"It's basketball time in Cincinnati!" Or, at least, that's what the PA announcer usually yells as the Cincinnati Bearcats take the floor to exploding red fireworks and a raucous student section.
Tonight marks the start of the 2014-15 season with Mick Cronin and crew taking the floor to battle the Bellarmine Knights in Cincinnati's first exhibition game. Bellarmine should be a familiar name to Bearcat fans by now; this is the fifth time the 'Cats have faced the Knights in an exhibition game since Cronin took over the Cincinnati program (UC leads 4-0; obviously). Both Cronin and Bellarmine's head coach, Scott Davenport, served together on the same staff under Rick Pitino during the early 00's.
You follow the Bearcats close enough to read this blog, so you know the most important storyline coming into this season: the Bearcats have seven newcomers on the roster this year. If not for Cronin's first season at Cincinnati when he put together a team of leftover JUCO's, football players, and a few walk-ons, this would be the largest incoming class for the Bearcats (UC had 10 newcomers that season).
What I'm watching for tonight:
- The starting line-up: It might not mean much, but I'm curious to see who Mick throws on the floor to start the game.
- The rotation at center: I expect to see a lot of time split between talented junior-transfer and former Bearcat Octavius Ellis and JUCO transfer Coreontae DeBerry. And will redshirt freshman Jamaree Strickland see the floor at all - and, if so, for how long?
- Athleticism on the wings: It's an exhibition game. I want to see guys coming out of the rafters to put back missed shots. Hustle Plays. Blocked shots. We've talked up the young talent and athleticism on this year's squad, now let's see some flashes.