Returning for his eighth season at the helm of his alma mater’s squad, Mick Cronin has seen a lot of success during his tenure. Posting a record of 204-124 through seven seasons in the old Big East is nothing to scoff at.
Last season, he led the Cincinnati Bearcats to a 22-12 overall record, eventually falling 67-63 to Creighton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The formation of the AAC will allow the Bearcats to face new opponents in conference play, therefore promising some interesting matchups.
The team is led by redshirt senior Sean Kilpatrick. The Bearcats will certainly benefit from having Kilpatrick, arguably the best offensive guard in the AAC, back for another season. Last year, he put up 17 points a game to go with 34.4 minutes per contest. Hitting 82 3-pointers on the season, he was a constant deep threat and will continue to be one in 2013-14.
Second-leading scorer Cashmere Wright graduated along with third-leading scorer JaQuon Parker. Who will try to fill those voids?
Senior forward Titus Rubles must step up this season and provide the Bearcats with an inside presence if they are going to be successful. Last season, he led the team in rebounding with 5.9 boards a contest. However, he only put up 5.9 points per game. That won’t cut it. His crazy stat from last year: he went 4-for-43 from 3-point range, good for 9.3 percent.
Rubles, along with fellow senior Justin Jackson, has to step up play in the frontcourt to try to provide enough stability for teams to dismiss double-teaming Kilpatrick on every possession.
The Bearcats will also hope that freshman guard Troy Caupain, who averaged a ridiculous 26.0 points, 15.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists during his senior high school season, can contribute in a positive way, along with fellow newcomer and highly-regarded recruit Jermaine Lawrence, who averaged 18.8 points, 13.0 rebounds and 6.4 blocks during his last year in high school. Unfortunately, I don’t see the stars aligning for the team as a whole.
Redshirt senior Sean Kilpatrick might be the best offensive guard in the conference, but unfortunately, the Bearcats don’t have much of a supporting cast to back up their star player. Jermaine Lawrence is a promising recruit, but as we have seen with big men, maturity, especially on the offensive side of the ball, comes with time.
In a conference with the four teams listed above, I don’t see Cincinnati being as successful this season as they were in past years, but they will compete. I have them going 17-14, not quite reaching the NCAA Tournament.