College basketball season has officially begun as teams begin practicing all over the country. One of those teams is the University of Cincinnati. The Bearcats had a great year in 2017-18, finishing 31-5 and winning the AAC regular season and tournament championships. The season ended in disappointment but with a new season, brings new hope. There is optimism all over program as they enter the new season.
Here are ten reasons to be excited about the 2018-19 version of the Cincinnati Bearcats.
1. Moving on from last year
Let’s just get this out of the way. The biggest reason to be excited is to erase the stench of last year’s ending. The new season means a fresh start and allows Cincinnati fans to continue (or begin) the healing process from that final game.
2. Strong OOC schedule
And right off the bat, Cincinnati can move on in a BIG way. For the first time since 1920(!!), the Bearcats host Ohio State. That’s the right – almost 100 years since the team up north came to campus. Bearcats also host UCLA and Xavier, giving the fans three very exciting home games. The rest of the OOC schedule includes trips to Mississippi State and UNLV and a Thanksgiving tournament against George Mason and either Ole Miss or Baylor.
3. New Stadium
When Cincinnati opens up against Ohio State on 11/7, they will do so in a brand newly renovated Fifth Third Arena. The Bearcats played all of their home games at Northern Kentucky last season and finally return to campus after an 18 month renovation.
4. Jarron Cumberland’s development
A year after Jacob Evans left UC early to go to the NBA, is Cincinnati native Jarron Cumberland next? He has an NBA body at 6’6, 216 pounds. He certainly isn’t shy about shooting and is now best scorer on the team. For Cincinnati to have any success this year, they will need him to be a 20 ppg scorer, after averaging 11.5 last season.
5. Development of junior big men Tre Scott and Nasier Brooks
Everyone has to step up this year, for Cincinnati to maintain their recent levels of success. Gary Clark and Kyle Washington both graduated and being are being replaced by juniors who have yet to fully emerge as legit threats. Combined, both men averaged 5.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg. Those numbers need to double (from a combination standpoint) for Cincinnati to win games.
Broome seemed to struggle at times last year. After dominating the America East conference at Stony Brook, Broome transferred to Cincinnati and sat out the 2016-17 season and debuted last year. He mostly came off the bench, averaging 20.5 mpg and scored 7.9 ppg, with 2.8 apg. The assist numbers were on par with his career averages, but the scoring was way down. Maybe it’s because the Bearcats had so many other options or maybe he just struggled to acclimate, but whatever the reason, he needs to adapt to Coach Cronin’s style of play quickly and should start and play a much larger role. ESPN recently listed him as one of their top 15 breakout stars.
7. The arrival of Rashawn Fredericks and Logan Johnson
Fredericks was a late arrival to this year’s recruiting class, brought in to fill the void left by Jacob Evans. The little-known JUCO transfer averaged 17.7 ppg and 10.3 rpg at Motlow State. He should fill in immediately and make an impact. Fredericks will have the biggest impact of any newcomers, but freshman guard Logan Johnson should see substantial playing time. Johnson, the younger brother of Miami Heat star Tyler Johnson, committed to Cincinnati from Mountain View, California. While Cincinnati’s depth is strong, the backup guard spots are certainly wide open, leaving Johnson as a prime option.
With a surplus of wings, their other freshman, LaQuill Hardnett could be an option for a redshirt year as could Prince Gillam Toyambi. Toyambi was a very late addition to the roster, committing just last month. He may take the year to acclimate as a redshirt.
8. The growth of the role players
While Cumberland, Broome, Scott, Brooks and Fredericks will all be valuable pieces, the Bearcats don’t lack depth. Senior PG Justin Jenifer should continue to start. A solid, consistent and often turnover-free pass first guard should do well with shooters like Broome and Cumberland. Sophomores Trevor Moore, Keith Williams, Mamoudou Diarra, and Elliel Nsoseme should all play much larger roles. Only Moore and Williams had impacts in 2017-18.
9. Weak Conference
Cincinnati is in between a rebuild and a transition after losing three of their top players from last season. But it should help them that the American Athletic Conference is not the strongest or the best. Last year, team’s like Houston and Wichita State were highly touted and Uconn and Memphis were down (have been for years). Both Uconn and Memphis have new head coaches and high hopes. Wichita and Houston lost their top stars. UCF is expected by most to ascend towards the top. There is a lot of “easy wins” towards the bottom of the conference. With a tough OOC schedule, that should help prepare the Bearcats for conference playand help them make another run at the conference title.
10. Coach Mick Cronin
This alone is a reason to be excited. Mick has helped lead Cincy to 8 straight NCAA tournament appearances, one of 6 teams to do that. Cronin is 268-140 in 12 years at Cincinnati.
Multiple Bearcats in the NBA
This isn’t necessarily a reason to be excited about the Cincinnati season specifically, but there are a number of Bearcats in the NBA now which will make for an exciting basketball season in general. Jacob Evans represents Mick Cronin’s first first round draft pick and he went to the defending champion Warriors (with a good chance to win another). Lance Stephenson signed with Lebron’s Lakers. Gary Clark and Troy Caupain both signed two-way contracts with Rockets and Magic, respectively, which means there is the potential for them to play NBA games in 2018-19 . Sean Kilpatrick is a free agent currently and should resurface before the season starts.