As January reaches and passes the midway point, we are still learning a lot about the Cincinnati Bearcats. They have won their last three games and improved to 15-3 overall and 4-1 against the American Athletic Conference, but this isn’t just a team rolling past opponents. Overtime games against Tulsa and UConn, followed by a near collapse against USF illustrate just how much variance is possible. With another week in the books, albeit a stressful one with how tight those games were, it’s time to reevaluate how each player on the roster is doing.
13. Sam Martin (Previously 13)
12. John Koz (12)
Since the Bearcats have been playing a lot of very close games, Martin and Koz have had to stay on the bench, so we’ll leave them where they were last week.
11. Mamoudou Diarra (11)
Diarra had a cup of coffee against Tulsa and then played three minutes against USF. He missed his only shot of the game against the Bulls, saving himself from empty box scores.
10. Rashawn Fredericks (7)
The minute allotment is beginning to be squeezed, with fewer opportunities available for anyone outside of the starting five. Although Fredericks isn’t an inexperienced player, he’s still in just his first year with the Bearcats and that has led to less playing time. He averaged eight minutes over the last three games, and when he did play, he did little more than grab a rebound or two. Fredricks isn’t here because he’s played poorly, but because he hasn’t played much at all.
9. Logan Johnson (10)
Johnson is another newcomer having his minutes drastically cut. He hasn’t played more than seven minutes in any game since AAC play began, including an average of 4.3 minutes over the last three contests. Like Fredericks, he has managed meager statistical production in that time, but he did put one point on the board against Tulsa. That equates to flipping the coin between the two newcomer reserves.
8. Trevor Moore (9)
It still feels like the Bearcats don’t know what to do with Moore. After playing 11 minutes combined against Tulane and East Carolina, he got a real chance to stretch his legs agaisnt Tulsa. He played 26 minutes against the Golden Hurricane, and scored nine points and grabbed three steals. All nine of those points came on his 3-of-7 long range shooting, indicating that Moore is still ready-made for the three and D role. Unfortuntely for him, the minutes dried up during the last two games, as he played 10 minutes and was held scoreless ein each one. Moore could be a key rotational player, but we won’t for sure until he gets more of a chance.
7. Justin Jenifer (2)
Jenifer isn’t playing like himself of late. His shooting splits have gone cold (.286/.385/.667), especially from inside the arc, but what’s more curious is his dip in playmaking. Jenifer is averaging 3.8 assists per game and leads the Bearcats in assist rate (27.1 percent). However, in the last three games, he has had only three dimes total. It’s a precipitous drop for the team’s starting point guard, because Jenifer is still playing a fairly large amount of minutes (24 per game), even if he was only in for 13 against Tulsa. He still had an assist in that game, but, despite playing 34 minutes, he didn’t have even one against UConn last Saturday. That marked the first time since Nov. 24 that Jenifer has not had at least one assist. It’s difficult to diagnose what the issue is right now, but finding a solution could really help the Bearcats offensively.
6. Eliel Nsoseme (6)
With minutes becoming harder and harder to come by, Nsoseme is making sure to use his skill set to make an impact. He blocked four shots against USF on Tuesday and is averaging 2.3 rebounds over the last three games, despite playing a pretty meager 14 minutes per game. Nsoseme is leading the Bearcats in rebounding per 100 possessions in conference play (12.7) and, even if he only shot 33.3 percent during the last week, he’s been valuable enough defensively and on the glass to make positive contributions.
5. Cane Broome (8)
Broome is moving back up the rankings both because he has played better and because some of the guys around him have not. His clutch play against Tulsa saved the Bearcats from certain defeat, as he scored 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting while handing out six assists. Unfortuantely, following the trend that has marred his senior season, Broome regressed in the next two games. He had eight points in 22 minutes against UConn and was limited to three points on 1-of-4 shooting in 17 minutes off the bench against USF. The Tulsa game proved that Broome is capable of taking over and carrying the Bearcats on his own. He doesn’t have to do all that, but getting close to it would be a big help.
4. Trevon Scott (5)
This is another instance where a player is ranked highly because of the lack of better candidates. That’s not to say Scott has been awful or has lost his level of importance with the team. During the last week, only Jarron Cumberland has played more minutes than Scott’s 31.7 per game. He is averaging 8.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game in that time. He has also shot 52.6 percent from the field and made every foul shot he’s attempted. The trouble is, other than his free throw success, all those numbers are below his season averages. A two-point, one-rebound performance against UConn did most of the damage to those averages.
The last few games are part of a larger trend. Dating back to Dec. 15, Scott has scored in double figures only three times while securing six rebounds or more only twice. He managed seven games with at least six rebounds in the 10 games before that, while scoring 10 points or more six times. This all leads us back to a similar conclusion to what we’ve seen throughout the roster: Scott has proven he can be better, but he just hasn’t been of late.
3. Keith Williams (3)
As other players are struggling, Williams is quietly staying consistent. He averaged 12.3 points on 60 percent shooting in the last week, while managing two steals and a block per game. He’s even seen improvement with his three-point shot, making five of his last nine tries. It’s a small sample to be sure, but at least shows he’s headed in the right direction. The Bearcats may need more dominant production as the season goes on, but for now, Williams is doing just fine.
2. Nysier Brooks (3)
We talked about Brooks and his improved offensive game earlier in the week. That was built on the 17-point effort he had against UConn, but he followed that up by netting 10 points on 2-of-3 shooting and a 6-of-7 effort at the free-throw line against USF. He also blocked two shots in that game, extending his streak with multple rejections to four games, which is tied for the longest stretch of his career, a record he set earlier this year. Brooks has also been the team’s leading rebounder the last three games and connected on 64.3 percent from the field and 73.3 percent at the charity stripe. The Bearcats can’t really ask much more from him.
1. Jarron Cumberland (1)
If there is a college basketball version of what James Harden is doing for the NBA’s Houston Rockets, Cumberland is it. As his teammates all fluctuate with their effectiveness, Cumberland has taken it upon himself to carry the team on his back. He’s scoring at an insane rate (23.3 points per game in the last week), including a 34-point explosion against USF. Like Harden often does, Cumberland is crafting his offense around an ability to get the line and drain shots from further out. He has attempted 28 free throws in the last two games combined. He’s also averaged 6.3 three attempt per game the last week, which is far below the astronomical numbers Harden puts up, but is still a healthy amount. When you consider what else he is accomplishing (4.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals per game the last week), there’s no denying that Cumberland is in another stratosphere right now.