Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin reacts during the first half of the men's NCAA East Regional basketball game against the Ohio State Buckeyes in Boston

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin enjoying the Big East while it lasts

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It has to be a bittersweet season for Mick Cronin and his Cincinnati Bearcats. Cincinnati started off the season with 12 straight wins, before a tough home loss to New Mexico. The Bearcats bounced back to beat No. 24 Pitt on the road to open Big East conference play.

Along with Louisville, Syracuse, and Georgetown, Cincinnati should battle for the top of the Big East standing this season. However, it’ll be the last real time Cronin and his team play Big East ball.

Conference realignment has Syracuse, Louisville, Pitt, and Notre Dame heading to the ACC, while Rutgers goes to the Big Ten, and the remaining seven Catholic schools leaving to form a new league. This leaves teams like Cincy, UConn, and South Florida scattering for a new home.

According to Bill Koch of Cincinnati.com, Cronin is set on embrace the Big East and the tradition.

“Just enjoy it while I can,” Cronin told Koch. “That’s the way I look at it. Lamenting about things that you can’t control is really a waste of your time and energy.

“The whole thing is tragic because the 16-team Big East that I had to come into in last place and try to build our way up and made it all the way to the championship game is something that I’ll always be really proud of,” added Cronin. “I’d love to try to win it in maybe the last year it’s all together. I’m sure there’s a lot of coaches that feel that way. It’s really been a golden era of Big East basketball.”

In December, Cronin, just like several Big East coaches have done in the past, sounded off against conference realignment.

“It’s a shame that football, one sport, has dictated all this and the money that one sport apparently is swinging around and swaying universities to make the decisions. We’re sitting here in a state where the state school is 800 miles from its closest road game. It’s ridiculous. Don’t tell me that people care about student-athletes.”

Cronin leads his Bearcats in their Big East home opener against St. John’s Saturday at 4 p.m.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

 

 

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: