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BIG EAST: 2006-07

College Preview Big East Message Board

By Eric Silver

August 30th, 2006

 

Big East Basketball Preview: Cincinnati

 

Trying to determine who plays what position and for how many minutes for the Bearcats next season is like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle in the dark. With only one returning player who got significant minutes last season, the rest of the lineup is filled with question marks..
 

Cedric McGowan, a juco transfer a year ago, was a pleasant surprise, averaging 8.5 ppg and 7.2 rpg in 28.3 mpg.  He had some monster games, including a 20-rebound performance against De Paul.  He also showed he can score as he had games of 18, 19, and 20 points. However, he was inconsistent as he scored in double figures in only four of 16 conference games and had two games with 0 points, one with 2, and another with 4.  He will have to be more consistent this year, which he should be since he won't be the fourth or fifth option on offense as he was last year.  He is the favorite to start at the 4, especially since he's a bit short for the 5 and doesn't have sufficient range or enough of a handle to play the 3.
 

Abdul Herrera sat out last season due to issues with the NCAA, but he returns as well. He's big, but he was reportedly raw when he came in, and a year off probably didn't help his progress. He should get some time at the 5 coming off the bench.
 

Ron Allen also returns, but he got minutes last year more by default than anything else.  He might beat out Herrera as the primary reserve at center because he's athletic, but his minutes will be limited.
 

Cincinnati will rely on six incoming jucos and a prep school player.  Bearcat fans are extremely optimistic about this group of newcomers, but the fact is few players making the transition from junior college to high-major D-1 programs have much of an impact, particularly their first year. This is especially true for interior players, even those who come to D-1 amid glowing accolades.  Instead of becoming the highly-anticipated aircraft carrier in the middle, many simply crash and burn.

 

Cincinnati fans have seen this happen first hand. Two years ago Robert Whaley came to the Queen City amid extremely high expectations. He did almost nothing as a junior, then left the program as a major disappointment.  Last year at this time, first-team juco all-American Ivan Johnson was penciled in to start, along with Eric Hicks, at the 4/5,but after Higgins’ ouster, he got cold feet and opted to play at Oregon.  On a mediocre team, he averaged only 16.1 mpg.  While he did score 7.5 ppg in those limited minutes and got 3.2 rpg, those are hardly major-impact stats. In essence, even junior college all-Americans don’t necessarily produce when they move up to major college ball.
 

That being said, the prize of this year’s recruiting class is Hernol Hall, a 6'10" center who first committed to Duquesne.  He's another first-team juco AA who averaged 14.3 ppg and 10.0 rpg.  Hoopmasters ranked him the #4 juco player in the country.  He’ll start at the 5 for Coach Cronin, but he’s going to find it considerably more difficult to score and snare rebounds against Gray, Hibbert, and Watkins, among others, than it was against his former competition.
 

It's interesting that Cronin brought in two power forwards in 6’7” Marcus Sikes, who was ranked #6 among all junior college players by Hoopmasters, and 6’6” John Williamson, whom Hoopmasters ranked #8. Sikes averaged 13.1 ppg and 11.3 rpg while Williamson's stats were even more impressive - 27.0 ppg and 11.5 rpg.  However, Williamson played at a Division 2 junior college, so his competition wasn't exactly tough.
 

Williamson could also see time at the 3 and could even start there.  If he doesn’t, there will be a logjam at the 4, and Cronin will have a hard time keeping everyone happy.
 

Three juco guards enter the program, along with Deonte Vaughn, a fifth-year prep-school player.  Vaughn is my pick to eventually start at point.  Scout ranked him as the #28 point guard in the Class of 2006. The juco point guard is Tim Crowell, who averaged 11.0 ppg and 7.2 apg.  He's very quick and has a bit more experience than Vaughn.  Regardless of which one eventually earns the bulk of the playing time, there's not a snowball's chance in Southern Ohio that he'll produce anything even close to what last year’s star freshman, Devan Downey, would have provided this year had he returned..
 

There will also be an interesting battle at the 2 guard between Marvin Gentry and Jamual Warren.  Gentry is a good perimeter shooter, which is something the Bearcats will certainly need.  Warren, a second-team junior college all-American, is more of a scorer than a pure shooter.  He averaged 22 ppg and 6 apg, but he doesn’t have the long-range shooting credentials Gentry has.
 

Besides the obvious question of how well these junior college players can adapt to the level of play in the Big East, the other major concern is whether or not Cronin can get these players to mesh as a team. It’s difficult to get even veteran players to work well together, but trying to accomplish that goal with so many new faces will be an extraordinary challenge.
 

If three or four of the newcomers can adapt to the rigors of playing in an elite conference against elite competition, then the Bearcats have a chance to make the Big East Tournament.  However, the odds of that happening are not great.  Cincinnati may pull off a few upsets, especially at home, but, overall, it wouldn't surprise me if the Bearcats, despite a more friendly conference schedule than last year, finish 6-10 or 5-11.
 

Put it this way: there’s no way Hall will be better than Hicks was last year, and no one on this year’s roster will be nearly as good as James White.  At point, no one is even close to the same level as Downey. And, as inconsistent as Muhammed and Kirkland were, the best any Bearcat fan can hope for is a slight upgrade.  Cronin definitely has his work cut out for him this year.

- Predicted Finish: 13 of 16

#1 Pittsburgh

#2 Georgetown

#3 Syracuse

#4 Louisville #5 Marquette #6 Villanova #7 Connecticut #8 St. John's

#9 DePaul

#10 Providence #11 Rutgers #12 Notre Dame #13 Cincinnati #14 Seton Hall #15 WVU #16 S. Florida

 

 

 

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