The second year of a college basketball player’s career can sometimes be a very telling one. Year two is when the breakout occurs for some or when the dreaded sophomore slump sets in for others. At the very least, you’d expect to see some sort of progression or regression. That’s not exactly what the Cincinnati Bearcats got from Trevor Moore last season.
When he first stepped on the floor as a freshman for the 2017-18 season, Moore worked himself right into the regular rotation and became a valuable reserve player on the perimeter. Although his playing time waned to a degree in the last couple months of the campaign, he displayed promise. During the 2018-19 season, Moore continued to get the same types of opportunities but no more. The 6’5” guard/forward averaged 12 minutes per game across 35 contests as a freshman and then averaged 11.9 minutes across 34 outings as a sophomore.
There are two ways to look at the lack of increase in his playing time. On one hand, the Bearcats were a pretty deep team and Moore might have just been a victim of there just not being enough minutes to go around. However, you could also argue that the fact that he did not take a significant step forward held him back. Its tough to tell exactly, since the smaller sample of his work makes the numbers less reliable, but there were some areas where he clearly struggled and some where he improved.
Starting on the positive side, Moore was once again an above average offensive player, posting an offensive rating of 104.1. That’s not star level play by any means, but it still meant he ultimately provided a positive impact on that side of the floor. Those positive contributions were buoyed by improved efficiency on shots from inside the three-point arc, where he shot 52.9 percent. If Moore is going to start trying to find looks closer to the rim, the fact that he upped his free throw shooting to 77.8 percent from below 70 percent was an even more welcome sight. However, he actually increased his three-point rate last year while his free-throw rate plummeted, so it may not be time to celebrate just yet.
Beyond his shooting efforts, Moore displayed a stronger sense for ball movement, with his assist rate jumping from 5.8 percent as a freshman to 8.1 percent as a sophomore. He also produced the bulk of his win share total on defense, although with 0.6 defensive win shares, he wasn’t exactly in the running for Defensive Player of the Year honors.
All those incremental steps forward were somewhat counteracted by struggles elsewhere on the floor. Moore was taking more three-point shots than ever and he certainly hit some important ones, but he only shot 26.5 percent from three. As a player considered to be in the increasingly valuable three-and-D mold, Moore’s struggles from three hampered his development. With 68 of his 85 total field goal tries coming from beyond the arc, Moore’s total field goal percentage dipped to 31.8 percent while his true shooting rate (.442) and effective field goal percentage (.424) tumbled as well. The lack of efficiency led to a scoring average of 2.3 points per game, which was more than a point off of his mark from his freshman season. The gap was even greater when comparing his projections over 40 minutes and on a per 100 possessions basis. However, what was perhaps more discouraging was his trouble on defense. His defensive win share total might have been positive, but that was obscured by the fact that after posting an 89.5 defensive rating as a freshman, Moore had a rating of 100.1 last season.
In addition to the things under his control, Moore also experienced a demotion in his chances to play during the most important part of the season. From the regular season finale against Houston to the Bearcats’ loss in the NCAA Tournament to Iowa, he averaged only 8.6 minutes per game.
Moore is about to embark on a new season with a team that will look quite a bit different than it did last year, both in terms of roster and coaching staff. It’s possible that John Brannen’s approach will unlock the next level for Moore. That would be a major boost to the Bearcats’ chances of contending for the American Athletic Conference title as well as for the trajectory of Moore’s career. However, a few adjustments to the game plan isn’t all it will take. Moore has flashed the ability to be a difference maker and he just has to do that a whole lot more often in his third year.
Previous player refreshers:
- Mamoudou Diarra