OhVarsity! Mail Truck: Volume 6


OhVarsity! Mail Truck seeks to answer all of life’s questions. Since I’m the only smart person around here, I feel that it’s my responsibility to shoulder that burden. To join in on the fun, send questions on Twitter, to OhVarsity@gmail.com, or via our Curious Cat page. Read older entries here.



On a scale of 1-10, 1 being worst and 10 being best, how do you think both basketball and football is going to do this year for UC? Should we expect Fickell to come back with another very strong year? Is Brannen's team deserving of a 10th straight NCAA bid expectation?

This is a difficult question because both teams should be very talented and very fun, but face their own unique sets of challenges that may hinder win totals. I don't wanna cop out, so I'll give it a 7. I think it'll be a fun year, but maybe not as painless as last year. We got spoiled.

When I started talking with people about 2019 football last fall, the consensus was that UC looked poised for a better roster with a worse record. Justin Williams has been beating the drum on this narrative and for a good reason. Going 11-2 is damn hard. Doing it against the likes of UCLA, Ohio State, UCF, Houston, and Memphis is harder. Last year's roster and schedule was a perfect storm. This year's team will be more equipped for challenges, but there are just not many freebies on that schedule.

When it comes to basketball, I worry about (1) the new system and staff and (2) the depth. The starting lineup is in excellent shape, and my lineup prediction echoes the one posited by Justin today. The depth behind those five primarily consists of unproven players—both familiar faces and newcomers. How much can Brannen get from guys like Hardnett, Prince, Moore, McNeal, and Sorolla? That's probably the difference between a bubble team and, I don't know, a 7-seed.

To get back to your original questions, yes I expect another strong year. I'd be surprised if Fickell's team did not win eight games. I'd also be somewhat surprised if Brannen's team did not make the tournament.



Any strong opinions about the UC Band?

I had a chance to meet Director of Bands Christopher Nichter at a football game last fall. In addition to being a nice guy, when he came to UC from West Virginia, I could immediately tell the difference in the band. It was an improvement, at least in my uninformed opinion.

They’ve got some of the best traditions in college football, but I’m not enough of an expert to have a strong stance. They’ve got my support though.



Which new UC basketball transfer or freshman are you most excited to see play this upcoming year?

Is it too boring to say Jaevin Cumberland? The Bearcats hired a coach that specializes in spreading the floor and creating (and taking) open shots. Then they landed a graduate transfer that shot 40% on eight threes per game a year ago. That’s great by national standards. That’s Steph Curry by Cincinnati standards. We’ll see how Jaevin fits into a roster that doesn’t demand his offensive dominance, but regardless, I think we’re going to see one of the best volume shooting seasons in Clifton in the last 15+ years.

I’ll give you a second answer since that was easy: Jeremiah Davenport. He’s a local kid and has a remarkably similar career path to Sean Kilpatrick thus far. I don’t think he’s going to contribute heavily this coming season, but he was the first recruit of the Brannen era, and his makeup lends itself to a fan favorite. He’ll be fun to follow.



Who has the higher win percentage next season between men’s basketball, football, and baseball?

—Robby Merk

Oh boy.

The fewer games a team plays, the easier it is to jack up the win percentage. I think this, unfortunately, rules out baseball. Playing baseball north of the Mason-Dixon is tough because it demands you play the entire early schedule on the road. This makes gaudy win totals difficult. I'd eliminate baseball for this reason.

Consider this: A pretty solid (but not historically significant) football season is 9-4. That's a 69% win percentage. Pretty nice. For baseball to beat that in 58 games, they'd have to win 41. Bearcat baseball has never won more than 35 games. It's not a sport where win percentages look impressive.

For argument's sake, let's say football goes 9-4. Basketball needs to go 23-10 beat that (just barely). If the football team goes 10-3, then basketball needs 26-7 to win. Suddenly it's becoming more unlikely for a new head coach in a conference that's improving in strength.

This was rambling, but my vote ultimately falls on football. It'll be a fun "race" for people like me to follow.



I’m worried that this football season is gonna be a huge disappointment, is that bad? 😕

I guess it depends on your definition of disappointment. If you’re expecting 11-2, a conference championship game victory, and New Year’s Six bowl, you may be disappointed. Looking at last year’s schedule—and the road they took to 11-2—and being worried is normal. I do think some element of last season was “fool’s gold.” By this, I mean that Cincinnati might not be poised to rip through their tough schedule undefeated and get national pundits debating their College Football Playoff resume.

But if you’re worried about a substantial letdown, like 7-6, I think that’s misguided. While those 11 wins last year came against a softer schedule than the Bearcats will see in 2019, the roster has also taken a step in the right direction, and the key figures are now a year wiser. Desmond Ridder won 11 games (well, I guess Hayden Moore won the Military Bowl) with a freshman’s decision making and a freshman’s body. Both will be improved this year. The Bearcats get Gerrid Doaks back for yet another backfield weapon. They lost Kahlil Lewis on the outside but replaced him with transfer Blue Smith, one of the highest-rated Bearcats of all-time. And that’s just three spots on the offense.

This team brought back nearly all of its coaching staff and improved the roster at almost every position group. We’ll be good. Expecting a slip in win-loss from 2018 is rational. Expecting an objectively disappointing season is not.



Roast John Brannen please.

I will not roast our new coach, but Paul Daughtery’s most recent UC column did say this:

During a season, dressed in a black suit and white shirt, Brannen can look a little... wan. Pale, almost ghostly. It could be all that time spent in a dark room, watching basketball movies.

Although, I’m not sure if that’s a roast. It’s kind of awesome.

White Smoke is real.



As a final note, I received a lot of what I’ll call “semi-erotic fan fiction” involving Brian Fox, Justin Williams, Chad Brendel, and myself.

To that I say: I love each of these great men equally, and do not make me choose favorites. Because I will choose B Fox.