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Questions and Answers: With Pico Dulce from Rumble in the Garden, the Re-Questioning

 
The game Sunday is very big for both Cincinnati and St John’s. Mick Cronin has gone on the record in calling it a MUST win. St John’s is fresh off an ass kicking over Connecticut. Both sides need a win to improve their chances for the big tournament in March. What better time to find out more about St John’s than this? I can think of none either. My friend Pico at Rumble in the Garden (no gardening talk, what a rip off), and ECoastBias on twitter thought it would be a good idea as well, and we exchanged some thoughts over email. In lieu of a traditional KYO post, this will the be St John’s preview and prediction as well. My questions are in the weird font from copying this over from gmail. 

Care to fill those who don’t know how St John’s has done since we talked in? Yeah I couldn’t think of a first question.
St. John’s used the loss to Cincinnati as a springboard to a road thrashing in Washington DC… and then have released the Hardy. Dwight Hardy has been a constant in the past 4 games, carrying the team with – wait, that’s your next question.
I’ll start again – St. John’s has played five games since the Cincinnati Free Throw Debacle and has mostly shown an ability to put themselves in positions to win. They have lost on the road to UCLA and Georgetown. And they have garnered national attention with their wins at home, beating Duke, U Conn, and squeaking out a win against Rutgers, of course, since Rutgers is the best of those three teams. You see all those McDonald’s All-Americans on Rutgers? That gaudy record?
No?
Me neither. But St. John’s has come up big against big opponents, sparking national debate over whether a team that isn’t 4 games over .500 should be in the tourney (http://www.zagsblog.com/2011/02/11/despite-huge-win-johnnies-still-have-work-to-do/). Those two early losses loom large – I’d make a crack about Cincinnati’s schedule, but the teams St. John’s lost to would have fit in nicely.
The Johnnies could use one more road win – and wins over DePaul and South Florida. Neither is a guarantee for this split personality team. Since St. John’s had every chance to win the team’s previous meeting, the Johnnies probably think they have a real chance to take this one…
What has gotten into Dwight Hardy lately? He’s gone for 26, 15, 32 and 33 the last 4 games. Has he adjusted to the adjustments made on him after his blistering middle of the season?
The difference in Hardy is that in the flow of these games, he’s hitting his shots. He gets into a flow.  If the team can get him the ball while he is moving, and he doesn’t have to create from a stand-still position, using his dribble against an already-set defender, he’s more effective.
I think he is attacking more, getting opponents on their heels, and the team has enjoyed a pair of uptempo games against Connecticut and Duke. The pace of the games allows the team to focus on Hardy’s strengths. He’s a decent athlete, and crafty at getting his shot off; he’s not a great “point” guard at all. In a slow-down game, he has to be more of a floor manager. That takes from his explosiveness, and takes from the team’s strength – their transition game and their scrappy defense in transition.
The Johnnies started off Big East play by winning back to back games on the road, but now they can’t seem to win outside of MSG. What do you think is the difference?
Teams have figured them out.  Brownlee’s effectiveness has dipped – really, since the Syracuse game. He’s not getting the shots he wants/ needs, unless it’s the Duke game and some come in transition. Without a steadying force in the post, the Johnnies have droughts, the other team gains confidence; and others haven’t stepped their games up besides Hardy and possibly Paris Horne.
Obviously this is a gigantic game for both teams. I’d like to hear your perspective about it from the St John’s side.
I think St. John’s should have won against the Bearcats. I think they crapped away a golden opportunity. On the road, the game will be less certain. Yancy Gates is back, the Bearcats are still very long, big, and play slow. St. John’s is confident, they’ve knocked off some good teams with poise and aggressiveness.
But that first Cincy game came with good fortune – a lot of free throws, a lot of Cincy turnovers, and the element of surprise. I expect Cronin to play a lot of size on the Johnnies, and St. John’s hasn’t shown the ability to defeat size yet. That’s the big question for me; the Johnnies could drop both of these games and beat Seton Hall and be good, but I would love to see 1 or 2 more road wins to help the team’s confidence and sense of legitimacy.
A win in Cincy and St. John’s should be in control of their NCAA destiny.
In that vain, care to make a prediction?
I’ll go negative, since every time I do the Red and Stormies win. Cincy wins 65-58.
How hard is it to get a grasp on any team for any game in this league? Has this been the craziest you’ve seen the league top to bottom?
This might be the craziest I’ve seen – because there are 13, maybe 15 or 16 competent coaches in the league. Since the poaching of Conference USA, there had been 4-6 teams that were just SOL – no longer. Everyone is competitive, almost to a fault.

