Thursday, March 14, 2002

UC tournament questions and answers

Can Bearcats go from unranked in preseason to unstoppable in postseason?

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The player UC will turn to:

        Who else? Senior guard Steve Logan. When you have a first-team All-American on your hands, the NCAA Tournament is when you count on that guy most.

        Logan has scored in double figures in 53 of his last 54 games. He is the leading scorer and most consistent offensive player on the team. Also, he will provide confidence, intensity and a bravado that helps in the postseason. Really, what more can be said about him?

        The guy UC must have playing well

        We want to say junior Leonard Stokes — the tendency is always to talk about Logan needing help on the perimeter — but instead we're going with Donald Little.

        It becomes more obvious each game that when Little, a junior center, plays well and gives the Bearcats an inside presence at both ends of the court, they are awfully tough to beat.

        Little averaged just 4.0 points and 4.7 rebounds in UC's three losses. The Bearcats are 14-0 when he gets at least 10 points and/or at least 10 rebounds. And Little is one of those players who just has such a drastically different energy level when he's is playing well and when he's not.

        The team UC doesn't want to face

        Oklahoma. Don't think for a minute the Sooners wouldn't like to prove they were deserving of the No. 1 seed in the West over Cincinnati. Don't think for a minute that former Bearcat Aaron McGhee, one of Oklahoma's top players, wouldn't like to face his former team and coach.

        At least one website “expert” is picking Oklahoma to win the national championship. Most are predicting the Sooners will defeat UC in the Elite Eight.

        What gives UC its best hope to get to the Final Four: Oklahoma getting upset along the way. Seriously, though the West is clearly the toughest region, there are no teams in UC's path that you figure the Bearcats have no chance against. If the Bearcats play well, they certainly have the potential to win four games. However, a little luck never hurt. When Cincinnati went to the Final Four in 1992, it never faced a better-seeded team.

        < What could get UC bounced in the first round?

        The team bus making a wrong turn and heading toward Boise, Idaho. On a food stop, the starting five is late getting back to the bus and Huggins suspends them all for the first game. The Boston Celtics (circa 1984) show up instead of Boston University.

        That's about all we could think of.

        What was UC's best win?

        At Wake Forest (103-94), Feb. 9, Winston-Salem, N.C. It wasn't nearly as emotional as Cincinnati's victories over Marquette and Memphis at Shoemaker Center at the end of the regular season, but it was a quality road victory against a ranked Atlantic Coast Conference team coached by none other than Skip Prosser, the former Xavier coach.

        It was even more interesting because the Bearcats' defense failed them, yet they were able to outscore the Demon Deacons, getting five players in double figures.

        What was Boston University's best win?

        At Wisconsin-Green Bay (79-76 in overtime), Dec. 28, under adverse circumstances. BU was leaving from Boston the day before, but because of airplane problems, it spent more than 12 hours from the time it left school until the time it arrived in Green Bay, 10 p.m. the night prior the game. The Terriers trailed by four points with two seconds remaining in regulation before somehow tying it, then winning in overtime.

                What was UC's worst loss?

        At Louisville (74-71), Feb. 27, Freedom Hall. It's not so much that the Cardinals were the only unranked team to which UC lost, it's that Cincinnati's players came out listless despite having a chance to clinch a share of the Conference USA regular-season title.

        Logan and Stokes got in foul trouble and sat out most of the first half, but the reserves -- especially Taron Barker and Field Williams -- helped UC lead at the half 38-34.

        The Cardinals just played harder and with more emotion in the second half, and that couldn't be said often about the Bearcats this season.

        What was Boston University's worst loss?

        Vermont (74-65), Jan. 5, at home. “We just didn't compete,” coach Dennis Wolff said. It was one of only two home losses in league play for the Terriers, who would have started America East play 8-0 if it had beaten Vermont.

        Where is UC now, compared to November?

        What has gotten better or worse? Well, the Bearcats were unranked in the preseason and now they are No. 5 in the county with the first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in school history. That's progress for ya.

        In some ways, the Bearcats are light years from that season-opening loss at Oklahoma State, when they struggled mightily on the offensive end. They soon became a hard-working team that would hang its hat on defense. Players found their roles and stuck to them. Individuals improved, especially freshman forward Jason Maxiell, who has become a force off the bench. The players never got down after the first defeat. They have talked often about how much faith they have in each other. Coach Bob Huggins has spoken often of how hard this team works every day in practice and how little trouble he has had with them.

        It's a motivated group that tries to stay on an even-keel. That has served them well during games, and in preparation for games after losses or big victories.


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