Hey, every other college basketball team. Now you can't leave.
While it was only two games and it came against competition that was not exactly taxing, Cincinnati proved that it is about to be a menace to the rest of the college basketball world this season. Blowout wins over Western Carolina and Robert Morris showed just how deep and offensively improved the Bearcats are. It would be folly to believe they will flirt with 100 points every time out on the floor or that they will run over every team they play, but even so, this team lived up to every preseason expectation during the first weekend. Let's dive a little deeper into those results.
The Young Guys Delivered
Perhaps not the first, but an important lesson we learned was that Justin Jenifer and Jacob Evans III are not only for real, they are clearly going to be key parts of the rotation. Both came off the bench, as expected, and both made meaningful contributions. Sure, they didn't have the flashy stat lines of say Gary Clark, but they don't need to because guys like Clark are already there.
Evans played 44 combined minutes, which was third on the team, and scored 17 combined points. His shooting was not overly efficient, as he only made 5-of-15 from the field, but he sank 3-of-7 shots from long range and also tallied 12 rebounds and five assists. Congratulations, Mick Cronin. You have another versatile athlete you can plug in off the bench.
Jenifer didn't get on the floor as much, finishing with 29 minutes played, but he made the most of that time, making five of his seven shots and handing out nine assists, compared with four turnovers. A 2:1 assist to turnover ratio will do just fine for a backup point guard, especially a freshman.
Dimes and Treys
Speaking of assists, Cincinnati's ability to move the ball was a refreshing sight. Stagnant offense has gone hand-in-hand with ferocious defense, but the Bearcats have talked a lot about improving with better pace and ball movement this off-season. Mission accomplished (so far). The ball was going all over the place this weekend, and in a good way. After piling up 32 dimes on Friday, the Bearcats added 19 more on Sunday. At this pace, which is unlikely to be kept but still encouraging, the Bearcats would finish the regular season with 714 assists. They had 394 total last season and will likely fall closer to that number, but seeing a willingness to pass is a pleasant sight.
All those passes led to many open looks and more effective shooting. Through two games, Cincinnati is shooting 56.9 percent from the floor and that includes a 44.7 percent mark from 3-point range, something that has apparently become a real tool for this team. Cincinnati showed a willingness to let it rip from deep and an ability to make those shots stick. Farad Cobb already has six triples this season and Kevin Johnson lived up to his billing as the 3-point sniper off the bench, nailing five. Cincinnati already has 17 3-pointers as a team, putting them at just over 10 percent of its entire output from that range last year.
DeBerry did DeVery Nicely
I know, I know. I nailed that sub-head.
Coreontae DeBerry's role on the team appeared to be defensive stopper, lane clogger and possessor of large hands for sideline fodder. No one told me that he would be a fine offensive weapon in the low post, acting as a secondary scorer to the primary options. DeBerry scored 12 points in both games and also recorded 12 total rebounds.
DeBerry's work meshed with the overall milieu of the weekend. Just about everyone on the roster was utilized by Cronin and just about everyone was successful. Eight different players scored in double figures in one of the games and three did so twice. Now that isn't going to happen in every game. Octavius Ellis, Troy Caupain and Clark will continue to be the scoring drivers, but Cronin wants to utilize his deep and diverse roster as much as possible.
"I want to see at least four to six guys in double figures; it would be my preference," Cronin said after Friday's win. "Some games you are going to have to score both inside and outside, luckily for us, we can do both. Our guys are older and better players. Our freshmen are going to help us a lot. You can see that both Justin Jenifer and Jacob Evans both have plenty of talent, especially on the offensive end. We’re not going to score 97 every night, I’d like to, but we have multiple guys that can put the ball in the basket."
Defense is Still Tight
It's been almost 800 words and still no mention of Cincinnati's defense. My apologies. Well do not fear, the Bearcats are just as difficult to figure out as ever. Western Carolina and Robert Morris shot a combined 33.3 percent and also totaled 40 turnovers between the two of them. Cincinnati snagged 26 steals and blocked 15 shots as well. There were also a few points off of turnovers, you know, if you consider 57 a few.
Quadri Moore Minute's Watch
Before the season started, I said that Quadri Moore would play at least 500 minutes this year. After the first weekend he has 23. That puts him on pace for 322, not counting any postseason play, so we are not exactly on schedule. I solemnly swear to monitor this situation doggedly all season and to face the consequences should I be wrong.
Highlight of the Week
Shaq Thomas went Mjolnir on Robert Morris.
As it stands, Cincinnati is 2-0 and has the appearance of a juggernaut on both ends of the floor. As has already been said, there is some salt that needs to be taken with these first two results. The Bearcats were playing weaker competition than they'll get later in the season, so such audacious production will not continue. But there is something to be said for completely embarrassing two Division I teams to start the season. As the adage goes, good teams beat the team's they are supposed to. Western Carolina and Robert Morris were certainly teams Cincinnati was supposed to beat.
So who's next? The unfortunate victim of Cincinnati's next drubbing (notice the return of the bulbous bravado) is Bowling Green, an in-state foe. The Bearcats will travel for this one and take on the Falcons in their natural habitat on Wednesday night. Bowling Green won 21 games last season but is in the first year of the Michael Huger era. They defeated New Orleans 79-61 in their season opener.
The Bearcats will finish off week two against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sunday in regional action of the Barclays Center Classic. Tune in next week for another chat.