The Cincinnati Bearcats have the potential for a deep run in the 2012 NCAA tournament. It is not a given, and it is far from being expected, even from this blogger, but the potential is there for a couple of different reasons. First and foremost being that this UC team isn't prone to making a lot of mistakes. The Bearcats turnover rate is among the 20 lowest in the nation. Its the biggest reason why a team that assists on barely 50 per cent of made shots is somehow in the top 30 nationally in assist turnover rate.The play in the NCAA is fast, furious and unbelievably sloppy at times. Simply being the team that doesn't turn the ball over can be a major advantage.
The other thing you have to like about the Bearcats is the defense which has gotten better as the season has progressed. That is quite impressive when you consider how routine it has become for this team to play the four guard lineup in crunch time. A lineup that not only makes defending harder but also makes ending possessions (i.e. rebounding) tougher. And yet this group is only 1 100th off last years PPP (.93 last year, .94 this year) even without all everything defender Rashad Bishop.
These are two areas of the game that it is easy for UC to pack and take on the road. And these are things that the Bearcats have won with all season long. But for this group to be a real danger one thing has to happen, one thing only. The three point shots have to start falling.
That is the one factor of the game that can take the Bearcats from being merely good to borderline great. UC is not a team of great shooters. Only one guy is shooting over 40 per cent from three and that's JaQuon Parker. Sean Kilpatrick has taken and made more threes than anyone else in the Big East. He hits at a fairly high rate of 37 per cent. Cashmere Wright is a notch above Kilpatrick at 38 per cent.
The problem(s) are that
- Dion Dixon shoots 5 threes a game despite making just 26 per cent of them on the year. 5 attempts is about three too many for a guy who makes 26 per cent of his attempts.
- Despite the high percentage for Cash the consistency isn't there. He alternates games shooting 20 percent or below with games shooting upwards of 40 per cent. The average might be 37 per cent but in 34 games this season Wrights three point percentage has been in the 30's just 4 times.
- Sean Kilpatrick is in the middle of a shooting slump. Though he showed signs of breaking out against Syracuse going 6 for 9
This team is capible of ripping off some good shooting performances, like the three game stretch of Georgetown, Villanova and UConn where UC shot 39.6 per cent. If UC doesn't shoot around 35 per cent from deep for the tournament the Bearcats won't be dancing for very long. The Bearcats can win a game with defense and with the turnover margin alone. But playing good basketball beyond the first weekend will mean an improved performance from deep.