Looking back at the past three national championship teams, they all had extraordinary balance in both the frontcourt and the backcourt. Last year's Kentucky team had the national player and national defensive player of the year in forward Anthony Davis. 2011's national champ, UConn, was lead by star guard Kemba Walker and a slew of talented underclassmen guards like Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb. 2010's Duke squad was paced by the play of senior guard Jon Scheyer, as well as forward Kyle Singler. What did all these teams have in common? They had one or two star players combined with competent surrounding pieces. While Kentucky's Davis was clearly the star, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb and Marquise Teague knew their roles and were more than able to take over a game when called upon. UConn may have been lead by the steady play of Walker, but without the contribution of power forward Alex Oriakhi, that team might not have reached the heights they were able to during that season. Duke's national championship team featured a similar situation. While Scheyer and Singler, along with Nolan Smith, were the team's go to scorers, it was the steadying presence of center Brian Zoubek and his double digit rebounding average that helped lead the team to a national championship. With that being said, how does this affect this 2012 Cincinnati team?
We know what this Cincinnati team can do on offense; they've proven that by averaging nearly 90 points per game this season. But in order to make an impression in March, players like Titus Rubles, David Nyarsuk and Chekh Mbdoj have to increase their production. The frontcourt trio is averaging around 19 points and 15 rebound per game. While not horrible numbers, we need to see those increase in order for this Cincinnati squad to have a realistic shot at a national championship. In watching the nine games so far this season, a few things stand out. Mbdoj, in my opinion, has shown the most upside at the position. Standing at 6-10 and nearly 240 pounds, the senior from Senegal has flashed great athleticism and a soft set of hands, something that is of great importance considering the ability of Cincinnati's guards to get into the paint and make quick passes. While Mbdoj has the most upside, Rubles may be the most dangerous of the three. The juco transfer stands at only 6-7, but has shown the slashing forward skills that make him a threat anytime he touches the ball. His post game could use some work, but the talent is there. With Nyarsuk, you have the size advantage. The big man stands at 7-1, and is an imposing force from a defensive standpoint; however, he lacks the soft hands of Mbdoj or the slashing ability of Rubles. All three bring something of importance to the metaphorical table, but they need to do so at a more consistent rate for this Cincinnati team to be successful come tournament time. As the past has proven, having a dominant player or two is nice, but winning national championships depend on how quickly you can turn your weaknesses into possible strengths, creating a balance that will carry you to a championship.