Thursday, March 15, 2001

Two reasons for guarded optimism




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        SAN DIEGO — The old-school Bearcats wouldn't want to play the current UC team in an early-round game in the NCAA Tournament. The “good” Bearcats teams of recent vintage, the 1 and 2 seeds, would cringe at the sight of the No.5 Bearcats who play BYU here tonight.

        Uh, Paul. Excuse us. But are you nuts?

        Danny Fortson would break this team's face. Art Long would show B.J. Grove the short end of the stick. And don't get us started on the carnage Kenyon Martin would cause.

        This UC team is getting outrebounded. The program that put Muscle Beach in baggy shorts has trouble getting physical. You might as well put Bobby Brannen in hot pants.

        No one knows how these guys
bagged a No.5 seed, Paul. They play BYU today. When Cougar players say they're on a mission, they're not kidding. If BYU doesn't send UC packing, Indiana will, in the dreaded second round. Tomato-can heavyweights fight more rounds than UC has played lately in the NCAA Tournament.

        OK, OK. Not so fast. This team has the best guards Bob Huggins has had since the Final Four year of '92. Having good guards in March is like having good abs in July. They give control-freak coaches more options during the several thousand timeouts called in the last two minutes.

        “In March, if you don't get good guard play, you lose,” UC assistant coach Mick Cronin said.

        Steve Logan and Kenny Satterfield handle the ball well. They've been here before. They don't do a lot of dumb things. Logan was the C-USA player of the year; Satterfield's good enough that a brilliant weekend could put the NBA back in his summer.

        They make free throws. March loves players who make free throws.

        Said Cronin: “What's the difference between us and BYU? I don't know. They're a 12 (seed), we're a 5. That's irrelevant. We're from comparable conferences, we have the same amount of wins. It's going to be a close game. If (we) don't turn the ball over, it bodes well for us.”

        Huggins has never had a team that protects the ball like this one. That's big early in the tourney, when teams play with nervous hands.

        Meanwhile: Other than the UAB game last week, has Logan had a bad shooting night in, oh, two months? Great shooters are often streaky; Logan's aim has been fixed in the red zone.

        Satterfield might have contracted a case of NBA-itis early in the year. He forced shots and action. Cronin contends the coaches asked him to do too much. “We'd say, "Here's a close game. Win it.'”

        Regardless, Satterfield has been both wise and creative lately. The tournament could be an audition for him.

        An audition would be good if it steadies Satterfield into playing the way he has lately. It would be bad if it caused him to forget Logan has averaged 21 points the last eight weeks.

        It's not a great team, or even a very good one. But it doesn't have to beat greatness or very good-ness this weekend. It has only to play smart, stay close and make free throws.

        Those are things the good guards do. UC has that part covered.

        E-mail: pdaugherty@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/daugherty.

Online pool and college hoops coverage at Cincinnati.com



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