Overall Rank: #109
Conference Rank: #12 Big East
2007-08: 13-19, 8-10, 10th
2007-08 postseason: CBI
The level of talent in Cincinnati is increasing, but the experience is decreasing. That is the way it goes sometimes, but last year’s more experienced team was up and down all year long and ended the season with a seven game losing streak. The team would lose to St. John’s one day and beat Syracuse and Villanova the following week. What the group needs is consistency and a lack of experience usually leads to inconsistency.
And losing the point guard will not help matters. On a team with more scorers, Jamual Warren would have been considered a pretty good point guard. Warren is not much of a scorer himself, but he did do a solid job finding the scorers and handling the ball. Guard Marvin Gentry and center Adam Hrycaniuk were not great scorers either, but were at least senior leaders and could occasionally put up some big numbers and play defense. Gentry started 15 games and Hrycaniuk started every game the Bearcats played last season. Marcus Sikes only played 15.6 minutes per game, but the 6-8 forward often provided a big spark off the bench. The biggest loss of them all is forward John Williamson. Williamson, who averaged 11.6 points per game and a team high 6.2 rebounds per contest, was the only consistent scoring threat in the paint.
With the absence of four players who started at least 15 games, many of the newcomers will not just be looking for playing time, but also for starting jobs. Transfers Mike Williams, Nick Aldridge and incoming freshman Yancey Gates will be in the mix in the frontcourt. Williams, who was eligible last year but missed the season after rupturing his Achilles tendon, never really made a huge impact during his two years at Texas, but he is big and strong and can do plenty of scoring above the rim. Aldridge was a prolific scorer during his time at Western Carolina and the 6-7 forward should provide a spark off the bench once he is eligible in the middle of the season. Gates is one of the best power forward recruits in this year’s class. Gates could be starting right away, or at least at some point during this season. He is a physical player and will immediately help the team on the glass. Once he becomes comfortable in his new surroundings, Gates will be a solid scorer around the basket. Fellow incoming freshman Steven Toyloy will also add depth in the paint. There are fewer new faces on the perimeter, but Cashmere Wright and Dion Dixon will still play an important role. For now, Wright is probably the most important player on the team. The 6-0 point guard will pretty much be given the starting job by default. He is a solid shooter and can create something out of nothing, which will be very important while the Bearcats continue to struggle with their offense.
Who to Watch:
The only proven offensive threat on the team is Deonta Vaughn. He hit three long balls per game as a sophomore and averaged 17.3 points. Vaughn is certainly a great scorer, but it would not be a bad thing for the team if he did not have to score that often. At times last year Vaughn was the only threat to score and he had no choice but to take a lot of shots. If Coach Mick Cronin’s team can find a couple more scorers to compliment Vaughn, the team will be much better off than having to depend on Vaughn to score 20 points per game. Larry Davis will not likely be the answer, but he had a decent freshman campaign and should play a big role off the bench.
Rashad Bishop started 20 games last year and could be starting at the small forward spot again. However, with Williams and Gates, there is an influx of talent at power forward. The problem is both of those guys are really power forwards. Neither are quick enough to defend the three spot in most situations and neither are really centers, although Gates could play the five if he accepts that role. That leaves Bishop at the three and Anthony McClain at the five. McClain is a solid rebounder and defender under the basket, but will not be one of the scorers the team is looking for.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Cashmere Wright, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Deonta Vaughn, Junior, Guard, 17.3 points per game
Rashad Bishop, Sophomore, Forward, 5.4 points per game
Mike Williams, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Anthony McClain, Sophomore, Center, 2.7 points per game