- 9.6 points, 12 per 40 minutes
- 3.5 rebounds, 5 per 40 minutes
- 3.6 assists, 5 per 40 minutes
- 31.3 minutes
- 44.4/40.8/78.8 shooting splits
Troy Caupain is going to have an outstanding last two years at Cincinnati. Is there really anyone else on this roster who you've enjoyed watching over the past year more than Troy (sans super-freshman Gary Clark)? I already feel like I am rambling, but come on... Troy is a baller with all of the passion and fire that we have come to expect of UC basketball.
The growth in Troy's game has been noticeable both in the tangibles and the intangibles. Statistically, he improved in every single traditional basketball stat. That was mostly aided by the increase in his minutes, but he showed his improvements all over the court. The number that stands out to me first is his 3 point shooting. Last year, he shot at a 32.8 percent clip. This year he raised his rate to 40.8 percent, leading the team and becoming the most consistent threat from three. He took around half as many 3 point shots as Farad Cobb, but did not go on nearly as many hot or cold streaks. Troy will continue to shoot the wide open three and nail it, that much we know.
Troy also had the best free throw shooting percentage on the team and quickly became the closer for the Bearcats in tight games. His percentage was good for 6th best in the American Conference and really became part of his repertoire. Slashing isn't really a glorious or comforting part of basketball, obviously: you are literally running at the hoop with defenders around you hoping that you get hacked/smacked/maimed to put the other team in foul trouble. The fact that he embraces it and utilizes it proves that he understands how important a good slasher is for a team like the Bearcats. He is no Shaq Thomas, but he makes his free throws and that alone is valuable.
One of the big detriments to Troy's game, however, is his turnover rate. He still turns the ball over a lot, which like his positive numbers above, is expected to increase with an increase in minutes. What is troublesome is that he actually turned it over more often this year than last year (22.3% compared to 22.7%). Maybe 0.4% does not seem like a lot, but it is when you're the point guard of a team that finished 343rd in the country in possessions per game. We know that this brand of UC basketball preaches defensive fortitude with offensive efficiency, and unfortunately an increased turnover rate, no matter how small is a killer.
Troy's passing is another advanced aspect of his game. It's difficult to find highlights of these because he does it so seamlessly and makes it not look like it is any big deal. When he passes the ball, it ends up right in the hands and the shooter normally does not have to do much to continue the motion towards the hoop. To be completely opinionated, my absolute favorite combinations to watch are a Caupain pass to either Cobb or KJ because the entire process is a thing of beauty. Besides that fact that Cobb and KJ are good shooters, it makes a huge difference when the ball goes right into the "shooting pocket." His alley-oops are also effortless. I don't know if you've tried to throw an alley-opp, but it's hard.
Here are two of Troy's better passes this year. I wasn't kidding, that alley-oop is tough.
Defensively, Troy is an alright player. I like what he does in the passing lanes and how he sets up his teammates for the quick score once he gets the steal. That part of Troy is not a problem and along with his offensive stats, he increased his steals per game (1.2) as well. The part that worries me about his game is another intangible that is hard to find in video. There were times that Troy just looked lost on D. He would either over-commit or miss a rotation and the other team would make an easy bucket. The biggest thing Troy can do is be more aware of his surroundings and what everyone on the floor is doing. It would also help if Troy (and everyone else on the team) would just put their hands up (Big Dave reference).
Despite everything else about Troy, his biggest contribution this year was his ability to step up and make shots. The two games that obviously come to mind are the UCONN game at home, and the Purdue game. I'll discuss about those more in the later sections, but he showed that A) he is not afraid to be "the guy" and B) he has enough gall and talent to be "the guy." Dropping 20 points on the reigning National Champs is a big deal. Hitting a game-tying buzzer beater in the tournament is a big deal. Troy Caupain is a big deal.
Best of the Best
Thursday, January 29th vs UCONN. Troy's performance vs. UCONN is an example of what we want to see over the next couple of years. He scored 20 points on 8 of 9 shooting, and filled up that stat sheet with 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. This was also the game where Troy picked up 2 technicals and was ejected. The weird thing about this particular ejection was that Troy is that the team did not lose any momentum. Obviously no one likes an ejection, but it was something of a motivator for Troy and the team as they routed the Huskies 70-58, and looked like a solid tournament team.
Thursday, March 19 vs Purdue. How can this game not be one of Troy's best? Besides once again filling up the stat sheet with 10 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals, he took over and displayed that dominant side that this team will need. And that shot. What a shot. Easily a defining moment in Troy's career but also a defining moment for this year's Bearcat team. The way it rolled around the rim and kind of hung there was like the BB Gods looking down and saying "maybe we'll let these guys pull one out for once." After all, everyone else seemed to have ridiculous comebacks with halfcourt 3 point shots (looking at you, Boatwright). It was time for some justice.
For Next Year
Where does Mr. Caupain go from here? He has proven that he has the ability to shoot the 3, he is a very gifted passer, and he is the clutch performer of this Bearcat team, whether it be a free throw to ice the game, or a layup to take the lead. The difference between freshman-Troy and sophomore-Troy is noticeable all over the stat sheet. He makes plays and understands his role on this team.
The major areas that Troy needs to work on are turnovers and defense. He is not someone who just gives the ball away, but for a team that plays such a slow pace like the Bearcats, one turnover hurts. If we saw an assist to turnover ratio of 2:1, it would be a tremendous season from Troy (for reference he was around 1.7-1.8:1 this year). Good point guards have good A/T rates and Troy is a good point guard.
On defense, the Bearcats do not need him to do anything special. On a team where Octavius Ellis, Gary Clark, and Shaquille Thomas are ungodly lengthy, and athletic, they need guards who will be consistent, and aggressive. Stupid fouls, missed rotations, and lost men all need to be a thing of the past. Troy does not need to be a defensive superstar. He needs to be aware of the situation he is in, and know how to adjust accordingly. On a team with gifted rim protectors, Troy needs to keep his hands up and poke the occasional pass away for the quick break.
We've seen his chemistry with Cobb and Johnson, and that will only get better when these guys continue to play together over the next year. Troy is a score-first point guard, but definitely has the ability to set up his teammates with the pass. If he slashes and gets to the free throw line (arguably one of the aspects of the Bearcats offense that is not consistent), he will add another dimension to a team that has the lowest number of possessions per game.
We know that in the Mick Cronin era, possessions will always be precious. Slow pace and physical defense is a calling card of this program. Although this blog and others have called for a faster pace, that faster speed is just not going to happen. I have a habit of looking at Troy's assist numbers and thinking that he is way off of the mark. But when you have a team that is 343rd in possessions per game, his 3.6 assist average looks much more impressive.
Because everyone returns next year, we can expect a cohesive unit. Troy will be leading the team on offense and we should expect fantastic things from him. He has grown into a trustworthy offensive player, and there is no reason to watch that regress. Troy will continue to be an outstanding on offense, and if he can limit his turnovers while playing consistent defense, this team could make a Final Four run.