Over the past few months I've had the pleasure of covering the University of Cincinnati Men's Basketball team and the early success they've enjoyed. With one of the top freshman players in the country in Devan Downey, and a Coach who never looks past the day at hand, the Bearcats enter the week with a strong record and the national spotlight starting to shine their way. Bearcat Insider spoke with Bearcats Head Coach Andy Kennedy and got his feelings about his team and the season in progress.
BI: Coach, your team is now 9-2, but you've been in all eleven games, talk about the previous eleven contest and were your team is at?
AK: Well we didn't play well against Dayton the first time around. If we come out and do the things needed, the outcome could have been different. Against Memphis I felt we played very well but didn't make enough shots to win against such a quality opponent. One thing I know we've learned is we've got to play better defense and make more shots. We can't expect to shoot 40% or less and come away with a victory.
BI: You just returned from the trip to Vegas, what does a trip like this do for a team?
AK: This trip was very good for us as a team. We played two quality opponents on a neutral site and spent some time away from home for the first time. With all the negative attention these young men have faced this season, getting away from all of it and just concentrating on basketball was the best thing we could have done. This will help develop us as a team and I feel we'll play better from it.
BI: I'm sure the question everyone is asking is the status of Cedric McGowan, how is he and can he play?
AK: Cedric is Day-to-Day right now. He was able to do some exercises yesterday and will meet with doctors to make sure we don't do anything to make it worse. But he'll be fine and I expect him to be ready to go tomorrow night.
BI: Miami is up next; they've played three hard games and enter looking to get back on track, what do you expect?
AK: Any time you play a Charlie Coles team you know they will play hard. Miami is a quality team that will come prepared to play. Miami's not going to beat themselves; this is just another example of why our strength of schedule is now 5th in the country.
BI: One of the players who has really taken his game to another level is James White, talk about his performance so far this season?
AK: James has been our most consistent player this season. He's really taken his game to another level with his overall approach to the game. He comes prepared for practice and that carries over into how he does on the court during games. He's performing like an All-Big East performer.
BI: What about the play of Armein Kirkland?
AK: Armein is playing his best basketball since he's been here. The problem is his shots are just not falling. While it would be easy to place pressure on him, I don't feel that will help his game. Against LSU he played out of position and did very well for us. With our small numbers and the status of Cedric, we'll have to use him in this role again.
BI: How difficult has it been with the low number of players?
AK: Well it really changes your approach toward practice. We don't want to do anything foolish in practice that would cause us to lose a guy. Yesterday we couldn't even go 5-on-5 because we didn't have Abdul back from home.
BI: Do you see any problem with Abdul returning?
AK: No, he was all set to come out to Vegas and play until we got back the ruling saying he couldn't. So we allowed him to return home and because of the time frame in doing this, we knew he wouldn't be back until today because of travel.
BI: Is the process now over with for Abdul this season?
AK: We can't go any farther with it. It's now in the hands of his high school because the NCAA is saying the class in question doesn't qualify under their guidelines. So it will be up to them to fight this any farther.
BI: Are you shocked about the ruling?
AK: I'm very shocked about it. Everyone I spoke with told me to expect him to be allowed to play. I was blown away when the ruling came down he couldn't.
BI: The one player everyone is talking about is Devan Downey. What has he meant to this team?
AK: You know I got a call from a reporter from Fox Sports the other day, and he said Devan is one of the "Top Five" freshman players in the country. We knew we had a special player, but I don't know if we expected him to be were he's at so soon. He plays like an upper classman and sometimes we forget that he‘s only a freshman. I couldn't be more pleased with his performance and the vital role he's played towards this team's success.
BI: Have you or your team looked down the road toward Big East play next week?
AK: We haven't looked that far ahead just yet. We just approach each game one day at a time. We'll play Miami on Wednesday and then North Carolina A&T on Friday, and then we'll take a look at our first Big East game against DePaul.
BI: With the success of the team so far, do you feel you've earned the right to have the fulltime coaching job?
AK: I don't worry about the things I can't control. I'm a faith based person and feel I'll be placed where I need to be when all is said and done. I understood what I was coming into with this job, and instead of worrying about those things I've place my full energy towards the kids in the program.
I would like to thank Coach Kennedy for his time during this busy stretch of the season. Check out the pre-game note for the Miami game that has also been posted.