Thursday, March 08, 2001
UC playing for NCAA seeding
Bearcats play UAB tonight in C-USA Tournament
By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LOUISVILLE The University of Cincinnati is of the mind-set that it is playing for NCAA Tournament seeding and momentum this week at the Ohio Casualty Group Conference USA Tournament.
The Bearcats, who shared the regular-season title with Southern Mississippi, play Alabama-Birmingham tonight in the quarterfinals. The Blazers knocked out Louisville 74-61 Wednesday night and sent coach Denny Crum into retirement after 30 seasons.
UC defeated UAB 90-83 on Jan.17 at Shoemaker Center. The Bearcats, who have beaten the Blazers six straight times, were ahead by 23 with 10:31 remaining.
I remember them making every shot at the end of the game, UC coach Bob Huggins said.
The key for tonight?
Same as always, Huggins said. We've got to defend and rebound. And it would be nice to make a couple shots.
It's been three years since UC won the tournament, although last year deserves an asterisk because Kenyon Martin broke his leg.
Though these top-seeded Bearcats do not have the aura of invincibility that last year's team had, they are loaded with confidence, hav ing won four straight games and seven of their past eight.
We come here with no wins and no losses, sophomore point guard Kenny Satterfield said. I think before this week is over, we're going to do what we've got to do and I think we're going to win the championship.
Even without the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, there is no doubt in Huggins' mind the Bearcats (21-8) will receive an at-large bid. UC was No.34 in the Ratings Percentage Index Wednesday.
They probably are looking at a No.8 or 9 seed, but might be able to earn as high as a No.6 seed if they win the tournament.
I don't know how we wouldn't get in, Huggins said.
He even made a pitch for co-champion Southern Miss (21-7), which has won five straight games and is No.51 in the RPI. I don't think there's any question they should be (in), he said.
All other teams are playing with a sense of desperation, with no chance at an NCAA bid other than to win this tournament.
The Bearcats have won six conference tournament titles under Huggins four in the Great Midwest (1992-95) and two in C-USA (1998, '96).
Huggins thinks his teams have played better in the NCAA Tournament when they have won the conference tournament.
Of the six times that has happened, the Bearcats have gone to the Final Four once, the Elite Eight twice, lost twice in the second round and once in the first round. When they did not win the conference tourney, they have lost three times in the second round of the NCAA.
It seems like we get some momentum going when we play well in the conference tournament, Huggins said.
Cincinnati has won nine of its past 11 games because of marked improvement in at least three areas:
Defense: UC is allowing an average of 65 points a game, the sixth-lowest under Huggins. The past four opponents have averaged just 59.8 points. The Bearcats are especially better with their post defense.
Small forward: Junior Immanuel McElroy has become more aggressive offensively, averaging 11.8 points over the past five games. Reserve Leonard Stokes has averaged 13.3 points and 5.3 rebounds over the past four games. Both play good perimeter defense. That gives UC a nice 1-2 punch at the position.
Rebounding: The main frontline players centers Donald Little and B.J. Grove and power forward Jamaal Davis have combined to average 20.5 rebounds the past two games.
Having confident big men can only help. C-USA Player of the Year Steve Logan and Satterfield can use some help in the postseason.
Our guys, sometimes they get real down on themselves and it's hard for them to get up for a game. When we keep winning, guys are ready to play every day no matter who we're playing.
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