Posted: 8:41 a.m. Wednesday, March 13, 2013
By Jeff Gentil
At least on the basketball side, the time spent in the Big East hasn't been as fruitful as time spent in the Great Midwest or Conference USA. But it perhaps has set the program up for bigger and better things based on the amount of exposure it has gotten in the eight years. (Eight years? Is that all?)
When UC tips off today's full slate of action in Madison Square Garden, it will be the start of the last tournament as members of the current Big East. Greed and television has forced widespread realignment over the past few years and common sense has been thrown out the window. But this is not going to be a post about realignment. That topic is kinda boring and, quite honestly, all speculative at this point regarding UC. So let's move on.
Providence provides a stiff first round test for the Bearcats today. As everyone knows by now, the Friars held off the Cats 54-50 at the Dunkin Donuts Center a few weeks ago. Kadeem Batts destroyed the Bearcats down low in scoring 25 points and grabbing nine rebounds. For UC to win today, that cannot happen again. Hopefully Cheikh Mbodj discovered something about himself down the stretch against South Florida Saturday. That Cheikh Mbodj can play all March if he wants. I don't think anyone would object.
It will also be nice to see Justin Jackson return to the floor following a three game absence with an ankle injury. From all indications he could have played against South Florida but was held out as a precautionary measure. They will need his energy and rebounding today more than ever with a noon tip combined with UC's notoriously slow starts. This team needs a spark and Jackson could be the guy to provide it.
For those who are still nervous about UC's at-large prospects for the NCAA Tournament, a win today should all but remove those doubts. A loss would likely provide (at least for me) a few more days of pacing and looking at the calendar hoping for Sunday to hurry up. So let's just go ahead and alleviate all those fears and get revenge on Providence today.