Fans of the Cincinnati Bearcats have had a couple days to mourn. To wallow. To relive the misery of Sunday’s round of 32 loss to Nevada in the NCAA Tournament. Now its time to start picking up the pieces and celebrate what was still a highly successful season. Even if Mick Cronin doesn’t believe anything short of a national championship is worth much of anything, we all know that is a bit of coach-speak. The Bearcats did some great things during the 2017-18 season. Here are some of the highlights.
Gary Clark Named AAC POTY and DPOTY
Even if Clark’s final game as a Bearcat didn’t go as planned, The Problem had no problem dominating in what was easily the best season of his fantastic four-year career with the Bearcats. On his way to being named the best player in the American Athletic Conference, both on defense and overall, Clark set career-highs in scoring (12.9 PPG), field goals (160), field goal attempts (304), rebounds (313), steals (51), offensive rating (135.3), defensive rating (81.6), PER (29.6), rebound percentage (17.3) and more. The former four-star recruit certainly succeeded at the highest level of college basketball and will go down as one of the greatest Bearcats of all time, both on and off the court.
The Bearcats Won 30 Games for the Second-Straight Season
Before the 2016-17 season, the Bearcats had won 30 games only once, doing so during the 2001-02 season. In the last two years, they have reached 30 wins twice, including a mark of 31-5 overall this past season. They very narrowly missed out on setting a program-record for wins and also earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, its highest in the Mick Cronin era and the best since that 2001-02 team I was just talking about.
Kyle Washington Joined the Mean Face Hall of Fame
Washington joins Justin Jackson among the Bearcat inductees into this totally real and not entirely fictional museum of celebratory mean-mugging.
The Defense Was Spectacular
This is pretty much true every year, but this year’s team was special. The Bearcats ranked second in the country in points allowed (57.5), opponent field goal percentage (.374) and defensive efficiency. Every single player on the roster finished with a defensive rating below 100. Led by Clark’s national-leading mark, three Bearcats (Washington and Jacob Evans) placed among the top 10 players in the country in the metric, with Jarron Cumberland also fitting into the top 20. All that defensive might, which was predicated on protecting the paint, blocking shots and forcing mistakes, helped the Bearcats tie with Gonzaga for the national lead in average scoring margin (16.7 points).
The Bearcats Won the AAC Regular Season and Tournament Title
Cincinnati was the best team in the AAC despite the protests of Houston and Wichita State. The Bearcats captured the league’s regular season title with an epic victory against the Shockers and a week later lifted the AAC Tournament trophy thanks to a razor-thin win over the Cougars. The AAC hardware isn’t the same as a national championship trophy, but its still pretty darn sweet.
These are just a few of the great things this team accomplished this season. Next time flashbacks to Sunday send you into a pit of misery, remember these things and pull yourself back out.