Doc's Morning Line: Here's why I can't wait for the Crosstown Shootout

Paul Daugherty
Cincinnati Enquirer

Before we get to Thanksgiving side dishes and other hard things to swallow, let’s dip a tentative toe into the quasi-am hoops ocean. UC was major-league Monday night.     

Down 23-8 early, up 20 in the 2nd half. Hustling, diving, aggressive, excited. College basketball in November doesn’t get a lot of my attention or, I’m guessing, a lot of yours. Too much else going on and, ironically, the rampant success of the Madness has robbed the regular season of some significance.   

Wake me when The Shootout arrives (Dec. 11, 8:30, XU).            

But basketball before January can be instructive. It sets the bar, sort of. You look at your team today and wonder how much different/better it will look three months from now. That’ll tell you what kind of job the coaches have done.

College coaching is the business of building a team when the team constantly changes. That’s true in football, too, but together-ness and chemistry are more important in basketball.   

Games played in November and even December can seem like extensions of practice. How quickly can Wes Miller take this team of decent holdovers (Davenport, Saunders, DeJulius, Mika-Woods etc.) and mesh them with the guys he brought in? New coaches, new players, new system. On the fly.          

The Bearcats last night looked like a team seriously into the meet-and-greet phase. The game had a helter-skelter wrinkle that should be ironed out with time and games. What you wanted to see was stuff that couldn’t be taught, energy, passion, selflessness.    

Did you see that?  

Me, too.       

And Miller showed his chops early, calling a timeout after Illinois center Kofi Cockburn was eating UC’s inside defense whole. Miller had his players essentially encircle Cockburn and make other Illinois players beat him.

Turns out, they couldn’t.

I saw good things from Viktor Lakhin, the 6-11 redshirt freshman straight outta Anapa, Russia. (The Russian boys really knock me out. They leave the West behind.)

I saw irrepressible things from Davenport and Saunders. The former has never seen a shot he didn’t love. Watching the latter is like putting baking soda in a bottle of Coke. Miller needed a coach-speak term I’d never heard to describe Saunders:

“Ball speed.’’          

I guess that means Saunders is really fast/quick while handling the basketball.

“I don't think any team can really be prepared for it at all,’’ was how Saunders described his ball speed, not quite modestly.                

Sometimes, his own teammates aren’t, either. Saunders is learning when to fly and when to jog. Consider it his project between now and March.

Meantime, Xavier hasn’t lost yet, either, and just beat Ohio State. Can’t wait for the 11th.

Now, then. . .

IS IT TIME YET for me to unleash the annual whine about the unfortunate spot on the calendar the Shootout occupies?

Why yes, I think it is.        

The marquee local sporting event of the winter (some would say the year) deserves much better than to be plopped down in the middle of holiday shopping season, when football is raging. Nobody’s thinking about hoops now. It’s like a Bengals Super Bowl in July.    

The teams are still raggedy, the hype has no chance to build. It will be great simply because of what it is. It could be greater.  

Why not late January? Why not February, the week after the Super Bowl? Lord knows February needs something.

I don’t especially care what the coaches think or want, so their offering mega-reasons why Jan/Feb is a bad idea doesn’t interest me. UC Wednesday, at Villanova Saturday? Roll with it, Travis Steele. The Shootout isn’t about you.  

Conference games more important, Wes Miller? Suck it up. Nothing’s more important to the city and the fans.

What say you, Mobsters?           

AS FOR THANKSGIVING. . . One of my favorite days of the year and the only day I want the weather to resemble Siberia. I’ve played golf here on Thanksgiving Day, not that long ago. It was fun, but I’d rather be snowed in and feeling great about laying on the couch all day.

I’m a pig on Thanksgiving. Serve me, feed me, paint my toes. I do nothing more taxing than look for the remote and I don’t apologize for it. I’m king.

Of course, it all owes to the kind and understanding benevolence of my wife, without whose cooperation I’d be smearing peanut butter on day-old bread.

Thank you, hon. Please get me a Keystone.

