elite/2013/kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video)

Oregon and Johnny Football shine in bowl wins

In a matchup that had national championship hopes late in the college football season, Oregon routed Kansas State and the Ducks didn’t take long to get on the board–De’Anthony Thomas returned the opening kickoff and Dion Jordan took a shovel pass into the end zone to give Oregon an 8-0 lead 12 seconds into the game. While the Wildcats had possession of the ball for six minutes more than the Ducks, Oregon outgained Kansas State by 102 yards. The strangest play of the game was when Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota rushed for a touchdown but Alejandro Maldonado’s extra point attempt was blocked, a Kansas State played grabbed the ball and pitched it to a teammate in the end zone and the Wildcat player was tackled for a one-point safety in favor of Oregon. Oregon won the Fiesta Bowl 35-17.

Johnny Manziel backed up his Heisman Trophy winning regular season with an impressive bowl game performance. Manziel had over 500 yards of total offense along with 2 rushing and 2 passing touchdowns as No. 9 Texas A&M defeated No. 11 Oklahoma 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl.

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

A tale of two halves as Cincinnati comes from behind against Pittsburgh

The No. 14 Cincinnati Bearcats traveled to No. 24 Pittsburgh in the opening game of Big East play. Both teams entered the matchup with a 12-1 record. Cincinnati was coming off of a one-point loss to New Mexico and Pittsburgh’s lone slip up was in a close game against No. 4 Michigan in November.

Cincinnati entered a difficult environment to play in at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, Penn. Since it opened in 2002, the Panthers had only lost 19 times at home entering the matchup. However, the Bearcats had momentum in the conference rivalry after defeating Pittsburgh, who was ranked 22nd, in its Big East opener last season.

The Bearcats looked lost on both ends of the court to start the game. No one picked up Pittsburgh freshman point guard James Robinson as he cut to the basket for an easy layup on the Panthers’ opening possession. Then, Senior guard Cashmere Wright dribbled the ball off of his foot and turned it over in Cincinnati’s first possession. Junior guard Sean Kilpatrick turned the ball over on UC’s next time down the court, which led to Lamar Patterson finding Talib Zanna for a layup in the lane. Senior center Cheikh Mbodj was called for offensive three seconds on Cincinnati’s third possession and Zanna cleaned up a missed Tray Woodall three-point jumper to give Pittsburgh a 6-0 lead.

Cincinnati’s fundamental flaw was exposed early by Pittsburgh and it is that the Bearcats have three extremely talented guards but the team lacks a consistent scoring presence down low. Kilpatrick, Wright, and JaQuon Parker make up 57% of Cincinnati’s offense and make 87% of the Bearcats three-pointers. The Panthers started out in man-to-man defense before switching to zone. Pittsburgh kept Cincinnati’s guards out of the lane and the Bearcats struggled to feed the ball into the post in the first half. UC made just one of its first ten shots as Mick Cronin’s team struggled to get into an offensive rhythm. Pittsburgh freshman seven-foot center and preseason Big East Freshman of the Year Steven Adams contested Cincinnati’s short-range shot attempts and was a monster on the boards with nine rebounds.

Cincinnati’s pressure on defense and the Panthers’ 0-10 shooting performance from behind the arc kept the Bearcats in the game. Cincinnati forced seven turnovers in the first half against a Pittsburgh team that averaged roughly ten per game through its first 13 games of the season.

Cashmere Wright made the first three-pointer of the game with four minutes remaining in the first half and Cincinnati pulled within one point of Pittsburgh. The Bearcats took their first lead of the game when forward Shaquille Thomas grabbed the rebound off of his own miss and slammed it home for two points. The Panthers ended the half with an 8-0 run that gave them a 34-27 lead heading into halftime.

Cincinnati came out of halftime revitalized with defensive intensity and the Bearcats’ full court pressure disrupted Pittsburgh’s ability to run its offense.

A turning point in the game was when Steven Adams picked up his fourth foul with 9:42 remaining in the second half and Cincinnati leading by three. Even though he was scoreless in the game, Adams’ defensive presence and ability to rebound the basketball had been critical to Pittsburgh’s first half success.

Soon after University of Pittsburgh Coach Jamie Dixon pulled Adams, Cashmere Wright hit a three that took the life out of the Panthers. The shot clock was winding down on Cincinnati and it appeared that the Bearcats were going to fall victim to a shot clock violation but Jermaine Sanders kicked the ball out to Wright just in time for him to nail a shot a few feet behind the arc and double UC’s lead.

