Monday, July 10, 2017

Mick Cronin, Gregg Marshall talk about addition of Wichita State to AAC, as well as league itself

Say what you want about Mick Cronin (and UConn fans say a lot about him, mostly negative), the guys makes great conversation.

Spoke with Cronin for about a half-hour this morning about his team and, more to the point, the American Athletic Conference. Had a similar conversation with Wichita State's Gregg Marshall late last week.

Marshall's Shockers will be a consensus national top-10 pick this year and without question the pick to win the AAC in their first year in the new league. But don't sleep on Cincinnati. It loses Troy Caupain and Kevin Johnson, but returns everyone else, including its top three scorers (Jacob Evans, Kyle Washington and Gary Clark). And, let's face it, Caupain was pretty disappointing last season, and East Hartford's own Caine Broome (a Sacred Heart transfer) will combine with Justin Jenifer to ease the loss of Caupain at point guard.

Anyway, here's some of what Cronin and Marshall had to say:

CRONIN:

(on addition of Wichita State)

"When our league changed, we gave away the name to the Big East, but obviously lost a lot of quality basketball teams. We picked up some teams from Conference USA trying to raise their program to a new level where the Big East was. For those teams, I think they've gotten a lot better and they continue to add to their basketball budget. A lot of quality coaches were hired. But the facts are, we lost some really good basketball teams. It's great to be able to add basketball school like Wichita State, with everybody back, who'll be ranked in the top-10 this year."

"The fact that they're a basketball school really helps our league as far as showing a commitment to basketball. I think it's hurt us in NCAA seeding, as far as perception. I don't think people on the committee or AD's from around the country realize how good SMU has been."

"We need anything to help our profile. Wichita State does have the respect. Cincinnati and UConn have names because our our history and past. Wichita State, because of their run to the Final Four (in 2013), people know who they are. That's just how it is. But we have another team that's just as perennial in SMU."

"The future is bright for basketball in our league."

(on the fact WSU is basketball-only and doesn't bring the almighty, money-making football to the table)

“I don’t care. And you can quote me on that. It’s great to see somebody cared enough about basketball to do the right thing for basketball in our league. Everything’s done for football. But when you sit in the chair I sit in, (people say) ‘Oh, but we need basketball to win and win big.’ It’s beyond refreshing to see something done for the betterment of basketball in our conference – or any conference.”

(Does the league need UConn to be better?)

"Absolutely. Throw Memphis in, too ... Eight years (combined), eight possible tournaments, what are the odds of them going 3-for-8 (combined)? No doubt, it's important for your traditional schools to be good, in any conference. Whether it's North Carolina and Duke or UCLA and Arizona out west, it's no different. But I think UConn (last year), in all fairness, came down to injuries."

"And guys that go pro early. Give them Daniel Hamilton and tell them how their season went. It makes the margin for errors smaller. It's harder when one or two guys go down. It can devastate you. Nobody's got that kind of depth anymore." 

(on Caine Broome, who will play point guard for Bearcats after being one of nation's leading scorers two years ago at Sacred Heart)

"We knew he was a really good player watching him on film. Once we got him here ... we realized he had to score for Sacred Heart, but he's much more comfortable playing point guard. In fact, he's probably a better passer than scorer. When you look at his Sacred Heart stats, that doesn't make sense. But having him in practice every day, watching him up close, his ability to break down a defense ... he gives us a weapon we haven't had, as far as getting teammates easy shots and being able to get in the paint really at will."

GREGG MARSHALL:

(on AAC)

"I think we've got some nationally-known brands for college basketball. We've got nationally-known coaches that have had national-championship success, coach of the year-type success. We feel like this will be a very, very good opportunity for us to join a conference that should be a multi-bid conference every year. It has teams that can go deep in the tournament."

(on being preseason favorites)

"I really try not to put too much stock in it. I will tell you that I'd much prefer that than to be predicted to be not very good. If I had my druthers, I'd rather be picked as a good team. If people don't expect much from you, you probably haven't been very good."

(on importance of UConn being good)

"I think the key for us to be a very good conference is for as many teams as possible - you can't say all, because if somebody's having a great year, somebody's having a bad - to play up to their potential and what they've done in the past. Teams such as Wichita State, Cincinnati, SMU, Connecticut, Memphis, Temple, now Central Florida, all of those teams. Tulsa has shown in recently it can be one of the best programs in the country. If you can get a lot of those teams to do that, the majority to do that, you can get a handful of bids."


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