We have some great blogs on the SBNation network. One of the newer ones is our Cincinnati site Down the Drive, which is written by Matt Opper. Matt talks to us about the Bearcats' fast start, Mick Cronin's beef with Oscar Robertson, and of course Big East expansion.
1. Mick Cronin has you guys out to a great 15-1 start. Are the Bearcats the beneficiaries of a soft non-conference schedule, or is the team finally buying into the system?
A little bit of both. The schedule has been soft without a doubt. But this is the most complete team Cronin has had and the chemistry is off the charts compared to previous years. Last year in particular was brutal with Vaughn and Stephenson having big time effects on the cohesiveness of the team. As for buying into the system, I guess, for whatever system Cronin has.
2. Speaking of the system, what does Cronin like to do on offense and defense?
Lets tackle the defense first because that is the simplest. The defense is pretty straight forward on made baskets they will press full court, but not to create turnovers, just to slow the pace of the game down and make the offense work as long and as hard (that's what she said) as possible to find good shots. In the halfcourt it is nothing but man to man but they will switch almost every screen. On offense they just kind of pass the ball around and shit. Watching a Mick Cronin offense is like going down to your local rec and watching 5 old guys play pick up basketball. Everyone just kind of meanders around until someone pops open at the end of the shot clock.
3. Dion Dixon has stepped up his play this season. What has he done to improve so much over last year?
Confidence has a lot to do with it. Dixon has always had this kind of ability, but he thrives in an offense that is a little bit more open and flowing than anything UC has shown in the past couple of years. It goes back to Vaughn and Stephenson. Both of those guys were gifted offensive players, but they were unequivocally ball stoppers. If you are playing in an offense with one of those guys its hard. With two of them like last year it is damn near impossible unless you are a lethal spot up shooter. That's not Dion Dixon's skill set, so he wasn't playing well last year and then his minutes got cut big time and his confidence went way down hill. This year the offense is a little more open and conducive to his skill set. He came into the year with confidence and it has paid off.
4. There has been some tension between Coach Cronin and Cincinnati great Oscar Robertson over the past few seasons. Have they been able to take care of this, or are the two still butting heads?
Not really. There is still a little animosity between the two of them. Oscar doesn't seem to respect Mick as a coach, and he hasn't been vocal about telling people about it. The players in particular. There have been numerous times in the Cronin era where Oscar has been very vocal to the players on the floor telling them what to do basically shouting Cronin down. There has thankfully been less of that this year, primarily because Cronin is getting it done, but I don't think Robertson and Cronin will be exchanging birthday cards any time soon
5. I've been asking the rest of the Big East the same question, so what do you think of Big East expansion? Do you want football to stop at 9 teams, or add someone like Villanova or UCF?
I am pro UCF in this argument. I just think that is the smarter play for the long term health and viability of the Big East as a Football conference
6. What can USF do to get the win Wednesday?
Two things really. Force Cashmere Wrights hand. Wright is a very good player when he plays with an appropriate pace. He takes good shots, makes good decisions and generally pilots the good ship Bearcat with verve and skill. But when he starts to view the game as a track meet all that goes out the window and he looks bad, really bad. This team has survived a couple of those games already this year, but if you want to key on a guy he would be it. The other thing would be defend the three point line. UC is a pretty good 3 point shooting team and when they make them at a high clip they are a difficult team beat. If they don't the game becomes much tighter.
7. Any predictions for the game?
I think UC will win a game with a score in the mid sixties. I think the home court advantage will be huge.
Thanks to Matt, and make sure to follow DtD on Twitter.