With Adams on the bench, it was David Nyarsuk time. Nyarsuk is a 7’1”, 230 lb. center (the tallest player in the history of the University of Cincinnati men’s basketball program) who is originally from Juba, Sudan and transferred from Mountain State University in Beckley, W.Va.

With eight minutes left, Nyarsuk laid the ball off the glass for his first points of the game and he extended Cincinnati’s lead to seven points. Moments later, Titus Rubles assisted Nyarsuk as he banked in a jump shot to help the Bearcats pull away from Pittsburgh. While his scoring contributions were critical to Cincinnati’s lead at the end of the game, his offensive rebounding may have been his greatest asset because he allowed the Bearcats to take nearly one and a half minutes off the clock. David Nyarsuk finished with six points and three rebounds in what was a game-changing second half performance by the NAIA transfer.

Junior center David Nyarsuk's second half performance gave the Cincinnati Bearcats the boost on offense to complete their comeback against Pittsburgh. (Image courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaab/bigeast/2012/12/31/no-14-cincinnati-slips-by-no-24-pittsburgh-70-61/1801145/)
Junior center David Nyarsuk’s second half performance gave the Cincinnati Bearcats the boost on offense to complete their comeback against Pittsburgh. (Image courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaab/bigeast/2012/12/31/no-14-cincinnati-slips-by-no-24-pittsburgh-70-61/1801145/)

The Bearcats hit eight free throws in the final 70 seconds to cap off a second half in which Cincinnati outscored Pittsburgh by 17 points. Cincinnati improves to 13-1 and next face St. John’s at 4:00 pm ET at home on January 5th.  Pittsburgh drops to 12-2 and will face Rutgers at 11:00 am ET on January 5th at the Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.

Tommy Tuberville Did What?

On December 6, University of Cincinnati head football coach Butch Jones rejected an offer from the University of Colorado and reportedly signed a five-year deal with the University of Tennessee that is worth roughly $13.5 million. It is a classic example of the coaching carousel that exists in college athletics. Coaches have success at smaller schools and as assistant coaches until they can work their way up to head coaching positions at bigger programs. Both Butch Jones and Brian Kelly, Jones’ predecessor who is now at Notre Dame, came to UC from Central Michigan University.

However, Cincinnati’s new coach, Tommy Tuberville, who previously coached for three seasons at Texas Tech University, downgraded to join the Bearcats. The Big East is a dying conference. Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Louisville are on their way out of the conference to join the ACC. Rutgers is leaving for the Big Ten. Four of the top five teams in conference will be gone within the next few years.

Tommy Tuberville was in a good situation at Texas Tech and inexplicably left for the University of Cincinnati. (Image courtesy of http://blog.newsok.com/ou/2012/10/02/tommy-tuberville-and-his-players-preview-the-ou-tech-game/)
Tommy Tuberville was in a good situation at Texas Tech and inexplicably left for the University of Cincinnati. (Image courtesy of http://blog.newsok.com/ou/2012/10/02/tommy-tuberville-and-his-players-preview-the-ou-tech-game/)

 

Boise State, San Diego State, Central Florida, Memphis, Houston, SMU, and Navy are set to join the conference in the near future, which will turn the Big East into the second Conference USA. The conference is becoming a hodgepodge of teams that are unable to join the likes of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, or SEC. The foundation of the Big East is becoming unstable as the pillars (Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and West Virginia) are leaving or have already left. When the dust from conference realignment has settled, the Big East may no longer exist and it is not the conference of which the University of Cincinnati wants to be a member as it makes its plans for the future.

Tuberville’s decision to take over a 9-3 Cincinnati team does not make sense. Texas Tech is in a good position for the future. The Big 12 is thriving with talented and powerful athletic programs such as Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, and Baylor. Even though the Red Raiders finished seventh in the conference this season, they finished the regular season with a 7-5 record and will face Minnesota in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on December 28. Being mediocre in one of the best conferences carries much more weight than having eight, nine, and 10 win seasons when UC’s toughest competition in the conference will be Boise State and Navy. Plus, Tuberville is moving halfway across the country to a region with which he is not nearly as familiar. In his coaching career, Tommy Tuberville has always lived in the South. While at Arkansas State, Miami (FL), Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Auburn, and Texas Tech, his recruiting was focused in a completely different region of the country.

Tuberville brings a 130-77 record, 7-3 record in bowl games, an SEC Championship, and lots of questions to Cincinnati. Unless he knows something about the future of the Cincinnati Bearcats or the Big East that has not yet been announced, his choice to leave Lubbock, Tex. is highly questionable.

