Cincinnati Basketball Preview: #50
Overall Rank: #50
Conference Rank: #8 Big East Conference
2008-09: 18-14, 8-10
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Mick Cronin (42-52 at Cincinnati, 111-76 overall)
In Mid-February it looked like Cincinnati was finally going to go back to the NCAA Tournament. But then the team fell apart, culminating in an embarrassing loss to DePaul in the opening round of the conference tournament. And that was the end of the season for the Bearcats who did not end up going to any postseason tournament.
Key Losses: F Alvin Mitchell, F Mike Williams
However, the future is promising thanks to the addition of incoming freshmen Lance Stephenson. The 6-5 small forward is one of the best incoming freshmen in the nation and will immediately help the offense. He does a superb job attacking the basket and will finish above the rim with some amazing dunks. The other impact newcomer is Ibrahima Thomas, a transfer from Oklahoma State. He will be eligible after the fall semester and will give the team another big body under the basket. There are a few other players who will have to work a little harder to find some playing time. Sean Kilpatrick, Jaquon Parker, Eddie Tyree, Cashmere Wright and Alex Eppensteiner will all be suiting up for Cincinnati this season.
How effective the Bearcats can be on the wings will go a long way in determining their success this year. Dion Dixon is a good athlete who can score in a hurry. He is a decent shooter, but he does most of his damage getting to the basket. It is Larry Davis, the probable starter at the two guard spot, who is the more dangerous outside shooter. Davis rarely attacks the basket and might be better suited to come in off the bench as a sharpshooter, but he does add something that Stephenson cannot with his outside shooting. In any event, Davis, Dixon and Stephenson all bring something different to the table and should give a scoring punch to the wings that the team lacked last season.
The frontcourt lost a couple contributors, but there are more than enough returning players, not to mention the newcomers, to make this a quality unit. Yancy Gates had a great freshman campaign, tallying 10.6 points and a team high 6.1 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per contest. At 6-9 and 260 pounds, Gates is an intimidating presence under the basket and once Thomas is eligible, Cincinnati will always have a major presence in the paint. Rashad Bishop started 30 games last year and will do the dirty work under the basket. He averaged 5.4 points and 4.0 rebounds as a sophomore and should be a nice compliment to Gates. Steve Toyloy is another experienced big man and Anthony McClain and Darnell Wilks are both upperclassmen now who should be ready to contribute more efficiently.
Who to Watch:
The wings will be better this year and the frontcourt has scoring options, but there is no doubt that the star of this team is Deonta Vaughn. The 6-1 senior led the team with 15.2 points and 4.7 assists and should be in for a huge senior season. If all goes well, Vaughn’s scoring output will go down a little bit as others step up, but he still is the leader of this team and it will be his job to find the scorers and take care of the ball. And when the team needs a big shot, it will be Vaughn taking it.
Cincinnati has not reached the NCAA Tournament under Coach Mick Cronin and the fans are starting to mumble. However, this team has the talent to make it, led by Vaughn. However, this is the Big East and it is difficult for any team to have a .500 record in conference play. If the Bearcats end up at 8-10 yet again, it might mean another trip to the NIT.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Deonta Vaughn, Senior, Guard, 15.2 points per game
Larry Davis, Junior, Guard, 6.8 points per game
Lance Stephenson, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Rashad Bishop, Junior, Forward, 5.4 points per game
Yancy Gates, Sophomore, Forward, 10.6 points per game
Next Top 144 Teams