#31 Cincinnati Men's Basketball Preview

Cincinnati Bearcats

Overall Rank: #31
Conference Rank: #7 Big East
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2010-11: 26-9, 11-7
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Mick Cronin (87-77 at Cincinnati, 156-101 overall)

Cincinnati surprised many last season by reaching the NCAA Tournament. The Bearcats are finally back, but the question now is whether they can stay there. Coach Mick Cronin has done a wonderful job slowly returning the program back to its former glory and now he may face his toughest test…keeping Cincinnati in the national picture. For now, Cashmere Wright will have to lead the way. Wright is a solid point guard who kept getting better during his sophomore season. If he can keep improving and develop a little more of a scoring edge, the Bearcats will be dancing.

Who’s Out:
The frontcourt takes a pretty big hit with the departure of Rashad Bishop and Ibrahima Thomas. Bishop was mostly a shooter despite his 6-6 frame. He was a nice fit at the small forward spot and did a little bit of everything. Thomas was the big man under the basket who did the dirty work. He was never much of a scorer, but he did do a fine job on the glass and helped clear space for the more talented scorers on the roster. Larry Davis and Darnell Wilks are also gone after mostly coming in off of the bench last season. Neither are huge losses, but Davis occasionally provided an offensive spark and Wilks was a solid rebounder when given the opportunity. More importantly, all of the departing seniors played tough defense and that is why this team overachieved.

Who’s In:
In order to overachieve, or reach their higher expectations, the newcomers are going to have to buy into Coach Cronin’s defense first mentality. This is a very talented group, but they will not see playing time if they do not hustle, play great defense and do their part on the glass. The backcourt only has a couple new faces, but both Jeremiah Davis and Ge’Lawn Guyn are known for their defensive prowess. Davis should step right into a backup role at either guard position. Guyn is also a combo guard who could backup Wright or play a little off of the ball. Jermaine Sanders and Shaquille Thomas are a couple of interesting forward prospects. Sanders is only 6-5, but he is a big 225 pounder. He can score inside and out and eventually he will be a tough matchup at the small forward spot or even an undersized power forward if Coach Cronin feels the need to play small. Thomas is a couple inches taller, but tilts the scales at a mere 180 pounds. Thomas is more of a big wing than a power forward, but he will play the four for now. Thomas has a decent shot and could emerge as pretty good scorer as a freshman. Octavius Ellis, Kelvin Gaines and Cheikh Mbodj add some much needed size to the roster. Mbodj, a junior college transfer, will get the first shot at replacing Thomas.

Who to Watch:
The frontcourt has a huge hole to fill, but Yancy Gates will hold down the fort while others get comfortable in their new roles. Gates, a 6-9 senior, led the Bearcats with 11.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks during the 2010-2011 campaign. Gates still needs to take the next step to become a dominant interior player. He is very good, but there is certainly room to improve. He is a liability late in games due to his poor free-throw shooting and can disappear at times. Gates will have a good year, but he will be much better if Cincinnati can find some help. Gaines and Mbodj are the newcomers who are most likely to step into that role. However, Justin Jackson is a returning option. He averaged less than 13 minutes per game as a freshman, but Jackson has experience in the system and will be right in the mix.

Final Projection:
Wright and Gates will carry this team, but UC needs to find some scorers on the wing. Dion Dixon and Sean Kilpatrick have already proven that they can fill that need. They quietly ranked second and third on the team in scoring last season and another year of experience should only make them better. Dixon has emerged as a leader on the floor and can do a little bit of everything. Kilpatrick was the sixth man last season, but the sharpshooter should step into a starting job as a sophomore. At 6-4 he even has the size to help out on the glass and that is something Coach Cronin will demand of him and the rest of his players. JaQuon Parker is an interesting player. He was not very productive as a sophomore, but he had a great summer and the 6-3 junior is expected to compete for a starting job or at least make a much bigger contribution than he did last season. But, as always with a Coach Cronin team, the playing time will go to those who play tough defense and can hit the glass. The hope is the new faces will quickly buy into what Coach Cronin is selling. If they do not, this will be a talented Cincinnati team that fails to live up to their new found expectations.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Cashmere Wright, Junior, Guard, 8.9 points per game
Dion Dixon, Senior, Guard, 11.6 points per game
Sean Kilpatrick, Sophomore, Guard, 9.7 points per game
Justin Jackson, Sophomore, Forward, 2.5 points per game
Yancy Gates, Senior, Forward, 11.9 points per game

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#91 Shaquille Thomas

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