 

A ton of thanks to Pico. That’s why he’s one of my favorite people who blogs. He’s also very good at what he does. That giant font is weird. It also makes the site seem a little classier. Hopefully that happens again somehow. Anyway, let’s get into the stats and my thoughts. Stats are conference play only.

cincinnatilogo7 Record: 19-5, 6-5

Points

  1.  Sean Kilpatrick 10.2
  2. Yancy Gates 9.6
  3. Dion Dixon 9
  4. Cashmere Wright 8.5
  5. Rashad Bishop 7

Rebounds

  1.  Yancy Gates 6
  2. Ibrahima Thomas 5.3
  3. Sean Kilpatrick 3.7
  4. Rashad Bishop 3.4
  5. Dion Dixon 3
Assists
  1. Cashmere Wright 3.6
  2. Rashad Bishop 2
  3. Dion Dixon 2
  4. Sean Kilpatrick 1.5
  5. Darnell Wilks 1.2

Steals

  1.  Yancy Gates 1.2
  2. Dion Dixon 1.2
Blocks
  1.  Rashad Bishop 0.81
  2. Yancy Gates 0.8
3 point percentage
  1. Cashmere Wright 38%
  2. Sean Kilpatrick 36%
  3. Larry Davis 35%
  4. Dion Dixon 28%
  5. Rashad Bishop 24%

 Record: 14-9, 6-5

Scoring

  1.  Dwight Hardy 15.3
  2. Justin Brownlee 11.3
  3. DJ Kennedy 9.5
  4. Paris Horne 8.3
  5. Justin Burrell 7.5
Rebounding
  1.  DJ Kennedy 6.2
  2. Justin Brownlee 5.2
  3. Justin Burrell 4.4
  4. Dwight Hardy 3.4
  5. Paris Horne 2.6
Assists
  1.  DJ Kennedy 2.5
  2. Justin Brownlee 2.2
  3. Malik Boothe 1.9
  4. Dwight Hardy 1.6
  5. Paris Horne 1.2
Steals
  1.  DJ Kennedy 1.5
  2. Paris Horne 1.2
  3. Dwight Hardy 1.1
Blocks
  1.  Justin Brownlee 0.8
  2. Dwayne Polee 0.7
FT percentage
  1.  Malik Stith 92%
  2. Dwight Hardy 87%
  3. Malik Boothe 83%
  4. DJ Kennedy 81%
  5. Paris Horne 69%
One could really say that the 2 road wins in conference for the Bearcats were gifts. One was against DePaul, and the other St John’s missed 14 free throws. One of those guys on the good FT shooters list, DJ Kennedy, was 4-8. Like Pico mentioned, if they shot foul shots remotely well, that could have been a win for the Johnnies. Instead, it’s the Bearcats biggest win of the season. Let’s hit a couple of keys. 

  • One of the biggest parts of the Bearcats win in Jamaica was rebounding. UC won the battle of the boards by 12, and got 9 offensive rebounds. That type of effort is going to be needed again. St John’s is the weakest offensive rebounding team in the league, while being the strongest defensive rebounding team in the league.  UC held them to 6 offensive boards, a number that would be great to match. 
  • The Cincinnati bigs feasted on the St John’s front line. Gates, 13, Justin Jackson, 8, Biggie McClain, 4, and Ibrahima Thomas, 3, had 28 of the 53 Cincinnati points. They also had 22 of the 35 Cincinnati rebounds. We need that type of motivation from everyone on Sunday. Gates had 13-8 while in foul trouble. He’s gotta play movitated. On the Yancy Gates motivation meter, I think we’ll see a 7.6. He knows he can score against them, he’ll probably start, he’s playing at home, and he knows he has to make up for the DePaul game. And, he made the game winner against them last time. He should be confident going into this one. 
  • I expect Bishop on Hardy. The Duke game doesn’t count in the Hardy stats, which are very impressive. He’s been one of the best offensive players for the Red Storm the past couple of weeks, and getting him stopped will help stop the rest of the offense. He had only 7 the first meeting. 
Mick Cronin has said this is a must win. I hope that means we have a great crowd Sunday at noon. With what the Bearcats having coming up after this, it’s a crucial game. It’s game 2 of the 4 games that define the season. I also think it will be win 2. 

Cincinnati 66 St John’s 64 

Scott

About Scott

I write Bearcats Blog and also on the Student Section.

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