If ever there was a time for Cincinnati to separate themselves from the middle of the pack in the Big East, it was last season. They had a talented, deep roster with an impact freshman Lance Stepehenson ready to help them get over the hump. Instead, the Bearcats were a hot mess and finished with a non-winning record like they had the previous four years since switching conferences.
The Sports Bank’s 99 team college basketball preview in 99 days ranks the 72 power conference teams and top 27 mid-majors. It will leading right up to the opening tip of the college hoops season. Click here if you missed teams #64-#99.
By: David Kay
Cincinnati Bearcats (T-11th, 7-11 in BE, 19-16 overall)
Projected Depth Chart
C/F: Yancy Gates (Jr)/Anthony McClain (Sr)/Kelvin Gaines (Fr)
PF: Ibrahima Thomas (Sr)/Justin Jackson (Fr)
G/F: Rashad Bishop (Sr)/Darnell Wilks (Sr)
G: Larry Davis (Sr)/Dion Dixon (Jr)/Sean Kilpatrick (Fr)
PG: Cashmere Wright (So)/Jaquon Parker (So)/Eddie Tyree (Sr)
Gone: SG-Lance Stephenson, G-Deonta Vaughn, C-Steve Toyloy
Cincinnati was a frustrating team to watch last season, and I am not even a Bearcats fan. But as a Big East junkie, I constantly saw this team seem unsure of what they were doing on the court almost as if there was zero game plan. They took horrific shots (as demonstrated by their pathetic 42.8 FG% and 28.1 3-PT%), played way to much one-on-one basketball, and failed to reach their full potential. They mixed and matched 11 guys all season long but failed to find the right chemistry to put a consistently competitive five players on the floor.
Lance Stephenson took his raw ability and high-maintenance personality to the NBA after one lackluster season while long-time point guard Deonta Vaughn is now playing professionally in Poland. Despite losing their top two players, Cincy still brings back a good amount of talent.
Yancy Gates is a tank down low but tends to only show up about half the time. Oklahoma State transfer Ibrahima Thomas didn’t make the impact most expected in his first year as a Bearcat because he really struggled shooting the rock. The talent is there for them to be formidable frontcourt especially when you add in freshman Justin Jackson, but whether or not that group shows the effort and determination on a nightly basis will determine their effectiveness.
Rashard Bishop spent the off-season in Mick Cronin’s dog house after being suspended prior to the Big East Tournament, making his status for the up-coming season a question mark. Cashmere Wright and Jaquon Parker are talented play-makers but need to work on their decision-making as they will try to replace the void left by Vaughn. Dion Dixon, Larry Davis, and Darnell Wilks all saw their share of playing time last season but failed to find their niche on the floor and will have to do so this season, especially if Bishop stays suspended. Freshman Sean Kilpatrick will likely find himself in that mix as well.
One major question surrounding their backcourt is where does the ball go when it is crunch time and the team NEEDS a basket? Gates and Thomas might be the best scoring options but neither’s strength is creating their own shot. Vaughn and Stephenson handled that responsibility for the most part last season and somebody needs to take over that role when the game is on the line.
You have to imagine this is a critical season for Cronin who has an underwhelming 61-68 mark in his four seasons at Cincinnati. Getting this team to play as one and building a true identity will be two major challenges he faces. If Cronin cannot transform this roster into one cohesive unit, it could the end of his rope as the Bearcats head man.
Player to Watch: Yancy Gates, F/C
When he wants to, Gates can be a dominant presence in the paint. At 6-9, 260 pounds, he possesses an impressive combination of over-powering his opponents with a decent amount of athleticism. Too often though he settles for a mid-range jump shot rather than asserting his big body down low. Attitude has always been an issue but the fact is he has the potential to be a future NBA player if he can regularly display some of the flashes he has shown at times during his two years at Cincy.
Key Non-Conference Games:
1/6 vs. Xavier
Other 99 in 99’s:
#64 Texas Tech
#65 Miami, FL
#68 Ole Miss
#69 George Mason
#71 Weber State
#74 Central Florida
#75 Wake Forest
#76 Georgia Tech
#78 Oklahoma State
#82 South Carolina
#86 Penn State
#87 South Florida
#89 Boston College
#93 Oregon State
#97. Iowa State