After a weekend of Madness, it wasn’t a fairy tale ending that us Cincinnati fans were expecting. The Bearcats took care of business against Kansas State beating them in the first round 75-61. But, the hard match-up against the top scoring offense in the nation, the UCLA Bruins, was too much for the Bearcats in the 2nd round, losing to them 79-67.
It was so hard this morning going through my twitter feed, Facebook posts, and online articles seeing photos of the mourning Bearcats and realizing that their season has come to an end. Seniors Troy Caupain, Kevin Johnson, and Zack Tobler gave so much to the Cincinnati program and I will sincerely miss those players and not seeing them on the court next year. Caupain and Johnson’s leadership contributed a lot to Cincinnati’s 2016-2017 season. I can’t thank them enough for the work they’ve done. Before I talk about this special group of Bearcats this year, Coach Cronin, and this season, let’s recap the 2 post season games for the Bearcats.
The first round match-up against Kansas State was everything you could ask for Cincinnati. Senior guard Caupain was on fire, 23 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists. Our big guys Kyle Washington and Gary Clark contributed with a total of 31 points and 11 rebounds. The Cincinnati defense was stout as usual, forcing Kansas State to shoot 38% of their shots while Cincinnati scored 62%. Watching the game last night was a different story. Coming into the game, it was hyped up to be UCLA’s offense vs. Cincinnati’s defense. UCLA leading the nation in scoring and Cincinnati having a top 10 defense. In the first half, the Bearcats contained the Bruins for the most part. Kevin Johnson came out of his scoring slump, contributing 11 points in the first half. However, they did commit 7 turnovers and lead at halftime 33-30. In the 2nd half, the Bruins figured a way around Cincinnati’s defense and got their offense rolling. The game plan for Cincinnati was for our bigs, Washington and Clark, to get to the basket and draw fouls. Washington was 2-10 on his shots and couldn’t find his rhythm. When they did get to the basket, there were obvious fouls on UCLA but the officiating was terrible in the 2nd half. Freshman Jarron Cumberland led the team in scoring with 15 points, followed by Johnson and Jacob Evans with 13 a piece and Clark with 11. In summary, it was a tale of 2 halves. It was a great defensive effort in the first half but got outscored in the 2nd.
Yes, I would’ve loved to see these group of guys made a much farther run in the Tournament but like Coach Cronin said, you can’t determine post season success with what this program has done. A final 30-6 record, 7 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, undefeated at Fifth Third Arena, and all 3 seniors showed true character, hard work and determination and are set to get their college degrees next month. You got Troy Caupain who broke the UC record in assists. To me, college degrees are way more valuable than a NCAA tournament championship. You see so many high school recruits going to college and only playing for 1 to 2 years and then dropping out to go into the NBA draft playing for a paycheck. A college degree is way more valuable than going to the NBA. It’s all about long-term success, which brings to my next point in Coach Mick Cronin.
Now, he may not have a Final 4 title under his belt, but I will live and stand for Coach Cronin as long as he’s in Cincinnati. I could probably guess that 80% of the Cincinnati population would stand with Cronin but you can’t deny the success he’s done at Cincinnati. A Bearcat graduate himself, Mick Cronin has built a tremendous program at Cincinnati. He is a no BS kind of guy. He may not bring 5 star recruits but he brings in kids that are quality in character and have a strong work ethic on and off the court. He coaches kids to be better men. It is also pretty much guaranteed that if someone commits to Mick Cronin, they will get playing time. This is why he has such a deep bench. All of his players work hard, on scholarship, so they will get playing time. When you have qualities such as character, determination, work ethic, and values, it makes winning so much easier. The most important thing is that all of his players have graduated from the University of Cincinnati. Post season success will come. Yes it has been 10 years but Cronin is doing this program the right way. His dream is to get quality guys that want to get a degree, not go to the NBA. That right there, is winning. He also has no problem calling out the NCAA and just stating the simple truth. He was so right when he said that the NCAA committee simply relies on ticket sales for the Tournament rather than correct seeding placement. We had a 29-5 record coming into the tournament and we end up being a 6 seed and getting shipped out the California. The NCAA are complete a**holes. I love Cronin and will always stand by him no matter what. He’s a legend in my book.
It’s disappointing to see this season come to an end but there’s always looking forward to next season, which will be equally as exciting as this year! Next year, seniors Gary Clark and Kyle Washington will be the generals leading their army for the 2017-2018 season. I have a strong feeling that Clark will have a break out year in 2018. If you think he was a problem this year, he will be chaos on the court. I think this loss last night will light a fire under this kid. He will be meaner, aggressive and chaotic on the court next year and I can’t wait. We will also get to see the redshirt junior Cane Broome make his Bearcat debut. Cronin compared Broom to former Bearcats star, Nick Van Exel. Broome is quick and will cause a lot of problems for the opposing guards. I’m excited to see what this kid do on the court. Then you also have sophomore stud, Jarron Cumberland coming back. He was so crucial this year and I won’t be surprised if he makes his way to the starting line-up in 2018. Jacob Evans will be so integral for next season too, he just needs to be more aggressive and get the ball in basket. Justin Jennifer, Nysier Brooks, Tre Scott are all coming back as well. Incoming freshman Keith Williams and Trevor Moore, both shooting guards and center Eliel Nsoseme will be added to the mix as well. Being a Cincinnati fan and alumnus is something I will be always proud of. I bleed red and black. I have no doubt in my mind, with the way Cronin is running things, we will get that post-season success that this city has been dreaming of. We will be there. Til next season. GO BEARCATS!