I am not a fan of roller coasters. I do not like the heights, the gut-wrenching speeds, the never-seem-to-be-sturdy-enough structures, the getting latched into a death box on wheels and whatever other reason or phobia you can cook up.
My least favorite roller coaster of all time is Superman the Ride at Six Flags New England. During my eighth field trip back when I was a wee lad, my classmates and I ventured to the small town of Agawam, Massachusetts for an afternoon of sun and fun. Unfortunately, the terrifying height and the excruciating drop that accompanied the Superman ride made me stop in my tracks and shiver in fear. A few hours of peer pressure and teasing at my cowardice beat me down enough that I never wanted to see another roller coaster again.
So, watching this Cincinnati season become more roller coaster than water slide (a far superior theme park ride) has been particularly frustrating. We got strapped in and felt the safety of a hot start, but the drops and spins and turns along the way have left me, and I'm sure some of you, panting for breath, wiping puke off our shirts and begging for mercy. This past week was just another upside down loop as the Bearcats frustrated on the road and then snatched a win from the jaws of defeat against a rival.
How Sweep It Is
Beating a conference foe is always nice. Beating a conference foe twice is even nicer. Beating a conference foe that you have a rivalry with and whom constantly engages you in torturous chambers of basketball brutality is the nicest. That's just what Cincinnatti did on Saturday, finishing off a season sweep of the UConn Huskies with a 65-60 victory. Sure, it didn't feature last-second heroics from Gary Clark, but it was as tight as ever and was in doubt all the way to the last whistle. It marks the first time since 2010 that UC has swept the Huskies, unless you count 2012 when the Bearcats got a 70-67 win in the lone matchup of the year. Let's savor this moment. It can at least serve as a salve for the burn still ripping at our skin from the loss to Xavier.
6 x 20
Even if this season hasn't been the scorched earth campaign we all yearned for, it has still been yet another solid season under the guidance of Mick Cronin. With the win over UConn, the Bearcats are now 20-8 overall, marking the sixth-straight season they have reached 20 victories. That streak is tied for the second-longest in program history, matching the six-year stretch from 1957-1963 during which UC won a pair of national titles. The longest stretch of 20-win seasons came under Bob Huggins from 1991-2002.
Troy Caupain. Conference Killer.
I've been vocal in saying that Gary Clark is the best and most important player on this team. That might be bad news for Clark because I heralded Octavius Ellis anytime I could during the offseason and he has certainly fell short of those expectations.
Even if Clark is all of those things, there is no question that this team looks to Troy Caupain to lead the way. He is the man with the ball in his hands when it matters. He directs the shooters, pinpoints the passes and sets the tone defensively. He has also given the team direction when conference teams come to town. The leading scorer in conference play (12.3 PPG) among Bearcats, Caupain is also handing out 5.2 assists per league test. He flirted with a double-double against Tulsa (15 points, 9 rebounds) and UConn (10 points, 8 assists). The fact that the Cincinnati Bearcats store hasn't released a "Here Comes the Caupain" shirt at this point, well, it's just irresponsible.
The Shorter DeBerry
God it'd be great if Coreontae DeBerry could play 40 minutes. If he did, the 6-foot-10 forward would put Clark to shame. He is averaging 16.2 points, 2.6 blocks and 10 rebounds per 40 minutes. Of course, most people's stats look exceptionally better when stretched out over 40 minutes, but you have to figure with how effective he has been in short bursts, DeBerry would be a force to be reckoned with with increased playing time. I won't speculate as to why Cronin doesn't plug DeBerry in more often, but it might be worth giving him a shot at longer playing time during Saturday's matchup with East Carolina in order to see if it might be a long-term strategy.
Incremental progress is still progress. The Bearcats received three votes in this week's AP poll, but the USA Today Coaches poll continues to ignore them.
As far as bracketology is concerned, UC is still trying to hold on to a spot. ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Bearcats as one of the last four teams in but CBS has them as one of the first four out. The jokers over at SB Nation seem to have some sense this week, as the Bearcats are a No. 11 seed in their projections.
Highlight of the Week
Bloc Party recently released a new album. I was somewhat disappointed in it. Most of the songs dragged and it just didn't fit the highs of Silent Alarm or Intimacy. Here's a block party I like much more.
Quadri Moore Minutes Watch
How about a crisp three minutes for Mr. Moore this week? At this point, this is just an exercise in futility. Our boy is not going to reach 500 minutes. He now has 172 minutes. We will soldier on next week, but the cause, it seems, is lost.
Just one game before the next episode and that comes this Saturday at East Carolina. Cincinnati already beat the Pirates 75-60 at Fifth Third on Feb. 13. Yo ho!