Mick Cronin Finally Has His Perfect Team, Expect Revolutionary Play From The Bearcats
By: Tyler Dugan
Wooooooahhhhhh baby. This upcoming basketball season just might be the most anticipated one Cincinnati has ever seen. Both teams have a legitimate argument to be in the top 10. Both teams, I would say, are legitimate final four contenders. It will be the most anticipated Crosstown Shootout in history. For this blog, I’m going to talk about UC basically because I hate Xavier and don’t want to give them the light of day. Go retweet more jersey videos, XU fans.
This is the first time Mick Cronin has gotten the ability to truly coach a team to his style. People think that Mick Cronin dreams of rock fights, and wants games to be in the fifties, and to a certain extent that is true. Mick is much better at coaching the defensive side of the ball, but he isn’t against scoring, and he would much rather move the ball up the court and play a faster pace game. Our enemy @OhVarsity brought this up the other day, but I’ve been saying the same thing for years, Mick had to coach and recruit to that style of play, he had no other choice. Why you might ask? Mick inherited a broken down team, one scholarship player playing in the toughest conference in the history of college basketball. When the Big East expanded, and added all of the big guns from the C-USA, there has never been a tougher conference. What Mick realized was that he was never going to be able to out recruit teams like Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville, etc. He had to find a way to make UC basketball relevant again with a shitty arena, in the greatest conference ever, with no foundation. He did that by recruiting big, fast, tough players. They couldn’t shoot, they couldn’t score, but they could play defense and they could rebound. He knew that would keep them in games in that conference. He knew hard nosed defense and great rebounding would be their quickest route to 20 win seasons.
It worked, he got UC there, they became relevant again and he started to make tourney appearances. Well, the twist came in when the Big East disbanded leaving UC where they are. The final recruiting class that was recruited to play in the Big East?? You got it, Troy Caupain and Kevin Johnson. Big, lengthy, smart guards. Couldn’t shoot, weren’t fast. Look at the facts…who were Cronin’s two biggest teachers? Huggins and Pitino. How do they play? With good defense and rebounding, but they want to speed you up, they want to play fast. Mick’s three years as a head coach at Murray State? They never averaged below 70 points a game, one year (their best in his tenure) they averaged 80. Insert this current UC team.
This team has so much talent, and they’re soooo deep. The starting five is most likely going to be 1. Cane Broome 2. Jarron Cumberland 3. Jacob Evans 4. Gary Clark 5. Kyle Washington. During the Red/Black scrimmage Justin Jenifer ran with the ones while Cumberland played with the 2’s, but who knows. I wouldn’t mind actually seeing that, having Jarron come of the bench (similar to what Kilpatrick did in 2012).
The biggest hype around the starting 5 is Cane Broome, and rightfully so. Cane transferred from Sacred Heart 2 years ago, he sat out all of last year. During his last season at Sacred Heart he average 23.1 points a game, which was 8th best in the country.
He won’t score 23 a game at UC mainly because he doesn’t have to, but he will be a big time scoring option for the Cats all year long. He is the speedy point guard this team needs. Everything you read about Cane Broome talks about speed, speed, speed. He wants to get it and go, which greatly fits the rest of this team’s makeup. Jarron and JEIII are going to be the primary perimeter scorers. They both are UC’s top NBA prospects, and have to be the go to guys to score, especially late in the game. I’m praying to the Lord Almighty that Jacob Evans becomes more aggressive this year.
The biggest reason I’m excited about this team though? The front court, and no one is really talking about it. Gary Clark and Kyle Washington are the nicest security blankets, it’s so comforting to know you can throw it down to either one of them, and be supremely confident they’ll score. Kyle needs to be better defensively, but he is still very good. Having two seniors down there anchoring the team is huge. I’m going to go out on a limb (again) and say that Gary Clark is going to win National Defensive player of the year. The guy is the closest thing we have ever seen to Kenyon Martin, and that is hard to do. Before Kenyon’s senior year, he was only averaging about 10 a game, but he was a shot blocking machine and he could rebound. Gary puts up similar numbers. Now, I’m not saying Gary is going to have the senior season Kenyon Martin had, it was one of the best season in college basketball history, but it will be similar. Look out for Gary Clark, he doesn’t say much, but he is by a landslide the most important player on the team because he is consistent. The only four year player in the program right now, and he is a four year starter. He will be leaned on when things aren’t going their way.
Another reason this team is exciting is how deep they are. And it isn’t a bad deep. Quadri Moore left (thank god). Justin Jennifer, Tre Scott and Nasier Brooks are three familiar names we heard from last year. They will all come off the bench. Trevor Moore and Keith Williams were the 2 big name freshman we heard about going into the year. Moore is a sharp shooter, three point specialist who can really light it up, Mick said last year in a post-game press conference that if he was on the team last year he would’ve been the best three point shooter. Williams was their biggest recruit, he is an all-around scorer and will be the guy to come in and replace Evans when they need a bucket. The other two freshman are Mamoudou Diarra and Eliel Nsoseme. Both big men, Mick said they will both get minutes. Diarra was committed to play with Michael Porter (#1 recruit in the country) and when Porter changed schools, so did Diarra.
Eliel is an under the radar guy that is just a hustler and a good rebounder. Both won’t see many minutes, but they will see important ones. Mick said Nasier Brooks is the most improved player on the team which is big time news. When Gary and Kyle get in foul trouble and they need adequate bigs to come off the bench, hopefully it’s them. That is a 12 deep roster. They will not have to rely on one scorer like that other team in this city. I think the starting five ranks up there with the best in the country. Truly no weak spot.
My biggest worries for the season? They have a tough non-conference schedule, and it comes quick. They play a couple tune ups out of the gate, then immediately go to the Cayman classic. First round is against Buffalo which isn’t tough, second round would be against Richmond or UAB, if they win that they would most likely see Iowa, who is solid. They play one more tune up then see XU at Cintas, Florida at a neutral court, Miss St at home and then at UCLA. That is an extremely tough slate early on. Not that I don’t think UC can win any of those games, I just worry that if they lose the Crosstown Shootout their confidence might drop because people invest way too much in that game. It’s a fun game, it’s a rivalry, but if they lose it doesn’t mean UC sucks, don’t down a season because of a game played in December. If they get off to a slower start than expected, people will be calling for heads to roll, so it’s imperative they come ready to go early.
I’m also worried about expectations. This team has never seen expectations like this. They’ve never had to handle it, they’ve never had to deal with this much hype. Hopefully they don’t let it get to their heads, they were rated 12th in the AP poll which is another thing people put too much stock into.
This is going to be a good year. This team is talented enough to easily be a second weekend team. It is by far the most talented team in the Mick Cronin era, if you stuck with me this long, kudos to you. There is a lot to talk about with this team which is a good thing. Roll ‘Cats.