Basketball is a team game. It takes the contributions of multiple players to succeed and even though the sport can be altered by just one guy more than most others, that’s not usually a smart strategy.
After 10 games, the Cincinnati Bearcats have proven that they are a good basketball team, winning nine of those contests and recently claiming a triumph in the Crosstown Shootout. The heroes along the way have been varied, with Jarron Cumberland scoring and dishing, Keith Williams breaking out, Trevon Scott becoming a real scoring threat, Justin Jenifer playing efficiently and Nysier Brooks protecting the paint — and those are just the starters. With a roster that goes deeper than most, the Bearcats know they can rely on the next guy stepping up when others falter, even if it is just momentarily.
While depth and shared responsibility are important and keys to UC’s successful beginning of the season, there is still a pecking order on this team, just like any other. That order isn’t necessarily based on who is playing the most minutes, but more on who is doing the most with what they’re given. This order will change as the season progresses — and we’ll be here to tell you about it — but below is how that order shakes out based on the first 10 games.
13. John Koz
We’ve only gotten four minutes of Koz-ing time this season, as he did some mopping up against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and George Mason.
12. Sam Martin
As a sophomore, Martin has remained a fixture near the end of the bench, but he has gotten into three games and made a pair of field goals.
11. Mamoudou Diarra
On a team with depth like the Bearcats have, there are always going to be guys that get left out. Mick Cronin famously plays a small rotation, and even if he’s adjusting that this season, expecting 11 players to get meaningful minutes isn’t realistic. Diarra is a 6’9” redshirt freshman who will get more chances in the future, especially if he keeps rebounding at a rate of 21.9 per 100 possessions. For now, he’s had to settle for 31 minutes across four games played.
10. Rashawn Fredericks
Aside from a couple double-digit scoring efforts against George Mason and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Fredericks has not made a particularly major impact on the season. The junior transfer student has at least appeared in all 10 games, but after tallying a total of six minutes without a point scored against Xavier, its clear that Cronin is still trying to find the right spot for him.
9. Trevor Moore
Moore developed into a key role player for the Bearcats last season but he has been utilized far less this year. While he is averaging exactly the same number of minutes per game as he did as a freshman (12.0), it certainly doesn’t feel like it. That is mainly due to his lack of production, as he is shooting just 25.0 percent from three-point range while taking only 1.9 total shots per game. He has at least maintained his defensive strength (86.6 rating), so his role could always grow if shots start falling.
8. Eliel Nsoseme
Nsoseme isn’t trying to do too much and that has worked wonders. With a very specific skill set for rebounding and protecting the paint, the 6’9” sophomore is sticking to those areas with great results. He leads the Bearcats in total rebound rate (23.6 percent) and is second in block rate (5.2 percent), trailing only Nysier Brooks, who is the guy he backs up primarily. Nsoseme still has a lot of work to do on offense (45.8 true shooting percentage), but he will always have a place in the rotation if he cleans the glass and keeps drivers away from the rim.
7. Logan Johnson
Another newcomer to the permanent rotation, Johnson has flashed the promise of a future cornerstone. The scoring potential is legit (59.7 true shooting percentage), but Johnson is being selective with his shots and deferring to the more proven offensive threats. He is third on the team in assist rate (19.7 percent) and hasn’t had much trouble figuring out how to defend collegiate opponents (85.4 defensive rating), producing strong numbers for his position in blocks and steals. The freshman is still learning, as evidenced by a few too many turnovers, but he is carving out an important role for himself already.
6. Justin Jenifer
We all know Jenifer is a wonderful distributor who doesn’t turn the ball over, but he has become an even more important player this season because of his three-point shot. He is taking more threes than ever before (2.7 per game) and making them at a personal best rate of 45.8 percent. While that probably isn’t sustainable for a career 37.2 percent distance shooter, Jenifer has clearly worked hard to make his offensive game more dangerous. That will causes defenses to respect his shot and leave other scorers open for him to find with already established passing credentials.
5. Cane Broome
You could make a case that this is far too high a spot for Broome to be just as easily as you could that he is being undervalued. On one hand, Broome has had some bitterly cold shooting nights and is sporting an effective field goal percentage of just 48.4 right now. The number has been weighed down by his struggles from three, where he is making only 19.2 percent of his attempts. On top of that, he is assisting on fewer field goals while his defense has slipped ever so slightly.
The pro-Broome stance is partially built on previous performance, but there is plenty of evidence this year as well. The senior point guard is fourth on the team in scoring (9.8 PPG) and has slashed his turnover rate by five percentage points. During a six-game stretch from Nov. 16 to Dec. 1, he averaged 14.3 points per game on 58.6 percent shooting. The problem is, he sandwiched that production between four games in which he netted 13 total points on 3-for-26 shooting combined. The skill is still there, and that’s why Broome is getting the benefit of the doubt, but the consistency needs to return.
4. Nysier Brooks
Brooks is not Gary Clark or Kyle Washington and that’s more than fine. Brooks has not tried to be his predecessors, but has instead paved his own path and its one he should keep following. He is one of three players on the roster to have appeared in every game and have a player efficiency rating higher than 20. On offense, he doesn’t try to create for himself or force shots, so his true shooting percentage is through the roof (62.2). That is more offensive competency than he has shown in the past and has been paired with elite shot-blocking and rebounding. Brooks leads the team in block rate (8.8 percent) and is averaging nearly 15 rebounds per 100 possessions. He has two double-doubles to his name already this season and there are more on the way.
3. Keith Williams
Williams is having a sophomore breakout that could very well push the Bearcats from fringe American Athletic Conference contenders to favorites.
2. Trevon Scott
Speaking of breakouts, Scott has come into his own as a junior. Teamed with Brooks as a frontcourt starter, Scott has also had the impossible responsibility of helping replace Clark and Washington. Just like his interior partner, Scott has redefined his game and been the better for it. With an offensive rating higher than Jarron Cumberland (119.2), Scott has accelerated his scoring development quite a bit. He’s averaging 10.9 points per game, while shooting a high percentage from two-point range as he always has. What’s different this year is he is spreading the floor (33.3 percent from three) and capitalizing when he gets to the line (71.9 free throw percentage).
This not the first time Scott has shown that he can adapt. With that willingness to get better, the success he’s already shown and his natural ability to defend multiple positions, Scott has earned his spot as the only Bearcat to have played more than 300 minutes this season.
1. Jarron Cumberland
Scott may be playing more minutes and Williams may be the breakout star, but Cumberland has steadily been the most important and best player on the roster. UC’s leading scorer (15.3 PPG) is shooting incredibly well from three-point range (44.0 percent) and has scored in double figures in nine of 10 games. While his overall shooting (41.3 percent) hasn’t been great, he is also shouldering an incredible burden, as his usage rate still sits above 30 percent. That might make you think that Cumberland is just playing with his head down as he forces shot after shot. That’s not the case at all. Instead, he has shown that he can win games by scoring a lot (three 20-point efforts) or by getting his teammates involved (career-high 24.0 percent assist rate).
A number of Bearcat players have made some surprisingly great strides this season. It’s interesting to see Cumberland do the same and its why he’s No. 1.