#87 Cincinnati: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #87
Conference Rank: #12 Big East Conference
2009-10: 19-16, 7-11
2009-10 postseason: NIT
Coach: Mick Cronin (61-68 at Cincinnati, 130-92 overall)
Cincinnati was well on their way to an NCAA Tournament appearance before falling apart at the end of the 2009-2010 campaign. That leaves Coach Mick Cronin heading into his fourth season with the Bearcats without a showing at the big dance. Last year the NIT was a step in the right direction, but this team will likely take a small step back without Lance Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn.
Key Losses: G Lance Stephenson, C Steve Toyloy, G Deonta Vaughn
The three newcomers may add some depth to the team, but Cincinnati has plenty of roleplayers who are ready to take the next step. Center Kelvin Gaines and power forward Justin Jackson are the only two incoming freshmen. Both are decent recruits, but those two big guys should have the luxury of spending most of their time learning from the bench and playing a few minutes here and there when necessary. Sean Kilpatrick redshirted last season and could help replace the scoring production of Stephenson and Vaughn if he can hit the long ball.
The Bearcats were an awful shooting team last year even with Stephenson and Vaughn. In fact, without those two the shooting numbers will likely go up as this team starts looking inside to the forwards more often. Yet, the backcourt still needs to find some new scorers. Cashmere Wright is the most experienced option after averaging 5.4 points and 2.0 assists last season. The junior started 11 games and has proven that he can be the leader on the floor. Finding a starter at the shooting guard position will be a little more difficult. Dion Dixon, Jaquon Parker and Larry Davis all have their pros and cons. Parker started the most games a year ago and was the most consistent outside shooter, but it remains to be seen if he can do that from a starting role. Dixon is a better overall scorer and he may be a better option in the starting lineup so Parker can provide an offensive spark off the bench with his shooting ability.
No matter who starts at the shooting guard spot, it is pretty clear that Rashad Bishop and Yancy Gates will start at the forward positions. Bishop, a 6-6 senior, will do a little bit of everything and will need to turn into the leader on the floor. For a player who can hit the long ball, Bishop was one of just a few players on the team last season who would take smart shots. If he continues to do that, he should improve on his 8.8 points and 4.4 rebounds. Gates is the bigger body in the paint and will almost exclusively stay under the basket. He has developed into a fine interior scorer and a decent rebounder and shot blocker. Darnell Wilks and the newcomers will have to cover most of the minutes off the bench, but this is a team that can move Bishop to the five spot, Gates to the four and a bigger guard like Parker to the small forward position if they need to play smaller.
Who to Watch:
However, Cincinnati will not start off small with Ibrahima Thomas returning. The 6-11 junior is not much of a scorer, but he is a tough rebounder and a decent defender. While Bishop does the scoring in the paint, Thomas will do the dirty work and clog the lane. If Thomas can develop into a better scorer, it would go a long way to opening up the offense and maybe then somebody could actually turn into a decent outside shooter.
Making shots will be the difference between a good year and a bad year for Cincinnati. Either way asking for an NCAA berth may be stretching it a little bit, but this team can build off their NIT appearance in 2010 with another one in 2011. That is pretty impressive considering the talent they lost. If they can hang tough with this relatively young team, the Bearcats will make a serious NCAA run in 2011-2012.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Cashmere Wright, Sophomore, Guard, 5.4 ppg
Dion Dixon, Junior, Guard, 4.9 ppg
Rashad Bishop, Senior, Forward, 8.4 ppg
Yancy Gates, Junior, Forward, 10.4 ppg
Ibrahima Thomas, Junior, Center, 5.8 ppg
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