It is finally time for the most electrifying sport in the country to come back to us: college basketball. After the end of what was one of the best finishes in March Madness history between Villanova and North Carolina, the offseason seemed to drag on far too long. For fans of the Cincinnati Bearcats, especially with the upsetting season that the football team has had, this basketball season seems like a light at the end of the tunnel. The Bearcatats have a deep, talented and young group of guys that could really make some noise around the country. To start the season, they will be right outside the AP Top 25, sitting at No. 26, and will hope to cash their way into the top 10 at some point during the year. We will look into just how good the Bearcats team can be this upcoming year.
Prediction No. 1: Troy Caupain will win AAC Player of the Year and Gary Clark will win Defensive Player of the Year (again).
Caupain has solidified himself as one if the top guards in the country and will be in store for a huge senior season. His ability to shoot from all areas of the floor, get teammates involved and his willingness to take over games when needed will make him the top offensive threat in the conference. Plus the table is already set for him to win, as the league coaches voted him preseason player of the year.
Clark won last year’s defensive player of the year award and will be the top candidate to repeat. He is an absolute monster when fighting for rebounds, and his length and athleticism have caused a plethora of problems in the post for opposing teams.
Prediction No. 2: Jacob Evans will lead the team in scoring.
Evans proved last season that he can score with the best of them when given the opportunity. The big thing for him will be playing time, which he should get a lot of, once he is fully healthy. Evans is a player that has the green light to shoot from any area of the floor, and can put up some big numbers if he catches a hot streak. He scored in double figures in four of the last six games of last season as his minutes increased, including a career-best 26 points in the NCAA Tournament against Saint Joseph’s. He will be one of the AAC’s best offensive players and will lead the Bearcats in points.
Prediction No. 3: The Bearcats will defeat Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout.
Although Xavier is thought to be one of the best team’s in the country, ranked No. 7 in the AP Top 25, this in-town rivalry comes down to plain emotion. The last three games between these two rivals have gone to the Musketeers, which is why I believe that UC can catch them off guard and grab a W, especially with Caupain, Clark and Evans forming a dynamic core.
Prediction No. 4: UC will win the conference championship.
The Bearcats are the preseason favorite to win the conference and I believe that they can live up to those expectations. There are not many team’s in the conference that can give them a run for our money this upcoming year, with SMU losing talent, UConn a rather young team, Memphis coming off a disappointing season and the rest of the league either retooling or rebuilding. After a heartbreaking loss in last year’s conference tourney, I have faith that UC will take home the trophy this season.
Prediction No. 5: The Bearcats will make it to the Sweet 16.
As mentioned before, this UC team will be as deep and as talented as it has been in years. With players like Evans and Justin Jenifer making bigger impacts on the court, and newcomers like Jarron Cumberland, Kyle Washington and Tre Scott, it is clear that Mick Cronin has a lot of weapons at his disposal. As surprising as it is to hear, this year's Bearcats are poised to finally break the early round exit blues that have plagued them in recent years.