By Bryan Zarpentine @BZarp on March 17, 2014
Despite an impressive 27-6 record and a share of the regular season American Athletic Conference championship, the Cincinnati Bearcats have ended up with a No. 5 seed and a tough road ahead of them in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. But Cincinnati has the kind of team that can make a deep run in the tournament if their best players step up. Here's a look at Cincinnati's top five players who will have to play well if the Bearcats are going to advance.
Thomas is a swing man with a ton of athleticism, and he's capable of giving the Bearcats a lot more than the 6.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game that he's averaging. He's been up and down the season, and Cincinnati needs him to be up if they're going to win multiple games against quality teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Sanders shoots the best three-point percentage on Cincinnati's roster at 38 percent, and on a team that struggles to score, the Bearcats are going to need him to knock down shots during the NCAA Tournament if they're going to advance. He makes about one three-pointer per game, but if he can make two or possibly three in a tournament game, the chances of Cincinnati advancing would go up considerably.
Rubles is Cincinnati's third-leading scorer, but he's scored in double figures just twice since the start of January. He does other things well, like defend and rebound, and he shoots a good percentage from the free-throw line. If he can get to the basket, get to the line and put some points on the board for the Bearcats, it'll really help his team win.
Jackson has double-double potential, and he controls the paint for the Bearcats on the defensive end with three blocks per game. Cincinnati needs Jackson to stay out of foul trouble and prevent opposing teams from scoring points in the paint, because that's the backbone of what's a strong Cincinnati defense that will give the Bearcats a chance to win games in the tournament.
Kilpatrick is the motor that makes Cincinnati go, and every time the Bearcats need to make a play on the offensive end, he's the one who's going to do it. On a team that struggles offensively, Kilpatrick averages better than 20 points per game, and without him meeting or exceeding that, Cincinnati is going nowhere in the NCAA Tournament
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