Friday, March 15, 2002

Confident Bearcats thinking big


Seniors know this is their last chance

By Michael Perry, mperry@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PITTSBURGH — When practice ended Monday afternoon, University of Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins gave his team some final instructions for the following day, including to be packed for the bus ride to Pittsburgh.

        “How long should we pack for?” someone shouted.

        “Three weeks,” Huggins replied.

        He smiled. The players smiled.

        Three weeks would mean the Bearcats advanced to the Final Four.

        “It was the first thing to come into my head,” Huggins said.

        “For him to say it, that's good,” senior Immanuel McElroy said. “He's been having confidence in us, and we have confidence in him coaching. We've worked so hard and come so far. We've proven a lot of things to people, but I don't think this team's satisfied.”

        That's the mentality the top-seeded Bearcats are taking into tonight's game against No.16 seed Boston University — and the NCAA Tournament as a whole.

        They are thinking big, which is exactly what Huggins likes.

        And why not? UC (30-3) starts three seniors: point guard Steve Logan, guard-forward McElroy and power forward Jamaal Davis. A fourth, forward Rodney Crawford, comes off the bench for limited minutes.

        All season, coaches point to rosters loaded with veterans and talk about how those teams have advantages.

        That is perhaps never more true than in the postseason, when having a lineup full of seniors is at a premium.

        The Terriers (22-9) start no seniors and only one junior.

        UCLA, which UC could meet in the second round Sunday, has three seniors starting (Billy Knight, Matt Barnes, Dan Gadzuric). Mississippi, which plays UCLA late tonight, has one (Jason Harrison), and he's the team's No.4 scorer.

        Ohio State, a possible Sweet 16 opponent for the Bearcats? Two of its top three scorers are seniors (Brian Brown, Slobodan Savovic).

        “It's good to have the maturity,” Huggins said. “Our seniors come in here every day and work. They don't ask for a day off. They understand the importance of it. I don't know if the other guys understand.”

        It's getting more rare each season that the nation's elite programs find themselves with high-quality seniors, because players are leaving early for the NBA. Think of this: DerMarr Johnson and Kenny Satterfield would be juniors at UC had they stayed in school.

        Duke is about to lose at least two juniors, Jason Williams and Carlos Boozer, and maybe a third, Mike Dunleavy. Kansas could lose junior Drew Gooden. Maryland is fortunate to have seniors Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter.

        Last season, the Bearcats had no seniors. Stanford, which knocked out UC in the West Regional semifinals, started three (Jarron Collins, Michael McDonald and Ryan Mendez).

        Though upset after that defeat, the Bearcats couldn't help but think: There's always next year.

        Not true this time around for some of Cincinnati's key players, who bring a different kind of hunger into this year's tourney.

        “If we lose, I'm done,” Logan said. “That's just reality. There are no more chances for me. My time is up. There's always a difference when you're a senior. I try to tell the younger guys that. They'll understand when they get in my shoes one day. They don't know now. They play hard and want to win, but they don't understand like I do. I didn't understand it (in previous years).”

        “There's an urgency because this is our last year and we want to make the best of it,” McElroy said. “It's the time when every team steps their game up, and seniors need to take responsibility a little bit.”

        Logan, Davis and McElroy all said they hope to continue playing basketball professionally on some level when their college careers are over.

        But there is something special, they know, about playing for their school, with teammates they have grown close to over the years.

        “Everybody always reflects back on their college days because it's so fun, it's more team-oriented, more family-oriented,” Davis said. “You never want it to end. You want it to end when you reach your goal, and that's to win a national title.”

       



Bearcats Stories
Huggins: Next win will be his 500th
DAUGHERTY: March Madness
- Confident Bearcats thinking big
Twyman family nostalgic as UC-BU matchup nears
UC notebook
UC Women: For Pirtle, tourney was season-long

Ragtag Muskies prepare to dance
SULLIVAN: Future is now for West
Success starts with Chalmers
Buckeyes hold off tough Wildcats
Wildcats buck upset trend
NCAA Notebook
East Region roundup
Midwest Region roundup
South Region roundup
West Region roundup
NIT roundup
NIT scores
Maple Leafs topple Bruins
Sprewell pops Kings for 43 points in win
Coming up this week
Larkin leaves game against Yankees
Reds have big plans for final games
Reds notebook
Yankees 2, Reds 1
Baseball notebook
Bengals notebook
NFL notebook
Zone saves Winton Woods
Despite success, Tracy needs to leave Clermont Northeastern
Eastern Brown advances
St. Ursula, Rocky River evenly matched
Switch of offense boosts Reading past Hartley
Division II girls
Division IV girls
North Hardin, Lex Cath advance to Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals
Tournament pairings and results
Gymnastics all-stars


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