2012-2013 Overall Rank: #26
Conference Rank: #4 Big East
Cincinnati Team Page
After a NCAA Tournament drought, Cincinnati has now gone to the big dance two seasons in a row. Last year Coach Mick Cronin led the Bearcats to the Sweet Sixteen. The goal should be the same in 2012-2013. Sean Kilpatrick, a 6-4 wing, knocked down 92 three-pointers during his sophomore season and led Cincinnati with 14.3 points per game. Kilpatrick is also a decent ballhandler and knows how to use his size on the glass. JaQuon Parker will join Kilpatrick on the wing. Parker may not score much, although he did average 9.4 points per game, but he does absolutely everything. Parker was second on the team in rebounding last year and is an all-around great glue player. Yet, unlike many typical glue guys, Parker will put up some solid numbers. With those two doing it all from the wing, this is a team that has the potential to make a serious run in the Big East.
2011-12 Record: 26-11, 12-6
2011-12 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Mick Cronin
Coach Record: 113-88 at Cincinnati, 182-112 overall
There are a couple major pieces that need to be replaced. Guard Dion Dixon started all 37 games during his senior season and ranked second on the team with 13.0 points per game. Dixon did not shoot very effectively or efficiently, but he could get to the basket and finish with ease. The other big loss is Yancy Gates. The Bearcats often ran a four guard lineup with the 6-9, 260 pound Gates in the middle. He was good enough on the glass to pull it off and created plenty of space for the shooters and slashers since he could consistently score in the paint. Cincinnati should be able to replace his rebounding, but finding an interior scorer will prove to be much more difficult.
Coach Cronin looked everywhere in an effort to find a new Gates. David Nyarsuk and Titus Rubles have some experience. Nyarsuk spent two years at Mountain State University, an NAIA school, and proved to be a great shot blocker. Cincinnati may not get too much else from him, but at 7-1 and 230 pounds, he can certainly take up some space in the paint. Rubles is the more polished player. Unlike Gates, Rubles will do most of his scoring slashing to the basket. He is not a true low post scorer. Cincinnati may have to live without such a player, but Rubles is a great fit for Coach Cronin. Shaquille Thomas is the lone freshman and he was around as a redshirt last year due to academic reasons. It was tough for the Bearcat faithful to have Thomas sitting on the bench, but that year with the program will pay off now. Thomas is a superb athlete who can fly out of the gym. Thomas is not a true post player by any means, but at 6-7 and he can man the four spot without a problem. If he is not starting from day one, Thomas should not take long before he cracks the starting five.
Who to Watch:
There are a lot of options in the frontcourt, but none of them are proven, complete players. Justin Jackson started 20 games as a sophomore and he can hit the glass and block plenty of shots. Unfortunately, he is just not a scorer. Kelvin Gaines is a similar player. As a freshman the 6-10 Ocala, Florida product barely played, but still made a big impact on the glass and defensively. Cheikh Mbodj has just as much size and more experience. The senior is yet another shot blocking threat and solid rebounder who has trouble scoring. Cincinnati may need one of those players to start scoring more often, but at least they have plenty of big bodies who can eat up fouls and swat away a few balls. Jermaine Sanders has the potential to be a quality scorer. He has the toughness of a post player, but at 6-5 the Bearcats just cannot play him in the post no matter how physical and tough he can be. Sanders will join a long list of potential power forwards who cannot play the five spot. Mbodj, Gaines and Nyarsuk would be the logical players at the center position, but none of them have proven much of anything. If Cincinnati wants to play small and get their most talented players on the floor, Jackson will have to take on some of the best big men in the nation in the Big East.
Cashmere Wright just keeps getting better and better at the point. If these trends continue, his senior season will be one to remember. While players like Kilpatrick will get the headlines for their scoring prowess, it is Wright who makes the team go. He tallied 4.6 assists per game as a junior and only committed 2.2 turnovers. But Wright is more than just an offensive catalyst. He is a very good long range shooter and a capable scorer inside the arc as well. On the other end of the floor, Wright is coming off a season in which he tallied a Bearcat record 74 steals. Sophomores Ge’Lawn Guyn and Jeremiah Davis III are both ready to take the next step to add even more potency to the backcourt. Guyn will be a better defender than Wright by the time his collegiate career is over and Davis III showed plenty of promise as a freshman. This is a loaded backcourt. The frontcourt obviously has one huge hole to fill, but do not overlook Jackson. He may not average double figures in the scoring column, but with more opportunities he is likely the one to emerge as the frontcourt’s star. That is unless one of the newcomers beats him to it. If that is the case, the Bearcats have plenty of frontcourt depth to match their stellar backcourt.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Cashmere Wright, Senior, Guard, 10.9 points per game
JaQuon Parker, Senior, Guard, 9.4 points per game
Sean Kilpatrick, Junior, Guard, 14.3 points per game
Shaquille Thomas, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Justin Jackson, Junior, Forward, 5.1 points per game