The 2016-17 basketball season ended for Cincinnati the way it will for 350 other Division I basketball teams — with a loss. The Bearcats won 30 games — an accomplishment only 11 other teams can claim — and won an NCAA tournament game. It was a successful season on many fronts, but it’s hard not to be disappointed given how far an inferior team like Xavier was able to advance, and the fact that a philosophically similar South Carolina team has a chance to play in the national title game.
The good news is that as well as the Bearcats played this past season, they actually have the potential to be even better next year. Cincinnati led the AAC in scoring in 2016-17 and Mick Cronin has the team positioned to be even better offensively next season. Let’s take a look some things to get excited for the 2017-18 season.
Broome was the Northeast Conference Player of the Year a season ago, when he averaged 23.1 points per game for Sacred Heart. He’ll have two years of eligibility remaining, and he just spent this past season practicing with the team. He played a little too loosely at Sacred Heart, but I’m sure a season of competing against Troy Caupain, and an extra year of being coached by Cronin will help with his efficiency.
He’s a lightning quick guard that has the ability to get to the rim and create his own shot. He has the potential to provide the Bearcats with an Allen Iverson-esqe scorer at the point guard position.
Cumberland averaged 11.0 points per game in 25.5 minutes over the last 10 games of the season. There were several stretches throughout his freshman season where he was obviously the best scoring threat on the floor for Cincinnati. That includes the finale against UCLA when he scored 15 points in just 20 minutes of action.
Cumberland should average near 30 minutes per game next year, and be a central part of the team’s offensive plan. If he can play to the level of defense Cronin expects, then he has the potential to become the Bearcats most dynamic scoring threat since Steve Logan.
Gary Clark and Kyle Washington: Seniors
Both of Cincinnati’s starting big men will be seniors next year. After Clark and Washington figured out how to co-exist within the Cincinnati offensive game plan they were almost impossible to contain this past season. They both possess above average interior passing skills, and are excellent scorers. The high-octane backcourt should help take pressure off of them in the paint and create plenty of scoring opportunities. Plus, let’s not forget that both Clark and Washington are excellent rim protectors.
Tre Scott and Nysier Brooks: Enforcers
If there’s any one thing last year’s team lacked it was the physicality and toughness that has become synonymous with Cincinnati basketball thanks to players like Danny Fortson, Kenyon Martin, Eric Hicks, Jason Maxiell, Justin Jackson and Yancy Gates. As much as everyone has expected and wanted Gary Clark to be that person, he simply isn’t. He’s just too nice. Expect Tre Scott and Nysier Brooks to take up that mantle next season. Both players showed toughness and the ability to embrace their role during their freshman seasons. In 2017-18 those roles are going to be to impose their physical will on opposing big men for even more minutes per game.
Keith Williams and Trevor Moore: Freshmen
Take everything we talked about above, add Jacob Evans and Justin Jenifer, and then add two more scorers into the mix. The Bearcats will be absolutely stacked at all positions next season, but their backcourt will be especially talented. Williams is a 6’4” shooting guard from Brooklyn that has the ability to contribute immediately offensively, and the physical gifts to eventually become a lockdown defender. Moore is 6’5” and can play either the two or the three. I think he’ll find time playing behind Cumberland and Evans, while Williams finds time behind Broome and Jenifer. Scouts rave about Moore’s ability to knock down shots and how well developed his body already is as a senior in high school. That sounds an awful lot like what we heard about Jarron Cumberland coming into last season.