March 22, 2012

Downplaying Ohio State

Six times Wednesday Cincinnati representatives were baited with questions on the "enormity" of the rivalry.

Six times UC players and Head Coach Mick Cronin swatted it down, knocked it aside. To them this game isn't about Ohio State.

That team is only a worthy obstacle to their predetermined destination, the Final Four.

"I mean, I think by us playing here in the Sweet 16, it's not about Cincinnati versus Ohio State. It's about advancing, trying to get to the Elite 8," said Yancy Gates.

On the podium Sunday night UC leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick conveyed the total irrelevance of Ohio State/Cincinnati.

"I'm not that big on the history," said Kilpatrick. "We're kind of young to think about that. It will be a great challenge. We know how tough they are, but we're also a tough well, as well. I mean, we haven't gotten this far off of just being soft any night. We're a tough team."

Kilpatrick was asked what it means to play Ohio State. The reporter included facts about the last time these teams met. Coach Cronin's early recruits combated Ohio State in the Wooden Tradition in 2006, but the previous meeting dates back to 1962.

As grand as a win over Ohio State would be for the fans, the administration why would a lifelong resident of Georgia (Cashmere Wright) or Chicago-born twin (Dion Dixon) care?

Cincinnati is a team composed of distant parts. Only one member, Yancy Gates, grew up in Ohio. Next year there will be zero Ohio-born players featured on the squad.

While they represent University of Cincinnati with pride their minds are not inundated with Ohio State banter. They don't talk to Ohio State fans at their workplace. Most fellow students aren't frequent Ohio State alumni or supporters.

"I mean, I guess it's good for our fans, but like Yancy said, we're focused on us and w're trying to get to the Elite 9, so we really don't look too much into it," offered Dixon.

While reporters tried to drum a hatred it simply doesn't exist. Absence in this case made the heart forget.

"Maybe if we would have played in the regular season or something, maybe I would have said, this is a special game, all this other stuff," viewed Gates. "But really we're just focused on trying to get to New Orleans like everybody else here. It's not about whether we're playing Ohio State or Florida State; it's about the task at hand."

Coach Cronin knows the history. He just isn't leaning on it to drum up enthusiasm.

"I think the real truth for our players, they know nothing about all that stuff," said Coach Cronin. "To be honest, I've told them don't worry about it. It's irrelevant for us. You know, let everybody else have their fun. I'm sure Ohio State feels the same way. We have a goal. We're trying to win four more games and bring a championship back to Cincinnati. You know, the fact that we're playing Ohio State is a sidebar for us, and my guys, we don't have time to worry about it, talk about it."

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