Top 68 Team Previews: #33 Cincinnati Bearcats
Yancy Gates returns to Cincy for his senior year. (Icon SMI)
By Kevin Mallory
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Last Season: 25-8 (11-7)
Key Losses: Rashad Bishop
Head Coach: Mick Cronin
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Cashmere Wright 6-0 Jr.
SG: Dion Dixon 6-3 Sr.
SF: Sean Kilpatrick 6-4 So.
PF: Justin Jackson 6-8 So.
C: Yancy Gates 6-9 Sr.
Key Reserves: Jermaine Sanders 6-4 Fr. SG, Jeremiah Davis 6-2 Fr. PG, Jaquon Parker 6-3 Jr. SG
Last season, the Cincinnati Bearcats shocked people around the country after they were selected to finish 12th in the conference in the Big East Preseason Coaches' Poll. The Bearcats will bring back their top four scorers to a team that finished sixth in the Big East and was one of 11 Big East schools to make the NCAA tournament.
This season's squad will be deep in the backcourt. Three of the top four scorers from 2010-11 are guards (Wright, 9.0 points per game; Dixon, 11.6 points per game; and Kilpatrick, 9.7 points per game) and Mick Cronin has signed Jeremiah Davis and Jermaine Sanders, two players Cincinnati considers to be college-ready, to bolster the arsenal. But there is something to be desired in the frontcourt.
Yancy Gates will have to carry the Bearcats frontcourt. Gates averaged 12 points and seven rebounds per contest last season and will need to become an even greater factor inside. Judging by Cincinnati's roster, Gates will be asked to carry a lot of weight among a four-guard lineup for the most part. Gates is a strong, physical post player that can dominate around the basket but can also step out and knock down some jumpers.
The left-handed Sanders has been likened to a stouter James Harden, and it helps that Sanders often played in the frontcourt in high school. Because of his thick frame, Sanders might be asked to do the same in Cincy.
Kilpatrick had some flashes of brilliance for the Bearcats last season and his role will increase this year. After a breakout freshman campaign (9.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.4 apg), he could be a star for Cincy this year. He is a versatile guard that can knock down jumpers, drive strong to the basket, and play lock-down defense.
It will be interesting to see how Cronin will play with his guards. As stated earlier, the trio of guards brings scoring to the Bearcat offense. With Wright running the point, don't be surprised if Cincinnati runs many three and four-guard rotations to play small and speed up the tempo. Luckily, Cronin has the option of using Dixon or Kilpatrick or Sanders to provide an offensive spark off the bench.
Cincinnati and Cronin should continue the run of improvement. Since taking over in 2006, Cronin has led the Bearcats to an increase in wins in each of the past five seasons (11 to 13 to 18 to 19 to 25), but last year was the first time his team reached the Big Dance. Although Cincinnati will not be one of the top teams in the country, the Bearcats will not sneak up on teams. However, with their returning players, the Bearcats will field one of the better teams in the always-rugged Big East and should make it back to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.