Wednesday night Fifth Third Arena brought out the national media to watch the Ohio Bobcats. What you say, Ohio Bobcats? Why in the world would Andy Katz (ESPN), Greg Doyle (CBS Sportsline) and Fifth Third regular Mike DeCourcy all make this game one they had to catch? Because the team playing at Fifth Third Arena, may be the surprise team to watch when tournament time comes around. But while in years past these hoop junkies would be here to watch the UC Bearcats, the power of the MAC would be on displayed against a decent team for the first time this season.
The reason was simple. The Bobcats only play two teams from major conferences and many felt they would show better against the Bob Huggins less Bearcats as compared to Kentucky (12/30/05 US Bank Arena) before the start of their MAC season.
But while these men who are paid for a living to watch and report on basketball watched and waited for Coach Tim O'Shea's audition for the Bearcats job, a strange thing happened. The Bearcats and their head coach Andy Kennedy showed there is still life in the program many feel died when President Nancy Zimpher released their coaching legend. But while there are still many questions regarding the program as a whole, Bearcat fans and the national media walked away knowing something special may be building at Cincinnati.
The play of true freshman Devan Downey has improved game-by-game this season. The pint size point guard has many talking about the way he zips up and down the court with abandon making opponents look like their in slow motion. The ability to penetrate and dish or score makes Downey a threat "Big" enough to help carry a team with a shallow bench.
Finding His Touch
And while fans have enjoyed watching Downey, they've started to see signs of life from senior Armein Kirkland. While looking like a player who couldn't even start at the high school level early in the season, Kirkland is starting to find his outside jumper along with the feeling he belongs on the court. If the Bearcats hope to keep up the current pace shown in their last two games, Kirkland needs to keep finding his game.
Emotions Getting The Best
While senior Eric Hicks shows the face of a warrior, his game has yet to find its stride. While his hulking presence is much needed, Hicks ability to score in the paint would help Downey, Kirkland and James White on the outside and on their drives. One only needs to watch and see the expressions on Hicks face during a game to see he's not happy with many things this season. But lookout, Hicks is starting to find his touch under the basket and his ability in the paint on the defensive side of the ball. Against Ohio, Hicks would block 5 shots and pull down 9 boards to go with his 8 points. Just a little more will be needed as the Bearcats get ready to head into the Big East in just a few weeks.
Coach A Keeper
Is Andy Kennedy worth keeping? It's starting to look like the coach many have given the term "Interim" to be much more than a stop gap between the next coach who will be brought in to lead the Bearcats program. In fact, many around press row last night saw some of the same coaching qualities in Kennedy as the man he replaced just a few months ago. While always looking to coach his young players, he's also stern with his vets and the trusted few newcomers who have taken the court so far this season. One thing is for sure, Coach Andy Kennedy should not have the term INTERIM listed anywhere by his name. He's the Men's Head Basketball Coach for the University of Cincinnati and deserving of the title.
Depending upon what new Bearcats Director of Athletics Mike Thomas sees from within his new department, one thing is for sure. Coach Andy Kennedy must be given all consideration for the head coaching job and if this is the case he should be named so by the time the Bearcats reach Big East play. While I understand there will be some bumps in the road, Kennedy looks to be a stable force and the type of coach a program can be built around.
Give Me Moore
Chadd Moore may have missed the first five games of the regular season, but the senior guard who many felt played his last college game last season is looking impressive on the court. While Devan Downey is showing his quick's Moore is able to give the freshman a rest and keep the offense flowing. While Downey has earned the job, Moore is allow more time for the Bearcats to use a pressure defense and push teams to the brink of disaster.
Where Have You've Gone
One player many Bearcat fans thought they would be seeing plenty of this season is learning fast major college basketball is not high school. True Freshman DeAndre Coleman looked to have all the tools needed to be a big part of this year's team. But while Downey has made the quick adjustment, Coleman is having a hard time putting all the pieces in place. But while his role at this stage is limited, the kid has all the tools needed to become a major force down the road.
That is what newcomer Ronald Allen has become. While he's not going to hitting for double figures on a constant if ever basis, Allen gives the Bearcats a player who can come in and play with emotion and fouls. That's right, fouls. Every team needs a player who can play 6-10 minutes and give effort and fouls against other team's big men. That is what Allen is seeing his role become. Score a couple of baskets and give Cedric McGowan and Eric Hicks a breather.
The Crowd Was Back
While the official number of fans at the Ohio game is listed at 9,133 (many Ohio fans), it was by far the loudest crowd this season. The students who came used their voices in helping keep this team pumped up during their sluggish first half and stayed on the nervous of the Bobcats until the end of the game. The sound meter hit it's peak several times during the night, and while some made the choice to chant their hate towards President Nancy Zimpher, (didn't last long) they were a big part in the Bearcats impressive victory against the Bobcats. Keep it up because the team will need it when Big East foes head into Fifth Third Arena next month.