Tuesday, February 09, 1999

Bearcats go without a go-to guy

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Would you bet your next paycheck on a University of Cincinnati guard making a jump shot to win a basketball game? How would you feel trusting your mortgage to the decisions of a Bearcat point guard?

        If there are 10 seconds left in a tournament game and UC has the ball down by a point, who takes the shot?

        Who would you bet Bob Huggins' house on?


        This will happen. It has already. There will be a game, possibly in March, when UC needs a basket at the end. (And we are talking about March here. Sorry, but nobody's blood is doing the rhumba over the game Wednesday at Marquette.)

        Everywhere you look, Nick Van Exel won't be there. There won't be a Danny Fortson in sight.

        What you'd give right now for a Darnell Burton.

        “I've said all along, we don't have a go-to guy,” Huggins said Monday.

Concern, but no panic
        Not that it's time to panic. A little low-grade fretting might be good, but there's nothing to wrinkle about. What teams in the top 25 have fewer defeats than UC? Duke, Connecticut and Auburn. That's it. The College of Charleston lost its third game Monday night, and Charleston spends lots of time playing The College of Not Very Good.

        The Bearcats should get a No.1 or No.2 seed into the Madness. Beyond the prestige, a 2 is about the same as a 1.

        The sky isn't falling for them. (Neither are the jump shots. But we digress.)

        Who takes the shot?

        Kenyon Martin took one against UNC-Charlotte, then missed a free throw. Jermaine Tate took the last one. Tate got up under the basket and threw up a sermon.

        It was Steve Logan and Melvin Levett at DePaul Saturday. Logan pulled up for a jumper that missed near the end of regulation. Levett got the ball swiped in overtime.

        Who takes the shot?

        Here's a better question: Who sets it up?

        Point guard is the most important position in the college game. The Bearcats have a great one: Michael Logan. Or is it Steve Horton?

        Horton is a good defender who can drive and dish; Logan is a scorer. Horton is no help outside 15 feet. At the charity stripe, he's a charity case. And jeez, Mike, sometimes you look a little, I don't know, disengaged out there.

        Of UC's three point guards, Logan is the poorest defender. Plus, he's a freshman.

        So ... what?

'Cats not complete
        “We've got a whole team of guys that do some things, but not everything,” Huggins said. “(Logan) doesn't push the ball, (so) we don't get any easy baskets. And he doesn't guard. I can't play Horton (late in close games), because they're going to foul him.”

        The Bearcats play bone-to-bone defense when the urge hits. But they are not a good offensive team. They're not complete. But really, who is?

        I nominate Duke. UC beat the Blue Devils, without Horton and Tate. I'd take Connecticut, which won easily at Stanford without shooting guard Richard Hamilton. But that's it.

        That means at least two flawed teams will get to the Final Four, two that aren't good enough to overcome their inconsistency night after night. Maybe one will have a two-headed point guard and no one player to turn to when the game needs to be won.

        “There are two lines of thought,” Huggins said. If you have a scorer, “people know who you're going to throw it to. The other guys stand around. Maybe he scores. But if you have more guys, (defenses) know they can't sit on one guy.”

        The last time they had the ball at DePaul, the Bearcats wanted to get it to Ryan Fletcher. He had scored all 11 of their overtime points. He was five inches taller than the player guarding him. Levett tried a crossover dribble 30 feet from the hoop, and that was that.

        It was just one loss, not especially critical. It said a little about where UC needs to tinker with its offense, though. Mistakes in February aren't fatal. Unless they're repeated in March.

Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454.