The University of Cincinnati Men’s Basketball is known for their great and winning tradition. It’s has definitely come a long way back into being it, after when legendary coach Bob Huggins left and some small guy, who was previously coached at Murray State, head coach Mick Cronin came in and had to lead a program that was on the decline.
I’ve defended Cronin, because some people don’t like the way he coaches offense, yes that is true, but y’all need to look at the big picture on what he has done to get the program back to it was 12 years ago. When he took over during the 2005-2006 season, the team had no scholarship players and was dealing with off-field incident. The academics were so bad, the graduation rate were at a big time low. While attending games back then, there were absolutely nobody inside fifth third arena, it was a sad scene to watch.
The first five seasons of the Cronin era were the dark days of Cincinnati Bearcats Basketball, the true bearcat fans stayed patient and we trusted Cronin that he will get it back to respectability.
In 2010, the changes of the team and the program were starting to happen in a positive way. The Bearcats made the NIT, after a season ago of making the CBI (College Basketball Invitational) losing to Bradley in the first round. The won two games in the NIT, before being bounced out in the third round. I know UC fans were accustomed to seeing NCAA tournament berths every season before Huggins left, but the events that took place during the first five seasons under Cronin, an NIT berth was a huge deal for this program. In 2011, Cronin and the Cats made the big dance, and won a game beating down the Missouri Tigers in the first round, but were ousted in the next game by the eventual national champions Connecticut Huskies in the second round, a game the Bearcats fought til the end.
The 2012 season was my favorite season to watch the Bearcats, after the brawl against rival Xavier Musketeers, I won’t go into the details of it, but the team got smacked and embarrassed. Yancy Gates got suspended for 10 games for punching Xavier player Kenny Frease, and the team got off to a 5-3 start.
That game was a turning point of the season, the Bearcats went on to go 18-7 after the brawl and made it to the Big East Tournament Championship game, after defeating # 2 Syracuse Orange in the semifinal. The team went in to the NCAA tournament as a six seed. They took down the Texas Longhorns in a close one. Then, the Cats were matched up against the Florida State Seminoles, a team riding high after winning their conference tournament and were pick by many to go to the final four. The Bearcats were up for the challenge, taking the down the Seminoles to reach the Sweet 16.
I believe that’s where the program got it’s pride and respect back that season. Last season, was a up and down year, they made tournament for the third straight season, but were one and out losing to the Creighton Blue Jays.
This season the team is off to their best start in the Cronin era, supporting a 17-2 overall record and 6-0 in the new AAC (American Athletic Conference). The Bearcats are ranked 15th in the country. Right now, I can feel it around the campus that everybody is starting to get on board.
The fans and the city are starting to get the feeling that Cincinnati Bearcats Basketball is back. And if they continue to play well, you will see Fifth Third Arena packed every home game from here on out.
The first five seasons were hard to watch the Bearcats, but damn all the patient and waiting is all worth it now folks.