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
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
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
In terms of a roster outlook, the Bearcats return one of the
better backcourts in the nation, consisting of Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere
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.