There was no question who the best player on the Cincinnati Bearcats was entering this season. That title belonged to Jarron Cumberland. End of discussion. Figuring out the rest of the hierarchy was a little more difficult, although we mostly expected returning players to get some degree of the benefit of the doubt. However, outside of that, there was the potential for a lot of surprises.
With a month of the season gone, there have been plenty of those surprises, both of the good and bad variety. Health has played a factor but so has the allocation of minutes, the development of some players and the regression of others. The path has been turbulent enough that just this week Trevor Moore decided to seek another opportunity.
For the other players on the roster, there are still games to play, including this weekend’s matchup with Colgate. Before we get there, let’s take a look at where everyone stands. For this exercise, we’ll only be looking at active players who have appeared in at least half of UC’s games.
10. Zach Harvey
There haven’t been a ton of looks for Harvey in the first few weeks of his collegiate career. The freshman guard did log 27 minutes against Valparaiso, but he’s played in 11 minutes combined since then and didn’t even see the floor against Xavier. In what is ultimately a supremely small sample size, Harvey hasn’t found his shot (30 percent from the floor), but he may be ahead of schedule when it comes to playmaking, with the third-highest assist rate among players to have played in at least half of UC’s games (17.8 percent).
9. Jeremiah Davenport
When comparing Davenport with Harvey, you’re really splitting hairs between two freshmen who have had limited opportunities. We’ll give Davenport the edge so far because he is shooting better from the field (35.7 percent vs. 30 percent) and at the foul line (75 percent vs. 53.8 percent) while producing more points per game (2.2 vs. 1.6) and more win shares (0.2 vs. 0.1). Harvey has gotten more minutes thus far which may speak to a higher ceiling for the entire season, but so far Davenport has been slightly better.
8. Mamoudou Diarra
Despite appearing in all nine games, Diarra hasn’t been given too much to work with. You can count me among those who thought the 6’9” forward was poised to have more responsibilities for this team but even after Jaume Sorolla got hurt, Diarra is still struggling to find a consistent role in the frontcourt. He has played fewer than 10 minutes in each of the last four games despite flashing some of the best rebounding skills on the roster (team-high 19.5 total rebound percentage) and providing brief bursts of effective defense (team-best 84.7 defensive rating).
7. Chris McNeal
He may be the starting point guard but McNeal has really struggled this season. With a paltry 77.2 offensive rating that is being dragged down by inefficient shooting (.302/.138/.457 splits) and nearly as many turnovers (18) as assists (21), McNeal has hurt more than helped on offense, despite scoring in double figures three times. However, he’s put in the work on defense (0.4 defensive win shares) and if he can find his rhythm on offense again, he’ll rise up this list quickly. The Bearcats really need him to do that, although recent results aren’t too promising, with McNeal limited to two points combined over the last three games.
6. Mika Adams-Woods
Among the freshmen on the roster, Adams-Woods has flashed the most potential in the early going. He’s been better than average on both offense (101.6 offensive rating) and defense (95.1 defensive rating) and has scored in double figures in three of the last four games. He’s also been getting more playing time of late and although he’s been a bit turnover prone, his shooting efficiency has been one of the best developments of the first nine games. Clearly his 73.4 percent true shooting rate won’t hold for the entire campaign, but by making shots, especially from three, Adams-Woods is continuing to make the case that he’s ready to be a key contributor for the entire season.
5. Jarron Cumberland
It is insane to see Jarron Cumberland this low but he hasn’t been at 100 percent and has missed a couple games. When he has played, the results have not been what you’d expect from someone of his talent. He is shooting just 34.6 percent from the floor and 26.3 percent from three. His scoring volume has suffered to a degree because of the poor shooting, but he’s still the team leader in points per game (13.9) and usage rate (30.2 percent). When Cumberland is fully healthy again, and he looks to be on his way after playing 31 minutes against Xavier, he will return to making opposing teams look foolish.
4. Jaevin Cumberland
Jaevin Cumberland is sitting here because he has been masterful from beyond the arc this season. With a three-point attempt rate of 81.8 percent, Cumberland is making his living from distance and by sinking 38.1 percent and accounting for 24 of the team’s 59 total made threes, it’s been a good living. In addition, he is leading the team in assist rate (20.6 percent) and doing enough on defense to earn his keep. Cumberland could still stand to shoot a bit better from inside the arc (36.4 percent from the field overall), but his threes and dimes have paved over that rough patch for the most part.
3. Trevon Scott
Scott’s total in defensive win shares (0.7) is higher than the total win share mark of all but two other players on the roster. He’s been that good defensively. A lot of it has to do with how well he is helping the Bearcats close out possessions, as he might as well be carrying around a magnet for defensive rebounds. It’s not just on defense either, as Scott leads the team to the tune of 9.7 total rebounds per game. He is also nearly averaging one block and one steal per game.
Unfortunately, Scott’s offensive work is holding him back to a degree. He is only averaging 8.6 points per game despite leading the team in minutes played (30.9 per game) and taking a large step forward at the foul line (85 percent free throw shooting). His overall shooting has been less effective (43.9 percent) particularly when he steps out from three (15.4 percent on 1.4 attempts per game). Due to the amount of time he is on the floor, the solution will seemingly be for Scott to shoot through this slump and if he can, the Bearcats will be in excellent shape.
2. Chris Vogt
Vogt has easily been the best newcomer for the Bearcats this season. The 7’1” center has been a starter from the first game of this season and has never looked back. He has scored in double figures in eight-straight games, including a personal best 21-point outburst against Valparaiso and he’s also thrown up a pair of double-doubles. Among players to have appeared in at least half of UC’s games, Vogt leads the team in offensive rating (126.1) and total win shares (1.4) and his true shooting rate (66.3 percent) is nothing to scoff at either. His strong offensive game has gone hand-in-hand with some solid work on the boards (seven per game) and a nice helping of rim protection (team-high 5.6 percent block rate). We may not have expected Vogt to be this valuable early on, but there’s no denying that he’s been among the most important Bearcats on the roster.
1. Keith Williams
If last year was Keith Williams’ breakout season, then I’m not sure what to call this one. Williams has taken giant steps forward in just about every facet of the game. He’s scoring at a higher volume (13 points per game) with the ability to make shots from anywhere he wants. After previously being a so-so three-point shooter at best, Williams is knocking down 47.6 percent from distance on 2.3 attempts per game. He is also making his free throws at an improved rate (78.1 percent), disrupting shots and passing lanes effectively and he’s even added a level of distribution to his game that makes it a requirement that he touch the ball every time the Bearcats are on offense. That’s a requirement the Bearcats are meeting, as Williams is behind only Jarron and Jaevin Cumberland in usage rate (22.8 percent). In many ways, Williams is stepping in to take over the role Jarron Cumberland isn’t healthy enough to fill right now and that comes with the No. 1 spot in these rankings.