From here on out, it is nothing but meaningful basketball for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Each game is a must-win. They must win against UCF on Thursday and then they must win against Houston on Sunday to repeat as regular season American Athletic Conference champions. They must win all next week in the conference tournament to capture the tourney crown once more. They must win as much as possible during the NCAA Tournament to finally rid us of the awful memory of the Nevada loss in last year’s round of 32.
Thankfully, for the most part, the Bearcats have been winning pretty regularly this season. They have come out on top 25 times and only lost four games. In fact, they are currently riding a five-game winning streak. If that type of success is to continue (and, as we’ve established, it must), the Bearcats need everyone on the roster to step up. Let’s look at who has been doing that already and who needs to kick it into gear during the most intense month in college basketball.
13. Sam Martin (Previously 13)
12. John Koz (Previously 12)
Neither has played since Jan. 24 but Koz is a senior so he gets the nod.
11. Eliel Nsoseme (10)
Although he is still playing most games, Nsoseme’s chances are dwindling and his production has gone along the same path. He is averaging only seven minutes over his last five games and has produced about one rebound a contest. He is also providing very little offensively, with zero field goal attempts during that span. Nsoseme still has a part to play, but it just hasn’t been apparent recently.
10. Mamoudou Diarra (11)
Unlike Nsoseme, Diarra is not getting playing time every time out. Unlike Nsoseme, he produced a pretty impressive stat line against UConn, with six points, six rebounds and a block in a career-high 15 minutes. Nsoseme is a bigger part of the rotation, but Diarra gets a promotion for that performance.
9. Rashawn Fredericks (8)
Despite less than stellar shooting numbers, Fredericks has been solid as a reserve because of his rebounding. He is averaging 3.4 per game in the last five contests even as his average minutes output hovers around 10 a night. Against SMU last week, he had six points and four rebounds in 15 minutes, so we can see that the shooting ability will get there eventually, even if its not this year. With that written, what he has added off the bench is still valuable.
8. Logan Johnson (7)
How is a player averaging 2.8 minutes over the last five games this high on the list? This is why:
7. Trevor Moore (9)
It was around this time last season that Moore, then a freshman, took over as the primary wing off the bench. During February 2018, he averaged 12.9 minutes per game. Since the end of this January, he has logged double figure minutes in nine-straight games after having 11 such efforts during the rest of the season combined. All those minutes (12.8 per game in the last five) aren’t exactly yielding huge statistical gains, but Moore is doing enough to regain his role as the season reaches its critical moments.
6. Cane Broome (3)
For players ranked sixth through second, you could make an argument that anyone could be in any spot. Broome ends up here not because he has been bad by any means. In fact, he has rediscovered his three-point shooting (50 percent in the last five games) and leads all Bearcats who have averaged 20 minutes during the last five outings in field goal percentage (41.9). However, his foul shooting has been more suspect (69.2 percent), especially when he went 1-for-4 at the stripe against Memphis. Broome is going to have plenty of chances to be a hero in the next few weeks, so this ranking could end up looking incredibly wrong very soon.
5. Trevon Scott (2)
There is no denying that the Bearcats rely heavily on Scott. He remains second on the team in minutes played, even in the last five games (28.8). However, those minutes become harder to watch when he struggles on offense like he has recently. He has made only 31.4 percent of his field goal attempts and split his foul shots in the last five games. In addition, he hasn’t scored in double figures since Feb. 7. On the positive side, he can still make an incredibly important impact on the boards, where he has averaged 7.6 rebounds in the last five games. If he can get his offensive game back on track, Scott will raise the potential of the Bearcats much higher.
4. Justin Jenifer (5)
Jenifer saved the Bearcats when they hosted UCF on Feb. 21. He scored nine points after halftime, including seven in the last three minutes, and his work from three (2-for-5) was a real difference maker. You could apply that last part to the entire season, much less the last five games. If we zero in on that five-game segment, however, you’ll find that Jenifer has made multiple threes in four-straight contests while averaging five attempts per game. Sometimes the offense really hasn’t worked for the Bearcats, but they are always able to count on Jenifer’s long distance shooting.
3. Nysier Brooks (6)
On several occasions during their current five-game winning streak, being the better rebounding team has won the day for the Bearcats. At the forefront of many of those victories has been Brooks. He is averaging a team-best 8.4 rebounds over the last five games, including back-to-back 12-board efforts against SMU and Memphis this past week. His shooting is still lacking (36.4 percent), but with the way he has attacked the glass on both ends of the court, he has made up for the lack of efficiency, especially when you consider his 81.3 percent free throw rate in the last five games.
2. Keith Williams (3)
By adding some playmaking and improved rebounding to his repertoire, Williams has become an even more important member of the starting five. However, we can’t forget that his primary role is that of second scoring option to Jarron Cumberland. In the last five games, Williams is averaging 11.4 points, which ranks second on the team. His efficiency has been down (34.7 percent shooting), but two supremely clutch efforts against UCF and UConn illustrated that he can take over when the moment calls for it.
1. Jarron Cumberland (1)
Cumberland was never really in danger of falling from the No. 1 spot, but he did hit a lull recently. For a three-game stretch at the end of February, Cumberland averaged only 10.3 points on 28.6 percent shooting efficiency, including a three-point rate below 20 percent. He even scored outside double figures in one game, marking the first time that has happened since Dec. 21. Fortunately, Cumberland got back to business against Memphis, scoring 26 points on 6-of-12 from the field and 13-of-16 from the foul line.
One thing that has remained consistent, even through the scoring struggles, has been Cumberland’s ability to affect the game outside of his shooting. He continued that during the last five games, leading the team in assists (4.4 APG), tying for the lead in steals (1.0 SPG) and ranking third in rebounds (6.2 RPG). Hopefully the Memphis game was an indication that he is back to firing on all cylinders. The Bearcats need him to be now more than ever.