Aftermath of THE Brawl.

The Cinci - Xavier brawl was ridiculous but it is an anomaly.

The Cincinnati – Xavier fight has been getting a ton of attention since last Saturday … and it should b/c we haven’t seen anything like this on National TV in a while. But could we be blowing this up too much? Don’t the teams, especially Xavier deserve the benefit of the doubt that they will make the necessary corrections after this incident?

Ramblings by DJ

Every “student athlete” has been hitting the books this week which means that there are no eye popping matchups in college hoops. What does this mean for the TV coverage? Everybody has decided to voice their opinion with the Cincinnati – Xavier brawl from last Saturday. There has been endless commentary about the “image” of the sport, the players involved and the need for change.

We are lucky that ESPN’s college hoops coverage isn’t as excessive as that of the NFL. Otherwise, we would see Skip Bayless pop a nerve in his forehead going off about each team’s reaction during the end of the game. Trent Dilfer would have blabbered for hours about how he wouldn’t want a player like Tu Holloway “in the foxhole” with him because he showed a lack of maturity/leadership.

Suspensions have been handed out with Cinci’s players facing the stiffest penalties. But this incident will be used to analyze everything that is negative about college hoops and their athletes. Nowadays the media will cover anything scandalous about the college sports. Conference re-alignment, oh yea! Ohio State’s probation, Oregon’s recruiting issues … anything with a negative image will be the sole focus to the extent that the positives about the game are forgotten. There have been a few common concerns voiced by the media and certain key personnel (Tu, Tu and Tu) who have been the center of scrutiny since Saturday. Let’s focus on the key concerns about this crazy altercation.

“NCAA needs to clean up the image of the sport”

College basketball has an image problem?? Since when?? When was the last time we saw a fight like this? Sure, some players talk smack on the court but that happens on the football field too! It isn’t as obvious in football b/c the players wear helmets and the camera isn’t zoomed in on every player’s face. The NBA has a long history of trash talkers and it will continue for ages. But college basketball for the most part has been clean on the court. There are several issues behind the scenes on the recruiting trail that need to be resolved but when it comes to the game ON the court … it is good old clean competition.

Several rules are already in effect that prevent the players from crossing the line. Referees will charge them with a technical if they can’t stop yapping. They will be kicked out of games. There are rules in play that work and most players don’t cross that line 95% of the time. Punches aren’t thrown very frequently in college hoops, this is not a pattern! I have been more than obsessed with this sport for over ten years now and I can’t recall the last time there was a fight to this extent or remotely even close.

So let’s not make this a bigger deal than it is. It is an anomaly. Suspensions have been handed out and the players understand that their seasons will be in jeopardy so it won’t happen again, not just here but in other programs as well.

“NCAA might consider holding this rivalry in a neutral court next year or maybe even put it on hold”

Neutral court? These schools are in the same town within ten miles, maybe even less. Where is neutral court, Cleveland? Even if you held it at a neutral location, does the NCAA expect these fan bases to tone it down?? No way! You can’t take the intensity or a rivalry out of a game. This brings me to the potential chance of this game being put on hold. That possibility is stupid b/c it is a horrible marketing move by the NCAA.

Conference re-alignment in football has already put an end to some of the oldest rivalries. Texas A&M vs. Texas and Nebraska vs. Oklahoma are just a couple that stick out immediately. The NCAA apparently seems to be on a mission to dilute the single greatest and most unique aspect about its sports … Rivalries. Roger Goodell and the NFL keep increasing their strangle hold on the sports in this country. The NBA is losing the battle. MLB keeps the age group of 45-60 year olds who love the slow pace of baseball. But college football and hoops keep their die-hards around b/c of these deep rooted rivalries.

There are the rivalries that appeal to the average fan e.g. Duke vs. UNC. Then there are rivalries that mean something to the hardcore hoops nutcases such as Cincinnati vs. Xavier. This is an exciting game every year regardless of the rankings of each team. Removing these type of rivalry games from the calendar will hurt the game and its marketability. Instead of just pulling any heated rivalry off the calendar, the NCAA can try to tighten up the rules and the players will learn over time but please don’t remove the games.

Imagine if Florida State didn’t play and Miami every year. Remember when each team’s players barely entered the stadium before trying to pound each other as they came out of the tunnel??? Remember the beloved Notre Dame Irish (University of Football in America) got into scuffles with the Miami players in the “Catholics vs. Convicts” games of the early 90s?? What if NCAA had immediately yanked these games off the calendar? College Football would NOT be the same today.

The same goes for college hoops … DON’T pull these rivalry games. Hand out stiff suspensions and let the players/coaches learn themselves that this behavior is unacceptable. Talking about the coaches and players …

Holloway has taken the most heat over the last few days.

Chris Mack, Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons

Tu Holloway has been the center of all criticism pointed towards Xavier. “He is a Senior, he should know better.” “He shouldn’t have used the gansta reference, that’s very immature.”

That summarizes only a portion of the heat he has gotten over the past few days. But the way I see it, the kid clearly regrets his actions. He apologized immediately for his statements. He was just fired up and there is nothing wrong with that. His intensity separates him from rest of the guards in this country but his greatest intangible will make him a better player after this incident … his drive to improve at every facet of the game. Everything we have seen from Holloway over the last year confirms that the kid wants to improve his game on the court and will do anything needed to get Xavier to the final four. He is a team players by all means, but why isn’t he getting the benefit of the doubt after his mistake?

One of the main knocks on Holloway (and even Mark Lyons) coming into this game was that he yaps a little too much on the floor. Some coaches have called them “talented punks” on the court. Despite Tu’s ridiculous composure on the court and drive to get his teammates involved during the whole game, the trash talking issue would have come to bite him at some point. It would have cost him and Xavier a key game … possibly in March.

Can you imagine an Elite 8 game in March against UNC or Duke where Holloway is yapping the whole game but gets frustrated by “pesky” guards such as Thornton of Duke or Aaron Craft of Ohio State?? On the ball defenders like Aaron Craft study their opponents, including their pressure points. Even though Holloway would be more composed due to his experience, it is possible that Lyons could lose it. Picture him getting into a confrontation with Seth Curry when Xavier is up by 5 and there are three minutes to play in the 2nd half of the Elite 8 game. Lyons gets a technical and Holloway goes to support his teammate. This throws the Musketeers’ offense into a funk and out of rhythm and as a result they end up relinquishing the lead and their final four chances go down the drain.

However, after this fight … the guards will come and SHOULD come in understanding the importance of this season. Cincinnati got hit hard with the suspensions too but they are not final four contender. Chris Mack’s team has more to lose than their cross town rival and I think his guards will have a clear understanding after this incident. So every analyst out there who is ripping into Tu for his lack of leadership and maturity … they have a point but it was a slip-up. That’s it!! If his track record has shown anything, he deserves the benefit of the doubt that he will do everything to shut up and just play. Why? Because Holloway and Mack know that this season is their best shot to get to the 3rd weekend of March Madness.

It is unfortunate that last Saturday overshadowed Xavier’s play due to the fight b/c they unleashed their 3rd scorer … Dez Wells. The freshman has tremendous athletic ability and talent to be a solid “slasher” in this system. Walker in coming into his own … maybe Kenny Frease will get serious about his free throws too? Xavier fans can only hope about his free throw shooting. But this program has been good for college hoops over the last ten years. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt that this type of a brawl won’t happen again. Let’s get back to enjoying their game and focus on the game instead of ripping into the team for one mistake.

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