Of the three primary counting statistics used in basketball (points, rebounds, assists), rebounds are probably the second most important. Obviously points get the top of the marquee since the game is all about getting buckets. But getting non-buckets is important as well. The amount of emphasis that is put on crashing the boards is different for every team, especially on the offensive glass. Some squads play a no surrender style where every loose ball must be gobbled up to maintain possession. Other teams prefer to get back on defense, stopping opponents from moving the offense in transition and possibly getting an easy bucket.
Whether by design or happenstance, the Cincinnati Bearcats fall in the first camp or at least they did last year. They ranked 19th in the country in offensive rebounds (437) and tied for 18th in offensive rebounding percentage. Interestingly enough, that was actually a drop from 2015, when that percentage was above 35.
That’s neat, right? OK maybe it just is for this stathead, but bear with me.
The overall height of the team is a partial reason for the success on the offensive side of the rebounding equation. With Gary Clark, Kyle Washington, Nysier Brooks and Tre Scott, the Bearcats benefited from a quarter of frontcourt players at or above 6’8. That doesn’t even take into account 6’8 Quadri Moore and taller guards like Jacob Evans (6’6), Troy Caupain (6’4) and Jarron Cumberland (6’5). But height isn’t all of it. Positioning and effort also play a huge part as well as just general rebounding ability. Unsurprisingly, the best overall rebounders were the best on the offensive side. That’s just common sense. Clark was the team’s best offensive rebounder, registering a 12.1 mark in offensive rebounding percentage. Meanwhile, Washington had a 10.2 percent mark and ranked second on the team in overall total rebounding percentage (15.7) behind, you guessed it, Clark (15.9 percent).
But Clark and Washington weren’t just great offensive rebounders compared to the rest of the Bearcats. They also did better than most of the American Athletic Conference as a whole. Clark ranked second in the league behind UCF’s Tacko Fall in offensive rebound percentage, while Washington finished fifth. The Bearcats were the only team in the league to have two players in the top five and one of three to have two in the top 10. UConn and SMU were the others.
After the starting frontcourt, Brooks (8.4) and Scott (7.9) also posted respectable numbers in offensive rebounding percentage, while Cumberland (6.3) and Evans (5.5) also lent more of a hand than you might have expected.
How sustainable is this interesting piece of trivia? Very. Clark, Washington, Scott and Brooks will all be back as will Evans and Cumberland, who give the backcourt some strength in this area as well.
Since UC was only 98th in field goal percentage (.458) last season and plays at a slower pace than others, producing just a few more offensive chances per game can be the difference between winning 20 games and losing 20. That’s something that should get the Bearcats into the former category in 2017-18.