Cincinnati Needs More Ink

11 Jan

This summer at least one school tried unsuccessfully to lure Mick Cronin away from Cincinnati and it is a good thing for the Bearcats they were.  The American might be down as a whole but Cincinnati is hardly down at 13-2 and 3-0 currently a half game behind SMU.

Cronin has been at Cincinnati for 11 years and has won over 200 games at the school but has advanced past the first weekend just once, in 2012 when the Bearcats lost in the Sweet Sixteen.  Is it possible that this year’s Bearcats Cronin’s best since taking over in 2006?  Despite the fact that the senior class of the Bearcats could win over 100 games they have tasted victory in the NCAA Tournament just once (a one point overtime win over Purdue two years ago).  For seniors Kevin Johnson and Troy Caupain this is their best shot to make a March memory.

The Bearcats’ only losses were to Rhode Island and Butler and they have just one win over the top 50 in the RPI (Temple).  With the conference having a downturn their schedule has just one more chance at a marquee win when they face Xavier on Jan. 26.  The rest of the team’s numbers show Cincinnati to be a team that may not be getting the pub it deserves but come tournament time could be very dangerous.

Cronin’s squad is ranked 18th in the RPI and 17th in the KenPom rankings.  The Bearcats rank in the top 100 nationally in nearly every offensive and defensive category.  They average over 79 points per game but do so with just three players averaging double figures.  Jacob Evans leads the team at 15.1 Kyle Washington chips in 13.8 and Caupin is the Bearcats’ stat stuffer with 10 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists.    They are 8th in scoring margin at +17.9 because they only give up 61.4 per game.  Cincinnati has always been a tough defending team.  They are 2nd in field goal percentage defense holding opponents to 36% shooting and just 30% from beyond the arc. They also shoot the ball very well at 48%.

The bearcats are also very efficient at sharing and taking care of the ball.  They dish out nearly 17 assists per game and have a +1.53 assist-to-turnover ratio all while committing the 17th fewest turnovers on the country so far this season.  On the defensive end Caupain and company are just as stout.  They are 10th in blocked shots per game (6.0), 43rd in rebounds per game (39.53) and 77th in total steals (177).  If the team has one aspect of their game that could haunt them in March it would be their free throw shooting.  They don’t get to the line very often and when they do they struggle, only shooting 64%, 301st out of 351 ranked teams.

Now that conference play is upon them and the conference struggling as a whole Cincinnati has to take advantage of games against their main challengers, mainly SMU, Houston and probably Memphis.  They already have a double digit road win at Houston and host SMU tomorrow night.  A dominant trip through the AAC schedule could prepare the Bearcats for a March the likes of which this senior class has yet to see.

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