There has to be a blogger out there somewhere that's actually predicted an entire season of wins and losses, right? And if it were me, I'd brag about that with each successive blog post for the rest of my writing career. So, for your sake, here's to hoping that doesn't happen...
How we think this year will shape up for Mick Cronin's 2014-15 Bearcat basketball team:
1. Starting 5:
PG: Troy Caupain; SG: Ge’Lawn Guyn/Kevin Johnson; SF: Shaquille Thomas; PF: Gary Clark; C: Octavius Ellis
I think Guyn begins the season in the starting lineup. However, I think Kevin Johnson over takes him after a handful of games. The other possibility is that Quadri Moore finds himself in the 4 spot, moving Clark to the 3 and Shaq to the 2. In a team this deep, I can see either of these happening and more. Fun time to be a Bearcat fan.
2. Prediction of Record: The Bearcats have a tough road ahead of them this year. I count seven games against currently ranked opponents, with Xavier and Memphis both having the potential to be ranked when we play them. I think this team has the ability to steal a couple of those games, but loosing a couple games to teams like Temple. As for the easier competition, the bottom of the AAC is soft again and I think the Bearcats have the offense firepower and size to put away the easier competition early. My prediction: 23-8
3. Regular Season AAC Finish: It hurts to put in writing, but I don’t think UC will win the conference this year. UCONN is tough. I thought Boatright was one of the more underrated players in the country last season and Amida Brimah is a force down low. SMU brings back Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy. I see the Bearcats going a combined 1-3 against UCONN and SMU, and 1-1 with Memphis. They will then sweep the rest of the AAC besides one off night. When all is said and done, the Bearcats finish 3rd in the conference.
4. Postseason Tournament & Finish: This is tough. The AAC has a clear top-5 in UCONN, SMU, UC, Memphis, and Temple; after that things get dismal talent wise. The Bearcats should find themselves in the semi-finals. If they have to face UCONN they are done, but facing one of the other three would make things interesting. As for THE tournament, I see Cincinnati slipping in as a lower seed. Let’s say a 10 seed and they loose in the second round.
5. MVP: Octavius Ellis. I don’t mean to insult your intelligence, but it is important to remember that MVP stands for Most Valuable Player. Meaning, which player would cause the most harm if removed from the lineup. The two-deep at every position seems to be essentially even, except at Center. Ellis has mobility that the other bigs lack. There are better players on this team than Ellis, but they are replaceable with minimal loss in production from their respective backups. I see Ellis having a breakout season and leading the AAC in blocks.
6. Newcomer with Most Impact (if different than MVP): I give this to Deshaun Morman, because I am not considering Ellis a newcomer. The season hasn’t started and I am already going to give Morman a nickname. "The Delete Key". Morman gives Cronin the option to virtually eliminate the offensive power of the opposing team’s best offensive guard. His athleticism coupled with his effort is infectious to watch. He is the epitome of what a "Sixth Man" should be. I know Clark or Moore are the more obvious picks here, but I think Morman offers the defensive shutdown potential along with the ability to spark this team with emphatic dunks and big plays that will separate him from the pack. Is it too early to say how excited I am for next season?
1. Starting 5:
PG: Troy Caupain; SG: Kevin Johnson; SF: Shaq Thomas; PF: Gary Clark; C: Octavius Ellis
I think that Mick Cronin will experiment with starting Ge`Lawn Guyn at the two for part of the regular season, as he did in the Bellarmine game. But that is as much about providing a boost to the second team more than picking his best five. At some point Mick will realize that he is better served by putting his best five on the floor to start the game. Fun fact about this team group in camp, anytime those five guys were on the same team they murdered the opposition. UC is better off pairing Guyn with Farrad Cobb and Deshaun Morman off the bench.
2. Prediction of Record: 22-9 - I have a very hard time picturing a Mick Cronin led team finishing with less than 20 wins. My prediction reflects that, but also my belief that this will be the most talented offensive group he has had here at UC. The defense wasn't the problem a year ago, and it won't be this year, but the offense has to be better, and I think it will be. Also keep this in your back pocket for the haters, it has been 5 years since UC won less than 20 games in a season in the old Big East. The AAC is not the Big East, neither is the Big East for what its worth.
3. Regular Season AAC Finish: Third, as much confidence as I have in this group, I think there will be some growing pains, particularly early in the AAC slate. UC has a front loaded conference slate with SMU, at Memphis and UConn (x2) all coming before the start of February. That is a brutal start to the slate, one that could put the Bearcats in a big hole before conference play even starts. It could be that the Bearcats are excellent in February and March and it might not matter at all in the conference race.
4. Postseason Tournament & Finish: Semi Finals: UC should be able to waltz relatively easily into the AAC's final four, but all bets are off then.
5. MVP: Kevin Johnson, AKA the guy that will cause Mick Cronin to kick himself for not playing him more last year. The notion that the Bearcats are a team without a go to player has been floated in the preseason. I think that will wind up looking ridiculous because of KJ. I am all in on the KJ bandwagon, you are welcome to join me, there is plenty of room right now.
6. Newcomer with Most Impact (if different than MVP): Gary Clark - I was tempted for a brief moment to go with Deshaun Morman here, but it will be Clark. The list of true freshman who have started from the jump for Mick Cronin isn't a very long one. Yancey Gates, Lance Stephenson, Deonta Vaughn...and that might be it. Clark is going to be adding his name to that list, and I can't wait to see his career unfold.
1. Starting 5:
PG: Troy Caupain; SG: Ge'Lawn Guyn; SF: Shaq Thomas; PF: Gary Clark; C: Octavius Ellis
Assuming you've read down this far, you'll notice my lineup's not much different from Da or Matt. I don't know what to do with the 2-spot, though. Yes, KJ is probably more valuable than Guyn, but this team will be lacking defense - all year - and Ge'Lawn will be a tremendous help on the perimeter in that regard. Also, I'm not 100% sold on Clark starting a majority of the year at the 4.
2. Prediction of Record: 21-10; I was the lowest on the 'Cats win total last year (wrongly), and that continues this year. The defense isn't going to be Bearcat-worthy; that's just my gut (compared to year's past, at least). Yes, Mick'll coach 'em up, but, early on, the new guys are going to be slow and sometimes lost and then by year's end, worn out. That still means 21 wins, though.
3. Regular Season AAC Finish: Heck, I'll go with third, too. Cronin owns Memphis head coach Josh Pastner, so you only have to worry about UConn and SMU.
4. Postseason Tournament & Finish: Assuming health, I think they'll get to the semi-finals in the AAC tournament and lose their first game in the NCAA tournament. Debbie-downer, I know - but next year's the year.
5. MVP: Troy Caupain - he'll take a crazy leap forward this year. I'd love to get on the Kevin Johnson bandwagon with Matt (and I'm not anti-KJ so don't misquote me), but I think Troy will be a lot of folks favorite Bearcat by the end of the season.
6. Newcomer with Most Impact (if different than MVP): I love the potential of Gary Clark - and I fell in love with Quadri Moore during Monday's exhibition game - but I have to say Deshaun Morman. His energy and defense is infectious, and the number of fast breaks he'll start will single-handedly make Cronin's offense look that much better because of the transition buckets.