The storied Cincinnati Bearcats (10-12, 5-5) under second year head coach Mick Cronin has been a steady work in progress this season. Cronin, with just 18 months on the job, has managed to recruit or transfer in 16 different players. He is not only contracted to, but is determined to rebuild the Bearcats into a Big East contender, and restore them to their former glory as a national powerhouse.
Don’t let the record fool you. This is a team of young men who have needed to not only learn Cronin’s system, but also needed to learn about each other. They stumbled, staggered, pitched and reeled during the learning process, but have come up big and have been improving step by step as the season has worn on. Many predicted Cincinnati to finish in the bottom quarter of the Big East, but they have now managed to win 7 of their last 11 games. They have done it with outstanding defense. They are a tenacious, in your face, type of team who are the best defenders against the 3 point shot in the Big East by holding the opposition to a 28.3% success rate. They have become very strong under the glass by ripping down rebounds and quickly hitting the open man. During their first five Big East outings the Bearcats averaged 16.1 turnovers per game, but have become much more disciplined with their decisions during the last five games, thus reducing their turnovers to a much improved 11.8 per game.
Cincinnati lost their last outing by 15 to Marquette, and by 17 to Notre Dame, but has only dropped games to UConn by 1, St Johns by 2, and SHU by 2. They have beaten The Ville, Pitt, Nova and Syracuse. In their recent victory over WVU, they held the Mountaineers to a mere 20% shooting from the field, while outrebounding them 48-26, resulting in a 23 point victory. They are becoming a formidable team that has essentially been 8 points away from posting an 8-2 conference record so far this year.
Sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn is the star of the team, who alone accounts for 25% of the team scoring. He has a sturdy supporting cast, who share the scoring, but together are playing well as a team.
G - #5 – Deonta Vaughn (6’1” 195so) 17.8ppg, 40.4% 3pt shooter, 80% on ft – the “go to” player
G- #33 – Jamuel Warren (6’2” 195sr) 5.8ppg, point guard makes quick passes, nice decisions
F - #45 – John Williamson (6’6” 225sr) 9.5ppg, good rebounder, good shooter
F - #22 – Rashad Bishop (6’6” 220fr) 5.4ppg, good 3 pt shooter, playing better with time
C - #34 - Adam Hrycaniuk (6’10” 235sr) 7.7ppg, becoming a reliable BE center, import from Poland
G - #11 – Larry Davis (6’3” 180fr) 4.2ppg, 3pt threat, fitting in nicely
G - #1 – Marvin Gentry (6’3” 185sr) 6.4ppg, 3pt threat, solid bench relief
F - #10 – Marcus Sikes (6’8” 230sr) 3.4ppg, former starter providing leadership in a relief role
F - #23 – Alvin Mitchell (6’5” 215fr) 3.0ppg, youngster beginning to get his feet wet, does well in time played
C - #30 – Anthony McClain (6’11” 245fr) 3.0ppg, another youngster learning to play “big” in the conference
Rutgers (10-14, 2-9) has also been a steady work in progress that was unsure of themselves early on, then finally began to understand the blueprints, but have since been hit with a work slowdown. Rutgers is coming off a heartbreaking loss to St Johns, where they could not buy a shot. St Johns crawled to a slow 10 point lead in the first half and then kept RU at arms length for the remainder of the night. Although Rutgers holds a 2 game winning streak over Cincinnati, the players must understand that to win in the Big East they must demand a prime performance of themselves every day. The Scarlet Knights have come a long way, but have a lot further to go. It’s up to the players.