Last year the Bearcats made a run to the finals of the Big East Tournament, defeating the Georgetown Hoyas and number one seeded Syracuse Orange along the way. The team would lose in the finals but its season would be far from over.
A week later Cincinnati would find itself in the NCAA Tournament for the second time under Cronin as a sixth seed. They’d advance to the Sweet Sixtween defeating the #11 Texas Longhorns and #3 Florida State Seminoles before losing to the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes. The victory against the Seminoles would be significant for two different reasons. Not only did Cronin’s team knock off a very hot team that a week earlier had just won the ACC Tournament but it was also the first time a Cincinnati head coach had ever defeated a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bearcats beat talented teams ago, proving they can hang with some of the best schools in the nation. The good news for Cronin is the returning players he has from last season.
The backcourt of junior Sean Kilpatrick, senior Cashmere Wright and fellow senior JaQuon Parker are being described as the best backcourt in the Big East. When you look at their production from a year ago, it’s hard to argue that statement.
Kilpatrick averaged 14.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season and will be looked to as the go-to player for the Bearcats. He’s expected to carry the offensive load and is no stranger to doing so, having multiple twenty point games a year ago including 27 points against Georgetown in early January. Kilpatrick is an above average rebounder for a player listed at 6-foot-4 and 220lbs, having recorded double-doubles in his career. He’s also a key part to the aggressive defensive style Cronin wants the Bearcats to play, averaging 1.3 steals a game last season.
Wright is also a solid defender, averaging 2 steals a game in his junior season. Listed at 6 feet and 175lbs, Wright is capable of doing a little bit of everything averaging 10.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists last year. He’s not afraid of the big game either, going off for 22 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in a win against the Louisville Cardinals in February last year. He even recorded a double-double earlier in the month with 12 point, 10 rebound game. Still, Wright’s best asset might come in his ability to hound the opposing team’s point guard as he had eight games of four or more steals including seven in a win against the Villanova Wildcats.
At 6-foot-3, 195lbs JaQuon Parker is one of the best rebounding guards in the nation. Averaging 9.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists a year ago, Parker is better known for crashing the glass than making the extra pass. It doesn’t bother coach Cronin one bit to have a 6’3 guard that threatens to rebound in double digits every night as he had over ten games of seven or more rebounds last year. Parker is the least-strongest scorer in the trio of Bearcat guards but that doesn’t mean he can’t score. He exploded for 28 points and 7 rebounds against the Marquette Golden Eagles in late February and 22 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists on New Year’s day.
It’s a scary thought for the rest of the Big East when Cronin’s backcourt trio are known for their defense but are perfectly capable of going off for 20 points on any night.
The 2012-13 Cincinnati Bearcats are talented, experienced and hungry. They’re no longer a team happy to be involved, Mick Cronin has made sure to change that. They’ve beaten teams ranked above them and know they can compete against them.
Don’t sleep on the Bearcats because they aren’t hibernating.