Do the Bearcats have another tournament run in them? Time to go over their chances for the new season. It was a successful 2011/12 season for Mick Cronin and team. They finished 26-11 overall and 12-6 in the notoriously difficult Big East.
We all remember that brawl with crosstown rivals Xavier, but let’s not forget about what really matters: their performances on the basketball court.
During conference play, the Bearcats beat a few solid teams, including Georgetown, Connecticut and Villanova, but they saved their best basketball for tournament time. After beating the Hoyas in the quarters and then Syracuse in the semi-finals of the Big East tournament, Cincinnati was faced with the task of beating Louisville in the finals.
In a scrappy, defensive game the Cardinals ended up with the win, but the Bearcats kept their heads and kept up their confident play in the NCAA tournament, beating Texas and then upsetting #3 seed Florida State to reach the Sweet 16. Then they ran into Ohio State, who promptly outclassed Cincinnati in a 81-66 win.
Nonetheless, it was an admirable couple weeks of basketball for Cronin’s crew.
Adjust and move on
Next on Cronin’s agenda is preparing his team after losing two of his top scorers, Yancy Gates and Dion Dixon. The pair combined for over 25 points per game last season while Gates carried the load on the boards with a 8.9 RPG average.
What are the team’s chances looking like for this coming season?
Well, sportsbooks have the Bearcats listed at +5000 odds to win the championship, putting them alongside a large contingent that includes other programs such as Notre Dame, West Virginia, Stanford, Colorado, and San Diego State.
In terms of a roster outlook, the Bearcats return one of the better backcourts in the nation, consisting of Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright.
Kilpatrick, who averaged 14.3 PPG as a sophomore, led the team in scoring last season and now gets to shift over to his natural position with Dixon no longer around.
After improving considerably across the board from his freshman to sophomore seasons, Kilpatrick has the ability to be one of the best players not only the Big East but in the entire country in 2012/13.
He’ll share the backcourt with Cashmere Wright, who really found some consistency in his game in the latter stages of last season and will provide some veteran leadership at the point for the Bearcats.
Heavy reliance on guard play
Jaquon Parker will continue to play a lot in Cronin’s guard-heavy system. He averaged 9.4 PPG and 5.6 RPG last season, his finest showing a 28-point outburst against Marquette in a 72-61 victory.
Cincinnati also has some young guys, all with good size, that will get their chance to step up.
Forward Justin Jackson should see more court time now that Gates has left. He was effective in limited minutes last season and provided the Bearcats with solid rebounding and shot-blocking ability.
Then there’s Cheikh Mbodj and Kelvin Gaines, both of whom are 6’10”. Let’s hope they’re ready for the spotlight as they’re going to get a lot more minutes now.
Octavius Ellis, however, was kicked off the team during the offseason because of an incident at a downtown club. Luckily for Cincinnati, they won’t be lacking that much depth as they have JUCO transfer Titus Rubles coming to town as well.
Overall, the Bearcats will be an interesting team to track this coming season. As experienced as they are out on the perimeter, they’re the complete opposite inside. Kilpatrick, Wright and Parker will be the main sources of offense and leadership and should have the team competing as tough as ever in the Big East.
If a couple of those bigs can step up, there’s a chance we could see another legitimate run for the Bearcats. Only time will tell.