Could Troy Caupain carry the Bearcats through round one?

Posted at 7:00 AM, Mar 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-17 07:00:23-04

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bearcats coach Mick Cronin is hoping someone gets hot.

He's been in enough NCAA Tournaments to know how far a player on a roll can carry you.

"I'd like to get a player really hot," Cronin said. "That's the most important thing. You get one player really, really hot and he can carry you. That would be great.

"Obviously, I could sit here and say all the catchy stuff: 'We've got to defend,' all that stuff. But I don't think that's what you want to hear. That's your normal coach stuff.

"But I'd like Troy Caupain to get on a massive roll and put us on his back. That happens. Shabazz (Napier of Connecticut) did it a few years ago."  

Napier led seventh-seeded UConn all way to the national title in 2014.

The sixth-seeded Bearcats face Kansas State at 7:37 p.m. Friday in the first round of NCAAs in Sacramento. It's UC's seventh straight trip to the tournament. Three of last four have ended in the first round. The Bearcats have only survived the first weekend once in the six trips. They made the Sweet 16 in 2012.

"Some of it's luck because it's a one-game shot," Cronin said. "That's what people don't realize. You've got to be able to win different ways. You've got to have talent. Talent is the most important thing.

"Then you've got to play well on that night."

The players who have been around for those quick exits would love to make a deep run this year. That starts with Caupain, the senior point guard.

"Extra focus," Caupain said. "More locked in. Focused on the minor details. Look at what we did wrong and how to fix it. I've got to be more of a leader. If you want to do something special, you've got to do the little things better."

UC is coming off a bad game: The 71-57 loss to SMU in the American Athletic Conference final Sunday. It was UC's worst loss of the year, in fact. They played one of their best games in beating Connecticut 81-71 in the semifinals.

Now is no time to ride the ups and downs.

"This isn't like the pros," Cronin said. "It's not a seven-game series."

Even in the UConn game, Cronin was concerned with his team's defense. UC gave up 71 points Saturday and Sunday -- 10.2 points over their season average.

"I was concerned with our effort in the second half against UConn, just as much as I was Sunday against SMU," Cronin said. "We had three straight halves where teams shot over 40 percent. That's a concern. That's got to stop. And we can control that."

Another focus is keeping Washington out of foul trouble. He's missed chunks of time in three of last four games because of early foul trouble.

"That can't happen," Cronin said. "That's a big concern."

Cronin had not taken a deep dive into the Kansas State scouting report before UC left for Sacramento, but he did know a bit by about the 11th-seeded Wildcats, who beat Wake Forest 95-88 Tuesday in Dayton to earn a game with UC.

"To me, the matchup is more important," he said. "Kansas State is a great defensive team. They don't have the high-powered offense of some of the more elite teams. They're very physical. They play very hard. Bruce Weber has always been a great coach."