Ranking the 6 Power Conferences in College Basketball

The majority of the teams that make the NCAA Tournament every spring are from the Power 6 Conferences: the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC. From year to year, the best college basketball conference varies. With three teams in the top five, the Big Ten takes the crown this year.

Big Ten

Ranked Teams

1. Indiana

4. Ohio State

5. Michigan

14. Michigan State

23. Wisconsin

All-Americans

Trey Burke-Guard-Michigan

DeShaun Thomas-Forward-Ohio State

Cody Zeller-Center-Indiana

The Hoosiers have taken control of the preseason #1 ranking thanks to Cody Zeller and depth unparalleled in the rest of college basketball. Courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1319961-big-ten-basketball-predicting-the-2012-13-big-ten-stats-leaders

Big Ten basketball is back. The Indiana Hoosiers are the unanimous preseason number one team with the best player in the country. Ohio State returns junior DeShaun Thomas, who shot 52% from the field last season and doubled his scoring from his freshman year. The Buckeyes also have Aaron Craft, who is arguably the best defender in the country. Only Penn State and Nebraska, which are historically schools focused on their football programs, finished with a record below .500 last season. From top to bottom, the Big Ten has depth in teams and individual players. Minnesota, a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team, has a top prospect in power forward Trevor Mbakwe. Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke is a preseason All-American in many sports outlets after averaging 14.8 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.5 rebounds as a freshman.

ACC

Ranked Teams

6. North Carolina State

8. Duke

11. North Carolina

25. Florida State

C.J. Leslie leads the Wolfpack to the top ten rankings and NC State is ready for a national championship run. Courtesy of http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/acc/story/2012-04-18/cj-leslie-nc-state/54385466/1.

North Carolina lost four starters and Duke lost two starters to the 2012 NBA Draft, which hurts the strength of the ACC this year. However, North Carolina State is taking over the reigns as a national championship contender because its top four players are returning from last season. C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, and Richard Howell all averaged double-digits in scoring last year, when the Wolfpack made a Sweet Sixteen run. They also have the tenth best recruiting class, which is highlighted by shooting guard Rodney Purvis. The bottom of the ACC drops off quickly with teams like Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest, which were significantly below last season.

Big East

Ranked Teams

2. Louisville

9. Syracuse

22. Notre Dame

24. Cincinnati

Peyton Siva is an electric guard and the motor behind the Louisville Cardinals. Courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/9vA3Yb_luTk/East+Basketball+Tournament+Second+Round/k0L4kz6WMdR/Yancy+Gates.

Louisville was a surprise Final Four team in a region that featured Michigan State and Missouri as the top two teams. The Cardinals return a loaded roster with Russ Smith, Chane Behanan, Peyton Siva, and Gorgui Dieng, which is why they sit at the second spot in the preseason rankings. While Syracuse and Pittsburgh are set to join the ACC in July of 2012, the Big East will still benefit from the Orange’s top ten preseason rank. While ‘Cuse lost Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph, and Fab Melo to the NBA Draft, they bring back Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Rakeem Christmas. They also have the fifteenth ranked recruiting class for this year, with forward Jerami Grant, guard Trevor Cooney, and forward DaJuan Coleman. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who were ousted in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season by the upset-minded Xavier Musketeers and Cincinnati Bearcats, led by their talented backcourt of Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright, are also ranked going into the season. Pittsburgh, Marquette, and Georgetown are all knocking on the door of the top 25.

SEC

Ranked Teams

3. Kentucky

10. Florida

15. Missouri

While the SEC is the perennial powerhouse in college football, it does not have much depth in college basketball. Outside of its top few teams, the conference is dismal. Kentucky is one of the best teams in country once again thanks to the best recruiting class in the nation with four ESPN 100 players. Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, and Willie Cauley-Stein are the next class of potential one-and-dones who were recruited by John Calipari. Senior Kenny Boynton will have Florida in the spotlight this season. The newest school to the SEC, Missouri is ranked fifteenth in the preseason. Tennessee received some attention in the preseason rankings but is still far off from cracking the top 25.

Big 12

Ranked Teams

7. Kansas

19. Baylor

Kansas’ Jeff Withey is one of the best centers in college basketball and will be crucial to the Jayhawks’ success this season. Courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Jeff+Withey/Ivo+Baltic/Las+Vegas+Invitational+Day+One/h5A83sDt-ft.

