So your bathroom's scale gone a little heavy this month, eh? No worries; it's the time of year where we collectively re-up our gym memberships only to sit around and talk about how different next year will be.
As an exercise in
futility optimism, I've come up with a few New Year's Resolutions I'd like to see the Cincinnati Bearcats men's basketball team take up in 2015. These are down-to-earth, honest critiques this Bearcat team can achieve in the new year - not some pie-in-the-sky ideas that great Uncle Lou spat out during Christmas dinner last week. Anyone can wish for world peace or for Farad Cobb to start averaging 20 a game on 100% shooting.
First things, first, though - we obviously want continued health and progress for head coach Mick Cronin. I didn't include that as one of my points below because, well, that's not something the Bearcats can change on their own in 2015. So continue to get well, coach.
Let's sing Auld Lang Syne on 2014 and aim for some realistic resolutions, shall we:
- Pick Up the Pace - The Bearcats haven't been a fast-paced team since Cronin took over, I know, but they're historically slow so far this year; the slowest of Cronin's tenure, in fact. They rank in the bottom 4% (out of 351 teams) in adjusted tempo according to KenPom. As familiarity with the system improves, the Bearcats' pace will hopefully improve as well. Faster play doesn't equal more wins, but I think a few more possessions each game would help UC out.
- Get Shaq Thomas out in Transition - He's easily one of the most maddening players I've rooted for in a while. Last year, he averaged more points on less shot attempts per game. I don't see his shot magically finding more arc midway through this season, so get him the ball while he's in attack-mode and let him build confidence.
- Reverse the Turnover Margin - Cincinnati currently gives the ball away more often than they take it away - although it's a small number (-0.5 per game). The thing is, their game totals aren't far off from where they've normally been over the course of Mick Cronin's career at Cincinnati. Just need to reduce their turnovers by around 1 a game while forcing opponents to make 1 more mistake. That would effectively create 2 extra possessions and do wonders for the Bearcats.
- Improve Free Throw % - I'm not asking for an astronomical increase - just a few percentage points. The 'Cats currently shoot 67.8% from the line; that's 3 percentage points lower than last year's average. And last year felt like a great year from the line thanks to Mr. Automatic, Sean Kilpatrick. If the Bearcats can match last year's percentage, wouldn't you be beyond happy?
- Hit a Higher % of 3-Pointers - Admittedly, this one might be tough; we're not going to see better shooters overnight. But smarter 3-point attempts would be helpful. How often has someone in a Cincinnati jersey hoisted a long-range shot only to see it ricochet off the backboard without even hitting the rim? (side note: do they keep stats on that?) All three of the Bearcats returning guards (Caupain, Sanders, Johnson) have seen their 3-point averages dip at least 3 percentage points this year, and that's led to their abysmal 28.7% from beyond the arc as a team this year.
Some of this may come to fruition just based on competition in the AAC this year. I'm not asking Cronin/Davis/whomever to move mountains, here. These are things that can be changed, tweaked, and fine-tuned as we ease into the new year and will hopefully lead to a few more points a game and a few more victories this season. What are your resolutions for the New Year?