After the resounding 58-46 road victory over the Georgetown Hoyas BearcatLair had a chance to catch up with the senior college basketball writer for The Sporting News Mike DeCourcy. He shared his thoughts on a variety of subjects including the rebuilding job by Mick Cronin and the importance of junior forward Yancy Gates and red-shirt sophomore point guard Cashmere Wright. Here is the full transcript of the interview.
BCL: What does the Georgetown win say in terms of the rebuilding job being complete?
Mike DeCourcy: I think what its done is just shut the last peep of “he's not the right guy” up. After that anyone who posits that he can't coach or he's not adequate or the program's not heading in the right direction or any other nonsense is simply carrying a personal grudge. There's no other explanation for it. He's proven that he can build the program up from absolutely nothing to NCAA Tournament quality.
I wasn't particularly wild about the fact that he made that deceleration after the Georgetown game. I think it's better, especially with 3 regular season games and this team's history in late season, to say “not there yet, not there yet” to keep that until the last game has been played prior to Selection Sunday. I think that was a mistake. He's made his occasional mistakes like that, but if that's the biggest problem you have with your coach I think you've got a pretty doggone good coach.
BCL: What has it meant to Mick the way the team has responded after the St John's loss and has it shed that late season collapse reputation?
Mike DeCourcy: I think for the most part it is. You're seeing down the stretch now 3 very difficult wins in a row and 4 out of 5. They still have games to play and they're all difficult games, I mean there are no easy games left on the regular season schedule. You want to fight through those, and you want to get a couple of them. You don't want to stand back and say it's over, or we've done it or anything like that. You want to continue to fight for those things.
For one because you don't want to have to deal with it again and for two now your horizons have changed a little bit. Now you're playing for seed as much as you are for selection, and this team has shown that it can beat high level opposition when it's properly focused, when it's playing confidently and Cashmere Wright is attacking and Yancy Gates is posting up and defending. If those things happen, and I'm not saying they can win a National Championship, but they can beat good people. How far does that take you? It depends on how many good people you have to play to keep going far.
BCL: Talk about how Yancy Gates has responded to his suspension to put together maybe the best stretch of his career.
Mike DeCourcy: I think to some extent he's had moments like this. If you go back to Dayton, I don't know what the numbers were, but he was a dominant presence in that game. That was a circumstance in which he showed he could control a basketball game.
I thought the Louisville game was a really important game for him coming off the St John's deal. The funny thing was when I looked at his line in the box score and saw that he scored 8 points and got 6 rebounds I was astonished because I thought that was a dominating performance. That was a game changing performance. I was surprised it wasn't reflected in the numbers.
Last night against Georgetown it was and he made a big difference statistically, but honestly if he's guarding hard and he's posting hard on offense they're a 100% better basketball team. They jump dramatically when he just does those two things. He also attacks the rim on offense like he's capable of doing but rarely has done, then they go to another level beyond even that.
BCL: What about this senior class and what they have done to be the foundation of the program and provide the internal leadership the program has been missing in the Cronin era?
Mike DeCourcy: People go back to the first real class, these guys were not elite players. They were, frankly for lack of a better term, the best that they could do under the circumstances. They were the pioneers and they deserve a ton of credit for that.
Rashad and Larry Davis are the ones who are making the biggest contributions now, but Biggie McClain, talk about a guy that's hung in there. How can you not love Biggie McClain given how hard he's continued to work given minimal reward and continued to always be positive, always be a part of the team. I think he's a model college basketball player. Other people are going to look at him and say disappointment, I'm going to say you can't be disappointed with someone who keeps trying. You can only do what you're capable of doing.
If you read my work, or interviews such as this one, the only thing I ever criticize players for is doing less than what they are capable of doing or not investing in their teams. That's the only two things. I'm not going to yell at a guy that can't shoot for not being able to shoot. He's not a shooter, as long as he doesn't take shots, that's the deal. Biggie McClain has not been an elite basketball player, but he has been an extraordinary teammate, and extraordinary part of a program. I just have all the admiration in the world for that kid.
BCL: What about the development of Cashmere Wright, and does it seem like the light has finally gone on for him?
Mike DeCourcy: Absolutely. That's the verification of Mick's investment in him. He took him over players he might have had and obviously Cash had the injury problems and the confidence issues, but this is what he saw. This is what he knew Cash was capable of doing.
Between he at the point and Yancy in the post, if those two guys are playing at their level, and they have been over these last 3 games, that changes this team entirely. Yancy makes them so much better on defense and forces so much defensive reaction inside, and then Cash's ability to penetrate, to make 3 pointers, to control an offense, to break pressure. All those things make the Bearcats a significant team. Right now, at this level, they're one of the 25 best teams in the country. They have to continue to play this way. If they continue to do this I think we're going to see a happy March in one way, shape or form.