Overall, the Big 12 had a successful 2012 NCAA Tournament. Kansas made the National Championship game and Baylor made the Elite Eight. Three of its six teams lost to the eventual champion Kentucky. Former Jayhawks Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson are now in the NBA, which means that this year’s Kansas squad will rely on Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey to take them back to the promised land. Baylor will be a prominent team on the national level. Texas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State all received votes for the AP Top 25 but fell short of being ranked. Having Missouri leave for the SEC will hurt them.

Pac-12

Ranked Teams

12. Arizona

13. UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad is looking to bring back the glory days of UCLA basketball but that may be hard to do if he is only there one year. Courtesy of http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/ncaab-the-dagger/ucla-shabazz-muhammad-miss-2-4-weeks-due-005359555–ncaab.html.

Similarly to the SEC, the Pac-12’s top tier is elite and the rest of the conference struggles greatly. Arizona and UCLA are both bringing in top 25 recruiting classes and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons will certainly bolster the Wildcats’ lineup this season. The Pac-12 is looking to improve upon its overall performance last season, where only Colorado and California made the NCAA Tournament.

A Race to the Finish

With three weeks left in college football’s regular season, four undefeated teams sit atop the BCS rankings. Alabama, Kansas State, Oregon, and Notre Dame are all 9-0. The Crimson Tide have held the number one spot in every poll since Week 2 and will be a lock for the BCS National Championship, assuming that they take care of business and defeat #15 Texas A&M at home on Saturday.

But who will play Alabama on January 7? Kansas State has the edge on Oregon in the BCS rankings but the margin is slim. Oregon has the advantage in the AP Top 25, USA Today, and the ESPN.com Power Rankings. After defeating Pittsburgh 29-26 in triple overtime, Notre Dame is fourth. If Kansas State, Oregon, and Notre Dame all win out, who has the best chance to have a shot  to play Alabama for the national championship?

Kansas State

Collin Klein is a Heisman candidate for Kansas State. Courtesy of http://www.midwestsportsfans.com/2012/09/15-kansas-state-at-6-oklahoma-preview-point-spread-prediction-and-poll/.

Remaining Schedule

@ TCU on Saturday, November 10

@ Baylor on Saturday, November 17

vs. #17 Texas on Saturday, December 1

The Verdict

If quarterback Collin Klein is out for an extended period of time, the Wildcats may be on upset alert with two road games and a matchup against a formidable Texas squad remaining on Kansas State’s schedule. K-State’s offense is the fifth in scoring in the country and the Wildcats need it to put up big numbers in order to have a shot at appearing in the BCS National Championship.

Oregon

Kenjon Barner has rushed for nineteen touchdowns through nine games for Oregon. Courtesy of http://blog.oregonlive.com/behindducksbeat/2010/08/oregon_offensive_player_to_wat.html.

Remaining Schedule

@ California on Saturday, November 10

vs. #14 Stanford on Saturday, November 17

@ #11 Oregon State on Saturday, November 24

The Verdict

The Ducks have the strongest remaining schedule, with two top fifteen teams left for Oregon to play. The top-scoring team in the country, led by senior running back Kenjon Barner, should have no problem outscoring Stanford and Oregon State. Both teams limit opponents to an average of fewer than twenty points per game, which clashes with Oregon’s up-tempo offense. If Oregon can finish the year 12-0, they will likely go to their second BCS National Championship in three seasons.

Notre Dame

Manti Te’o is the anchor of the Notre Dame defense. Courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1378762-byu-vs-notre-dame-manti-teos-heisman-stock-continues-to-soar.

Remaining Schedule

@ Boston College on Saturday, November 10

vs. Wake Forest on Saturday, November 17

@ #19 USC on Saturday, November 24

The Verdict

Without question, Notre Dame will go 11-0. Boston College and Wake Forest are 2-7 and 5-4, respectively. The Fighting Irish defense, led by linebacker Manti Te’o, have held their opponents to fourteen points or less seven times this season and they have had no issue scoring. However, their regular season finale at USC could be problematic. The Trojans had national title hopes in the offseason and first few weeks of this season but those were squashed with three Pac-12 losses. They would certainly be up to the challenge of spoiling Notre Dame’s national championship hopes in late November. Notre Dame’s remaining schedule is too weak for them to finish second in the BCS. Plus, there is no guarantee that they can finish 12-0. Circle November 24th because Notre Dame could fall in the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Look for Oregon’s metallic helmets and duck-feathered uniforms in Miami, Florida at the Discover BCS National Championship to play Alabama in a battle between an explosive offense and shut down defense. Stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.!