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Basketball notebook: All about improving

The Cincinnati Bearcats are sitting at 9-0 on the season, but the focus isn't on what they have accomplished so far. Mick Cronin and his team are looking to what lies ahead as the schedule begins to ramp up this weekend.

Cronin Not Talking About Record

While it would be easy to sit back and feel like something has been accomplished with the undefeated start to the season, Cronin has not mentioned it to his squad, and is instead keeping the eye on the prize that is competing in the Big East conference. The focus is on improvement, but the coach knows he has to keep the players from getting overconfident.

We haven't talked about our record one time,” Cronin said. “We just try to talk about getting better and know that we've got to be a better team come January. We talk about getting ready for the Big East and making sure we're always improving. It's nice to win while we're doing it, but we don't talk about the fact that we're 8 or 9 and 0. That being said, as a coach you'd be foolish to think your guys aren't getting patted on the back when they're walking around so you've got to stay sharp.”

Bishop Making Impact On Both Ends

Much has been made recently about the hot hand Rashad Bishop has on the offensive end after not missing a shot from the floor over the last two games and going perfect from the charity stripe on the season. While Cronin knows his team is much tougher to defend when Bishop is scoring, he looks to his senior forward to lead on the other end of the floor where he has excelled in his career.

The difference with Rashad now, instead of just being a great defender individually he's coaching the team in practice and walk-throughs,” said Cronin. “He's raising people to his level of understanding how to play smart on the defensive end. There's a lot of talk about how he's played well on offense, but he's giving us great leadership as far as getting guys focused on what to do on the defensive end. Little things like that go a long way for a team defensively.”

Big Man Still Improving

Around this time two seasons ago Cronin added the first and only D1 transfer to the program when Ibrihima Thomas left Oklahoma State and decided to become a Bearcat. The native of Dakar, Senegal was still relatively new to basketball and still is not close to his potential after 3 plus seasons of D1 basketball. Cronin knows that the more he improves as the season progresses the better the Bearcats can be.

“Thomas is the one guy on our team, even though he's a senior, he's still got great room for improvement,” Cronin said. “That's why you probably see me coaching him a little bit harder than some of the other guys. He didn't play a lot of basketball growing up and I really think when he learns to use his size defensively and he learns how to consistently rebound with two hands he has a future in basketball. The more he improves for us you can try to get to a point where you have two of the most consistent big men in the Big East. If you have that you're going to win a lot of games.”

Thomas Talks Chemistry

The team chemistry angle has been a hot topic since things got going in late August, but Thomas has a little different perspective because he transferred in mid season 2 years ago and spent a half season only getting to practice and watch the games in street clothes from the end of the bench. While his situation was different, the message is the same that we have heard from his teammates every chance they get. This team has bonded on and off the court, and that really took shape on the exhibition trip to Canada.

“It's way better, I'm not going to sit here an lie,” said Thomas. “It's more personal. We all get together and watch college games. We're always together when we go somewhere. I think what helped us was going to Canada this summer. The whole team just bonded together and it really helped. That's probably what carries us to the point that we're winning right now is the chemistry.”

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