Just as I was finally getting comfortable spelling his name, Cheikh Mbodj goes and graduates from the University of Cincinnati. Thanks a lot, Cheikh. So what does that mean for the Bearcats down low? Well Mick Cronin's hoping senior David Nyarsuk can improve his role from last year and play well enough to fill the hole at the 5-spot. From one complicated last name to another, here's what the Bearcats got out of both Mbodj and Nyarsuk last year (stats are per game):
On the surface, it doesn't look like Mbodj's stats are irreplaceable. 5 points and 5 rebounds a game? If you double Nyarsuk's minutes from his junior to senior year, he should be able to give you that kind of production - on paper.
Obviously, though, there are reasons Mbodj logged twice as many minutes a game over Nyarsuk last year - namely Mbodj's grasp of the offense/defense and his ability to hold on to the ball better than Big Dave. Mbodj had 29 turnovers all of last year while Nyarsuk had 22 - and Big Dave played half as many minutes a game. So, if we're going to double Dave's points and rebounds on paper, we also have to double his turnovers - and that's a little scary.
Good news, though; Nyarsuk's 7'1" frame has added 30-35 pounds during the off-season, and I'd imagine his coordination has improved with another summer of workouts under his belt. Hopefully his new found strength leads to less turnovers this year - and more rebounds.
And - as I mentioned in the power forward position breakdown - I think Justin Jackson will actually see a decent amount of time at the center position for the Bearcats this year. He's also added some much-needed weight, and he's more athletic than Big Dave. Nyarsuk actually runs the floor pretty well for a 7-footer, but Jackson gives the Bearcats a better option if Cronin really wants to play the 40 minutes of hell, up-and-down the court type of offense/defense that he's talked about publicly over the past few weeks.
Besides point guard, I think the center position is the biggest question mark going into the season. Justin Jackson and David Nyarsuk were prone to brainless fouls last year, and unless one of them received a head transplant in the off-season, I don't see a ton of improvement in this specific area. Pessimistic, I know...
My prediction: Jackson starts at the 5 towards the beginning of the season and foul trouble keeps both him and Nyarusk rotating in and out. I think we'll see similar defensive production here as to what we did last year - and that's not a terrible thing. Offensive production will improve slightly opening things up for Sean Kilpatrick and Shaquille Thomas. I mean, coach Cronin has already compared Jackson to Eric Hicks. Jackson was already a pretty good shotblocker, so we better see some improved offense. And if the Bearcats' center position really surprises this year, then you could see a vastly better squad. I'm cautiously optimistic about this specific group...