The 2019-20 men’s basketball season officially begins for the Cincinnati Bearcats on Wednesday 11/6 with a trip to Columbus.
You can check out our official men’s basketball preview with notes on returning player, newcomers, coaching staff, schedule, and more,
Our staff each made three predictions about this upcoming season. Make your own predictions in the comments below and let’s revisit these in March, or at the end of April when the season ends.
1. Trevon Scott will be on an all-conference team
Scott wasn’t included on either the first or second team in the presason, but he will be by the end of the year. The 6’8” forward has gotten better and added more to his game every year of his career. He can stretch the floor on offense and although he’s not a volume scorer, he can fill it up when the time calls for it. He is also a solid rebounder, a versatile defender and an underrated distributor. Scott produced five double-doubles during all of last season and averaged 13 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in the last six contests. I’m expecting him to be in that range for a lot more than six games this year.
2. The Bearcats will be better on offense than defense
John Brannen’s hiring represented more than just a change in head coach. It also marked a change in philosophy. After defense over everything was preached under Mick Cronin, Brannen should be bringing a bit more of an offensive emphasis. Brannen’s Northern Kentucky squad ranked 76th in adjusted offense last season and 130th in adjusted defense. That’s not entirely indicative of Brannen’s entire run, with the Norse ranked 123rd in adjusted offense and 75th in adjusted defense in 2018, but considering the Bearcats have not ranked higher in adjusted offense than adjusted defense since 2009, having a coach who has done it at all should point them in a new direction.
If you need more evidence, consider that the Norse averaged 77.2 points per game last season while the Bearcats were at 71.7. Speed should play a factor, with Brannen’s Norse team from last year ranking 143rd in adjusted tempo compared with the Bearcats’ mark of 338th.
Now, just because that is what Brannen was able to accomplish with the Norse doesn’t mean it is a guarantee it translates with the Bearcats. However, Brannen didn’t have an offensive talent like Jarron Cumberland last season and the team that has been built at UC has a number of other guys that can get buckets as well. The bottom line is that we should expect the most efficient offense in years in Cincinnati.
3. The Bearcats will make their 10th-straight NCAA Tournament
Cincinnati is currently ranked 27th in the country by KenPom. If they hold there, they will easily get into the field. Looking beyond those projections, there is reason to be cautious. The non-league schedule has quite the degree of difficulty and the AAC has plenty of talent, especially with Memphis and Houston ready to contend. However, the Bearcats would be a threat in the league with Cumberland alone. With Scott, Keith Williams and a host of talented transfer players and true freshmen on this roster, anything less than a NCAA bid would be a shock.
4. The stylistic transformation under new coach John Brannen will lead to season-long struggles by the Bearcats. I project Cincinnati as the NIT Champions in 2020.
5. Transfer PG Chris McNeil will make the greatest impact among the Cincinnati transfers. His scoring-first mentality will be well-suited to Brannen’s approach to the game.
6. Dan Hurley’s UConn club will reemerge as a power in the AAC in the 2019-2020 season.
7. For the first time since 2001, Bearcats will win AT Xavier. Last time UC won back-to-back games vs Xavier was during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons.
8. Four players will average 10+ points per game. In 2018-19, only Jarren Cumberland averaged double digits in scoring. This year, I am guessing a couple of Cumberlands (Jarron + Jaevin), Trevon Scott, and Keith Williams.
9. Cincinnati will make the NCAA Tournament for the 10th straight season and advance to the Sweet 16.