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In Cincinnati’s post-brawl world, it’s a Big East contender

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source: AP

When Yancy Gates’ right hook landed on Kenny Frease’s cheek and sent him to the ground during Cincinnati’s ugly and infamous brawl with Xavier on Dec. 10, it looked like the Bearcats hopes for 2011-12 dissolved in the pandemonium.

Now, that Cincinnati Bearcats team, the team that lost to Presbyterian at home and helped to escalate the most unfortunate on-court happening in recent memory, that team is long gone.

On Wednesday night in Storrs, Cincinnati notched their third statement win of the Big East season, surviving a second-half push from the defending national champions and sinking No. 11 Connecticut, 70-67.

After a first half highlighted by 7-of-14 Cincinnati shooting from beyond the arc and a nine-point Bearcat lead, heading into the break, the Huskies ripped off a 19-6 run in the second half to storm back and take the lead with just over 10 minutes to play.

But that was to be expected.

Cincinnati’s power came in the resurgence, a counteroffensive that began, fittingly, with a three-pointer from Dion Dixon, ending a four-minute scoring drought and putting the Bearcats ahead, 53-52.

Nine minutes of back-and-forth basketball came down to the last 10 seconds, when Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier hit a deep three from the right wing, tying the ballgame at 67.

With coach Mick Cronin choosing not to use a timeout, Sean Kilpatrick’s three-pointer with two seconds remaining put the Bearcats up for good. He finished with a team-high 16 points.

Kilpatrick continues to thrive, while flying under the national radar, averaging 16 points and nearly five rebounds on the year.

“You try to watch and see who has the ball,” Cronin said of the final possession. “Once I saw [Kilpatrick] had it, I liked our chances.”

These are the revitalized Bearcats. The brawl will not soon be forgotten and the labels will linger, but it is difficult to deny the strengths of Mick Cronin’s team.

During his team’s 10-1 stretch, following the fight, the Bearcats are averaging 10.5 made three-pointers per game.

With Yancy Gates suspended for six games earlier in the year, they needed to adapt, and necessity is the mother of invention.

Going with a smaller, four-guard, four-out lineup, Cincinnati has been able to spread the floor and create on the perimeter for guards Cashmere Wright, and the aforementioned Dixon and Kilpatrick.

And Gates has contributed in his return, putting up a double-double against Connecticut, with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

“We got answers on the offensive end, but we started defensive rebounding,” said Cronin. “We’re a team that can pick up the defense.”

Questions have been raised as to who “the second team” is in the Big East, the team that could challenge Syracuse at the top of the conference.

Louisville had its time and slipped, Georgetown has cooled a bit, the same West Virginia, and Marquette. Now, with this win over the Huskies, it looks like Cincinnati could be the flavor of the week.

After a road matchup with West Virginia, the Bearcats will get their chance against No. 1 Syracuse.

Presented with his upcoming schedule, Cronin could do little more than joke, “It gets a lot easier, doesn’t it?”

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

VIDEO: Asheville player hits trick shot

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 18:  Kevin Vannatta #10 of the UNC Asheville Bulldogs drives against Jalen Brunson #1 of the Villanova Wildcats in the first half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 18, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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UNC-Asheville has gotten into the trick shot game.

The basketball program’s official Twitter account posted this video of guard Kevin Vannatta nailing a shot from the balcony of Kimmel Arena.

Nice shot, huh?

Vannatta, a junior from Upper Arlington, Ohio, started all 34 games for the Bulldogs last year, averaging 11.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while shooting 50.6 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from 3-point range. It looks, though , like he might be working on extending his range.

Northwestern finds new home for 2017-18

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Northwestern has found a temporary home while its arena undergoes a nine-figure renovation.

The Wildcats will play the 2017-18 season at Allstate Arena, about 15 miles west of Evanston, Ill. in Rosemont, the school announced Tuesday.

“We are excited to partner with Allstate Arena to host Northwestern men’s basketball games during the 2017-18 season while Welsh-Ryan Arena is undergoing its renovation,” Northwestern vice president for athletics and recreation Jim Phillips said in a statement. “The venue has a rich college basketball tradition in the Chicagoland area. I know that our fans will enjoy cheering on our team at Allstate Arena during what will be an exciting season.”

Allstate Arena previously had been home to DePaul, which is moving into its own new building this year. Capacity is around 18,000 for basketball.

Northwestern had its best season under coach Chris Collins last year, going 20-12 overall and 8-10 in the Big Ten.

The renovation to Welsh-Ryan Arena will bring the building – which opened in 1952 and last renovated in 1983 – into the 21st century by replacing wood bleachers, widening concourses, adding concessions, improving arena technology and adding new locker rooms at the cost of at least $110 million.

Construction is slated to begin in spring of 2017 and be completed in the fall of 2018.

George Washington tabs Maurice Joseph interim head coach

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George Washington announced on Tuesday that Maurice Joseph has been named interim head coach for the 2016-17 season.

“I am eager and well prepared to begin this journey with the 13 student-athletes in our locker room and the tight-knit group of coaches that I will rely upon heavily,” said Joseph. “It is a distinct honor to have the opportunity to be a mentor to our team in this new role. I have the utmost confidence that I will validate the trust that Provost Maltzman and Patrick Nero have placed in me, and that we will deliver a product that makes our students, alumni and fans across the globe proud of GW Basketball and the university.”

Joseph has been a part of the GW coaching staff for the last five years, a full-time assistant for the last three.

He takes over for Mike Lonergan, who coached Joseph for three years at Vermont. Lonergan was fired two weeks ago stemming from an investigation into allegations of abuse.

Lonergan’s other two assistants, Hajj Turner and Carmen Marciariello, both were interviewed for the position as well, according to sources. Turner had been Lonergan’s associate head coach for the past five years, since Lonergan took over at GW.

“In his five years at GW, Maurice has shown himself to be selflessly dedicated to the success of our student-athletes and fully committed to our department and university,” said Nero, GW’s athletic director. “His leadership ability and basketball acumen will bring focus and stability to the talented team we have this year. Our team, basketball staff and athletic department are looking forward to working together for a successful season.”

2016-17 CBT Expert Picks

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10:  Head coach Mike Krzyzewski hugs Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils after he fouled out against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during their 84-79 overtime loss during the quarterfinals of the 2016 ACC Basketball Tournament Verizon Center on March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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We are now less than six weeks away from the start of the college basketball season, which means that it is time for us to officially get our picks on the record.

Here, our four writers pick who we think will win each league, the national title and the major awards:

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CBT Podcast: Listen as we put together the NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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We figured that it wasn’t enough just to simply list out who was on our All-America teams and who was our National Player of the Year, not when the decision is so wide open. Not when there are so many worthwhile candidates.

So while you can go and see the NBCSports.com Preseason All-American team here and you can read our feature story on Duke’s Grayson Allen, the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year, here, you can also listen along as we try to hash out just who we wanted slotted in which spot.

Because we recorded it all on a podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Audioboom or anywhere else that podcasts are given away for free.

If you enjoy what you hear on this podcast, please rate and review the podcast, as it will help us reach more listeners.

Thanks for listening!

MORE: 2016-17 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule