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Things to Watch: Bellarmine at Cincinnati

Bearcats basketball is back... kind of.

Houston v Cincinnati Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

I hope you’ve packed all your Halloween stuff away because October is officially over. Its November, ya’ll, and that means college hoops are just days away. If you can’t wait until Nov. 11 when the Cincinnati Bearcats kick off the regular season against the Brown Bearcats, there’s good news. You don’t really have to wait that long to see UC in action.

Tonight, the Bearcats will play a preseason exhibition against Division II Bellarmine at Fifth Third Arena. Bellarmine, which is based in Louisville, Kentucky, went 23-7 last season and 15-3 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. UC has played the Knights six times before and won each time.

So its not really a full fledged game, even if the Knights are a force in DII, but it will be the first time UC will be on the floor against an actual opponent. That means there are plenty of things to watch out for.

What does the rotation look like?

According to game notes released by UC’s official athletic site, the starting lineup will look like this: Troy Caupain, Kevin Johnson and Jacob Evans at the guard spots, with Gary Clark and Kyle Washington handling the forward posts. There’s not much of a surprise there. Caupain started in all 33 games last season, Clark started in 32 and Evans and Johnson both played in more than 30 games as well. With Farad Cobb gone, Johnson slots in at shooting guard . Evans overcame Shaq Thomas for a starting role late in the season, so Thomas leaving should do nothing more than increase Evans’ playing time.

What will be interesting to see is how Mick Cronin handles the workload for the starters and how he uses players off the bench, who are a largely young group. Justin Jenifer played in all 34 games last year and will be the backup for Caupain, a minor role to be sure since Caupain will probably play 35 plus minutes per game minimum. Cronin’s decisions about what to do with much hyped freshman Jarron Cumberland and the gaggle of forwards (Quadri Moore, Nysier Brooks and Tre Scott) could give an indication of what roles each player will take on once the season really begins.

Of course the distribution of playing time will largely be more even in this exhibition, but early on we might get a glimpse of how the roster will be utilized once the stakes are raised.

Kyle Washington’s (Sort Of) Debut

Washington was a major transfer addition from NC State. Although he was not a volume scorer or stat sheet stuffer, he played in 34 games and started in 18 during the 2014-15 season with the Wolfpack. Washington had to sit and absorb the UC way of playing via osmosis last year and now he’ll finally get a chance to show his stuff. Washington is expected to come in and fill the role Octavius Ellis played by being a powerful force on defense and the boards. In addition, Washington has a bit more offensive potential than Ellis did, so he could add another wrinkle to the roster and help take some of the interior scoring pressure off of Clark.

Sophomore Surge or Slump for Evans

Evans really came into his own at the end of last season and forced his way into the starting lineup. He played at least 34 minutes in each of the last five games of the season and attempted double-digit field goal attempts in six of the final eight contests after doing so only twice the rest of the year. He also closed out the year with a season-high 26 points in the NCAA Tournament loss to St. Joseph’s.

Now much is expected of the sophomore guard/forward. He averaged 8.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game and earned 3.2 win shares while buying in to Cronin’s defensive demands. Tonight may give us a peek at the anticipated step(s) forward from Evans.

The game will tip-off at 7 p.m. EST. You can watch online on Bearcats TV with Matt Noonan on the call along with color analyst Chuck Machock.