The focus for most UC fans at the moment is probably 100 per cent on Zach Collaros and his ankle which are sure to be holed up somewhere in the vicinity of campus, awaiting either word on the extent of the injury to his leg, or the press release that will make it all official. I am sure that is coming at some point. But there is a Basketball game today. A real live one that counts against UC's record and everything. As with most early season UC games the question is who exactly is UC playing?
Alabama State is HBCU school from Montgomery. They don't have a particularly strong Basketball tradition, though they won the SWAC title last year and were participants in the inaugural first four and will therefore be the answer to a trivia question for all eternity.
With the Hornets opening up the season on the road against two opponents (Marshall and Cincinnati) that were involved in post-season tournament action, the coaching staff is eager to see how the Hornets will match up against some tough early-season competition.
It is a bit of a regional road trip for Alabama State starting with Marshall on Friday, a game Bama State dropped 67-49.
"I thought tonight we got pushed around quite a bit by Marshall," head coach Lewis Jackson said. "They out manned us in just about every facet of the game. They really beat us up pretty bad on the boards, out rebounding us by 13. We couldn't keep Dennis (Tinnon) off the glass. He was a one-man wrecking crew around the basket."
The Hornets rolled into Cincinnati yesterday and don't seem to harbor many illusions about the magnitude (pop! pop!) of the task.
The Bearcats will present a large challenge for the Hornets as they have seven returners from last season's team that finished 26-9 and made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The game is the season-opener for Cincinnati, but they will have the luxury of opening the season with their two leading scorers back from last season. Yancy Gates averaged 12 points and seven rebounds per outing and Dion Dixon averaged 11.6 points per game.
"Playing in this type of environment does a couple of things for our team," Jackson said. "First, it gives our guys a chance to see how the measure up against one of the high major programs in the country and it also gives us an opportunity to continue to improve and hopefully when we get to tournament time in the post season will are able to perform at a level going into venues that we have played in where we played before a hostile environment and will allow us to stay focused on things we must do to win ballgames."
As for what you can expect from the Horents in terms of style of play if past seasons trends are any indication they will try to slow the game down and play a methodical brand of basketball on offense. They aren't an all out iso all the time offense, but there isn't a premium on flowing ball movement either. In defensive terms they are a mostly man team.
The players to watch for the Hornets are Ivory White (F) and Tramaine Butler (G). Both were named to the pre season all SWAC teams, White to the 1st, Butler to the second. White was also named the SWAC Pre Season Defensive Player of the Year. Another player to pay attention to is Kenderek Washington (G/F) who has led Hornets in scoring through two games, one of them an exhibition, with 15.5.