I hate to start a post with a brag, but here it goes. I won a bracket prediction pool this season. I got exactly one (1) correct Final Four team by picking Virginia. Yes, the same Cavaliers team leading the nation in adjusted efficiency and that needed a miracle shot to force overtime in the Elite Eight. Obviously the rest of my group struggled since there are still games to be played and I’ve already claimed victory. All this is to say that I may not be great at predictions, but sometimes I get an important one or two correct.
Since the Cincinnati Bearcats’ season ended a couple weeks ago, this seemed like the perfect time to remind myself of predictions I made even further back than this month and evaluate what I thought we’d see from the Bearcats this season.
Jarron Cumberland will average the most points per game by a Bearcat since Sean Kilpatrick
Cumberland won the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year award and a big reason for that was his scoring. He averaged 18.8 points per game, which ranked third in the league and easily put him at the top of the Bearcats’ roster. It wasn’t just for this past season either. Since Kilpatrick netted 20.6 per game during the 2013-14 season, no Bearcat has scored more than 13.5 a night, with Octavius Ellis even leading the team in scoring with a 9.9 average in 2015. Cumberland’s scoring improvement came along with enhanced efficiency, as he set career-highs in three-point (38.8 percent) and foul shooting (77.3 percent). The only reason he didn’t end up surpassing Kilpatrick is because he provided a bit more playmaking than the former Bearcat All-American.
Cane Broome will also average in double figures, but no other player will average more than 8.5
This prediction was really two in one, but neither came to be. Starting with Broome, the senior point guard did increase his scoring average from the previous season (8.3 PPG), but his difficulty with shooting threes (career-worst 28.7 percent) severely limited his ability to pile up the points. He still scored in double figures 13 times but just once in the final eight games.
The Bearcats weren’t without secondary scoring options, however, as Keith Williams (9.9 PPG), Trevon Scott (9.3 PPG) and Justin Jenifer (8.6 PPG) all took major steps forward with their offensive games.
Trevon Scott will record at least five double-doubles
Scott was a player who consistently threatened to score in double figures and led the team in rebounding volume (6.9 per game). That was the perfect recipe for a handful of double-doubles as the season went on. He reached five exactly but also had nine other games with at least 10 points and seven rebounds. He also turned in some of his best play in the final weeks, nearly averaging a double-double (13 PPG, 8.7 RPG) during the last six games. With that kind of trajectory, he will be posting even more of these next season.
Rashawn Fredericks will be the highest scoring newcomer
Fredericks only averaged 10.2 minutes per game and was certainly low on the list of UC scoring options, but he also didn’t have tons of competition for this accolade. By averaging 2.3 points per game he beat out fellow reserve Logan Johnson as well as LaQuill Hardnett and Prince Gillam Toyambi, neither of whom got any playing time all season. Fredericks will get more chances in the future, especially if he improves on his 44.8 percent true shooting rate from this past year.
10 different players will start a game
The Bearcats were still a very deep team even after letting go of key contributors Jacob Evans, Gary Clark and Kyle Washington last spring. As the season progressed, they received meaningful contributions from the starting five all the way to the ninth and 10th men on the roster. Despite having nine different players average at least 10 minutes per game — and a 10th average 7.3 — the Bearcats stuck to a rigid strategy when it came to crafting the starting lineup. Cumberland, Scott, Jenifer, Williams and Nysier Brooks combined for 171 starts. The rest of the roster had four and all of those went to Broome.
The Bearcats will win the Crosstown Shootout
With an easy 62-47 triumph, the Bearcats reclaimed some momentum in the rivalry as they have won two of the last three meetings with Xavier. It might not be time to anoint them the dominant force in the Shootout, however. The Musketeers were playing in their first season under new head coach Travis Steele and still won 19 games, but this was still a critical win in a season with more than a few of them.
The Bearcats will be ranked at some point during the season, but won’t finish there
Yes and no. The Bearcats did not reach into the AP poll until Feb. 4 and even then they were at No. 25. A loss to Houston days later pushed them back out but it wouldn’t be for good as they made their way back into the top 25 in each of the final four polls of the season, ultimately finishing at No. 22.
The Bearcats will reach the American Athletic Conference title game, but fall short
Tempering expectations is important and after they lost to Houston twice in the regular season — including an ugly collapse at Fifth Third Arena — this prediction seemed even more likely to be realized. However, if you were paying attention, the Bearcats’ struggles with the Cougars had a lot to do with not finishing games. In the first meeting, they led 58-57 with 6:11 to play but then couldn’t score again. In the second showdown, they led 47-41 with 13:33 to play, only to allow the Cougars to rally for an 85-69 win. When they got their third chance against them in the AAC title game, the Bearcats did not let another game slip away, capturing their second-straight league tournament crown in the process.
The Bearcats will be a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament and lose in the second round
Winning the conference tournament only yielded the Bearcats a seventh seed but they were gifted a favorable location, as they faced 10th-seeded Iowa in Columbus, Ohio. That didn’t end up making a difference as they were ousted in the first round. They have now gone seven-straight season without reaching the Sweet 16 and this season they didn’t even get past the first hurdle on that journey.
When you add it all up, there are actually 13 predictions listed above if you include each part of the combination picks individually. I got six of them right. That’s better than going 1-for-4 on Final Four picks, but still leaves plenty of room to improve. We’ll see if I can in a year or so.