Kennedy could get job

When Nancy Zimpher stepped down as chancellor at Wisconsin-Milwaukee to become the University of Cincinnati president in 2003, an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel opined that "Cincinnati's gain is truly this community's loss; she will leave behind a gaping hole in the leadership of both UWM and civic Milwaukee."

To this point, Zimpher has not been nearly as successful at endearing herself to the Bearcats basketball faithful. She forced long-time coach Bob Huggins out the door in August 2005 and Andy Kennedy, the program's associate head coach and recruiting coordinator, was inserted into the lame-duck role of interim head coach.

He was not given much to work with.

Two players were dismissed from the team before the season started, one recruited was not admitted to the school and another was granted his release when Huggins was sent packing. Things got worse when Armein Kirkland injured his knee midway through the season.

Yet the Bearcats have perservered.

Coaching a rag-tag group that includes a member of the Cincinnati football team who joined the basketball squad midseason (Connor Barwin), a Hurricane Katrina refuge (Ronald Allen) and two freshman under six feet tall (Devan Downey and Domonic Tilford), Kennedy has guided the Bearcats to an improbable 18-10, 7-7 Big East record.

The fans have taken notice.

During Cincinnati's 74-72 loss at home Thursday to then-No. 2 Villanova, the 13,176 fans at Fifth Third Arena chanted "Hire Andy" for nearly a minute in the second half.

It seems Zimpher is listening.

Due in part to a desire to mend her relationship with the school's faithful, Zimpher is reportedly giving strong consideration to hiring Kennedy as the program's permanent head coach.

Saving the worst for last

Syracuse's Gerry McNamara, the Big East Preseason Co-Player of the Year, scored just five points against West Virginia on Feb. 20 and was held to eight points in a loss at Georgetown on Saturday. He has been held under 10 points in five Big East games. On the season McNamara is making only 34.5 percent of his field goal attempts and 31.3 percent of his three-pointers, both career lows.

This is reminiscent of Chris Thomas. The former Notre Dame point guard was an Associated Press Honorable Mention selection as a junior, but floundered as a senior, posting the worst field-goal and three-point shooting percentages of his career.

The elite eight

The prognosticators have reached a consensus. SI.com's Stewart Mandel, CBS SportsLine.com Gregg Doyel and ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi all agree that eight teams from the Big East tournament will make the NCAA tournament. They are also in unison on which Big East schools will be dancing in March — Villanova, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Georgetown, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Syracuse.