The time has come the Bearcat said, to talk of many things, of Kyle Washington, Gary Clark and Jacob Evans’ scoring. At the tip of noon today, the Cincinnati Bearcats will play their season opener against the Savannah State Tigers at BB&T Arena. Here’s everything you need to be ready.
How to Watch, Stream, Listen
- Tipoff: 12 p.m. ET
- Television/Stream: Fox Sports Ohio/ESPN3.com
- Announcing crew: Jeff Piecoro (play-by-play) and Terry Nelson (analyst)
- Radio: 700 WLW AM
- Announcing crew: Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Chuck Machock (analyst)
- Series history: Sean Kilpatrick was coming off the bench the one and only time UC played the Tigers before. In a grueling game on Nov. 24, 2010, the Bearcats wrestled a 54-41 away to improve to 4-0.
Who is Savannah State?
A team that will lose to the Bearcats. OK, they’re not just that. The Tigers, who hail from the MEAC, went 13-16 overall last season. They have not had a winning season since 2012-13 and last reached .500 at the end of a campaign during the 2015-16 season. Unsurprisingly, they are not ranked particularly highly by KenPom, sitting 311th in adjusted offense and 338th in adjusted defense.
Coached by Horace Broadnax, who has been with the team since 2005, the Tigers are lead on the court by 6’5” Dexter McClanahan, who scored 16.4 points per game last season with shooting splits of .436/.353/.692. He will need to take on a greater scoring load this season since last year’s leading scorer, Troyce Manassa, graduated. Even with Manassa gone, you can expect the Tigers to push the pace, as they ranked sixth in the country in scoring last season (85.7 PPG).
Breaking Down the Bearcats
There is usually a fair bit of hype surrounding Cincinnati basketball, but this year just feels different. Strong recruiting and the return of a number of talented contributors has made for the deepest roster of the Mick Cronin era and sky-high expectations for a team that just won 30 games.
Ranked No. 12 in the preseason AP poll, the Bearcats are the highest they have been in the ranking prior to a season since 1999 when they entered the campaign ranked No. 2. There is every reason to believe that ranking might be too low. This team runs 12 deep, with a starting lineup to make most teams in the country jealous. It starts with the dominating froncourt duo of Gary Clark and Kyle Washington. Clark, a former American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, was one of four players to post a PER above 20 last season. Washington, Jacob Evans and then freshman Jarron Cumberland were the other three. All four players are back and in the starting lineup.
The fifth member of that starting group is no slouch either. Cane Broome, the high-scoring transfer point guard from Sacred Heart, will take the keys to what promises to be another strong offensive attack. That may sound like a surprising thing to say about a UC squad, but the Bearcats scored 74.3 points per game last season and is actually rated No. 18 in adjusted offense by KenPom currently.
But don’t think that means the defense isn’t air tight. Clark is still an elite defender, and although Broome may be a downgrade from Troy Caupain, there are plenty of great defenders ready to go, including Tre Scott and Nysier Brooks, who are both sophomores who were thrown into the deep end as freshmen and are set to take on bigger roles this season. UC is rated No. 7 in adjusted defense entering the season, with a roster filled with returning players with defensive ratings below 100. The only regular from last year to be above 100 was backup point guard Justin Jenifer, who actually led the team in assist percentage and is a capable ball handler for the second unit.
All that pace for Savannah State isn’t going to matter when it hits the defensive buzzsaw that is Cincinnati. While this certainly won’t be a fifty something to forty something finish, expect the Bearcats to run away easily and move to 1-0. Cincinnati 90 Savannah State 68