NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 16: Yancy Gates #34 of the Cincinnati Bearcats dunks the ball against the Texas Longhorns during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 16, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Alternate Title: Lets just draw a line through that
Hindsight always has the gift of perspective. It is easy to look back at a season for a player or a team and to construct a narrative. In truth these post season posts are an exercise in that fact. A seasons worth of games does not a narrative make. All those games really represent is a series of data points. But it is human nature to take data and create stories from them. In many respects that is all that history is. A series of facts arranged in a narrative structure to give context to what went on in the past. The easiest thing to do is to break up events into two periods in an effort to find "the turning point" for that player. Before and after. Its great for selling products, less great for making sense of a basketball player.
The exception to that rule is Yancy Gates who was (basically) two different players in 2011-12. Thats a stretch I know, but there is a certain ring of truth to there existing a pre punch Yancy and post punch Yancy, neither of which has much to do with the other. The simple stats don't do justice to the point as Yancy averaged more points and rebounds per game early in the year. But that is as much a product of small sample size and a terrible strength of schedule inflating the numbers. The simple fact of the matter is that Yancy Gates played the best Basketball of his life after his Basketball life appeared to be over.
It is one thing to say that Yancy Gates became a changed player and person after his mistake. That statement is probably true for what it's worth. After all It's hard to imagine going through the firestorm he created for himself without being profoundly changed in some way. For Yancy the change was positive and he emerged as the player we all thought he could become.
The stats don't illustrate the full breadth of the change in Yancy Gates. On the face of it his stats went down. He averaged fewer points and rebounds per game after the fight than he was before. Which is slightly odd because he played much better after his suspension. There are two reasons for that. 1) the level of competition before the fight was terrible and he returned into the heart of the Big East season. 2) His role within the confines of the offense was reduced pretty dramatically. This is best illustrated by his charting his possession percentage.
After the suspensions Yancy was thrust into a four guard offense which assured him of getting fewer touches down the stretch of the season. But at the same time his offensive ratting stayed more or less steady for the rest of the season.
That's a long way of saying that he was more effective with fewer offensive touches. The reason Gates was so effective down the stretch is that he became an absolute beast on the offensive glass and got his points that way.
The four guard offense put Yancy in one v one's on the glass and he won his fair share of battles and most of them became buckets or trips to the free throw line at the worst. His play on the glass brought back a staple of the Huggin's era Bearcats, second shot offense. That is how he contributed to this team at the end of the season, he kept possessions alive.
It was really remarkable just how well Gates slid into the reconfigured offense and went about creating a new role for himself on the team. He seemed to know that the team was no longer his. Ownership had been ceded to Cashmere Wright who took the reigns and ran the team beautifully down the stretch. Yancy didn't contest that role, he let it go. That's the biggest reason why this team was galvanized by the fight and by his actions where Xavier fell apart dealing with the same issue.
The stats say that Yancy Gates best season as a Bearcat was his Junior year. He had a higher offensive rating, he shot the ball better and displayed a more robust offensive game as a Junior. But looking at the totality of what he did for the Bearcats down the stretch it is impossible to say that his Senior Year wasn't the best. It was because for the first time in the Red and Black he tapped his immense potential for an entire season. He did have a turning point to get him to that point, and it was not a pretty one. But he learned his lesson and took his final 23 games on face value, as an opportunity to be treasured. And what's more he emphatically cashed in on that opportunity.
It's impossible to separate the legacy of Yancy Gates as a Bearcat from the legacy of Yancy Gates, the guy who punched Kenny Frease in the face. That's what will make Yancy such a perplexing figure for Bearcat fans everywhere. He is a member of the class that rebuilt Bearcat Basketball back to the level of late era* Huggins. At the same time the punch will symbolize that it was never simple with Yancy. He ended his career on a definite uptick, but he remains an enigma as a person. He had a turning point, but it is too soon to know if the impact of htting rock bottom has rounded off his rough edges permanently.