I haven’t written in awhile, so I’ll catch up my thoughts on the Cincinnati sports scene and take the blog from there!
Football first: yeah, it sucked. Zac Taylor’s first year will most be remembered for clinching the first pick. I was glad to see them clinch the first pick without having to join the list of NFL franchises to finish a season 0-16. Joe Mixon showed real spirit in the second half of a lost season. The fact that he ended the year with 1,000+ yards is remarkable. Germaine Pratt emerged as a possibly reliable linebacker, moving forward, and Geno Atkins continued to prove that age is just another number. Other than that, there was little to take away from 2019.
College-wise, the Bearcats had a decent season that will most likely be remembered for its ending mores than anything else. Back-to-back losses to Memphis (including the American Conference Championship) placed them firmly in the Birmingham Bowl against a Boston College side that would rather have not played the game, at all. Really early polls have Luke Fickell and the boys in the Top-25, so next year has promise, but Cincinnati football fans are pretty happy to see 2019 in the rearview.
Now to basketball: it’s not over, but it’s not looking good. John Brannen’s first year has seen his tall, calm visage on the sideline overseeing a tumultuous team. Jarron Cumberland may be finally coming around to the current state of the Bearcats, but his delay in arrival may have doomed UC to a conference-championship-or-bust tournament status. KenPom has the Bearcats at 43, while the NET Rankings have them at 52. That’s on the bubble, but any further losses like the one to Colgate (127 KenPom, 125 NET) or Bowling Green (151, 141) are likely to put this season on the ropes.
These next two games against Houston (22, 36) and Wichita State (38, 32) would be massive, if the Bearcats can pull out some wins. Two games that are absolute must-win, can’t-lose, threat level midnight scenarios are East Carolina (232, 225) and South Florida (134, 130). They lose either one of those games and they will have to win the conference tournament.
And of course, baseball: the Reds didn’t end 2019 great, but they have all of Reds country chomping at the bit for 2020. Dick Williams and Nick Krall went out and did something Cincinnati sports fans are not accustomed to, the spent money on free agents. $166 million, to be exact. I cover the Reds, daily, on Locked On Reds, so I’m not going to say much more than this year is going to be a lot of fun down at good old Great American Ballpark.
One last baseball note, I am now a proud season ticket member of UC baseball. Get ready for some college baseball coverage, in this space!