STUFF I DON’T EAT AND YOU SHOULDN’T, EITHER. In no special order:

1.    Cranberry sauce. Any of it, but especially the canned junk, with the can rings still visible.

2.     Brussels sprouts. Little, bitter nuggets of poison.

3.    Jell-O salad. Carrot bits, suspended in gel. God help me.

4.     Aspic. The stuff they poisoned kings with.

5.     Hop-n-John. It’s a Southern thing, maybe you wouldn’t understand. Black-eyed peas and such. Gag me with a giblet.

6.     Green beans with hunks of bacon fat.

7.     Mincemeat pie.

8.    Meat other than turkey. No deer, duck, rabbit. No soup, no anchovies in the salad. No roadkill. No alleged food that jiggles or rolls around.

STUFF I DO ON THANKSGIVING I don’t do any other day of the year.

1.    Play electric football. Yes, that electric football. Freaks out the dog, every year. Always tough to score when the quarterback doesn’t have a head because the pup bit it clean off. Talk about ruff-ing the passer. By the way: Has anyone ever actually made a field goal in electric football?

2.    Watch the Detroit Lions.

3.     Day drink. Well, that’s not quite true. There are other days when I sip something before 5. But they’re few and in between, as Pete would say. On Thursday, I’ll be on Keystone #4 by the end of the Macy’s parade.

4.    Take an extra napkin and surreptitiously dump food into it. Just like a 1st-grader when mom served up the lima beans. Tell me there’s a better fate for freaking aspic.

There’s your Thanksgiving holiday guide 2021. Feel free to add your own special suggestions.

THE HOF BALLOT WILL ARRIVE SOON and I will excitedly not vote for Bonds, Clemens and Sosa for a 10th straight year, doing my part to (hopefully) keep them out of the Hall forever and ever. A-Rod gets his maiden shot at Hall-dom this year. He doesn’t get my check mark, either. And finally, it’s Year 10 for Curt Schilling, who has formally requested his name be removed from the ballot. That’s not happening, but no worries, Curt. I’ll gladly grant your wish not to be considered.

What a good year to have a HOF vote.

KELCE LOVES COLLAROS. The former Bearcats TE and six-time Pro Bowler Travis thinks the former Bearcats QB Zach has NFL skills. From the Winnipeg Sun, via Mobster Eric: 

Almost left for dead after a string of serious injuries a few years ago, Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros now has a shiny Grey Cup ring for his collection and is firmly leading the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player race six games into the 2021 season.

It’s been a career comeback for the ages, but there are at least some in football who believe Collaros has not yet peaked as a player. Namely superstar NFL tight end Travis Kelce, who firmly believes that the Winnipeg signal caller could deliver similar success south of the border if given the chance.

“He’s an unbelievable player and I’ve just been excited for his success,” Kelce told Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun on Friday. “I think he could play in the NFL if he really wanted to give it a run but he seems to be happy up there in the Canadian league. It’s awesome to see him have success and be a Grey Cup champion and be on the top of the mountain up there in Canada.”

THE TML CLASSIFIEDS. . . I’m seeking someone to replace the estimable FunMaster Brien, who filled our Thursdays with impossibly entertaining stuff to do on weekends. If you were looking to kickstart that writing career, there’s no better way than to become a permanent fixture on the TML roster, where you'll join such luminaries as Jay Brinker, Patrick W, and the Gregs, B. and O. It’s such a fabulous opportunity, I don’t pay you anything.

It’s 200 words a week, telling us what we can do on the weekend. If you’re interested, so am I. Send me a line to pdoc53@gmail.com. Bless you.

TUNE O’ THE DAY. . . Never a fan of double albums. So few have enough good material to warrant two discs. Not even the White Album, stuffed as it is with forgettable filler such as Piggies, Revolution 9 and Don’t Pass Me By. Love Springsteen, but not necessarily The River.

I don’t like Pink Floyd, so that excludes The Wall. I’m not a big fan of The Clash, so no London Calling. I like the Allmans, but Fillmore East has too many jams for my taste. I never thought Physical Graffiti was all that.

Quadrophenia comes close to warranting four sides. Exile on Main Street comes closer. So does Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, from whence today’s TOD originates.