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2020-21 UC Basketball Preview: The Post

A look at the post players for the Bearcats this season

NCAA Basketball: Tulsa at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Vogt

Vogt will not have the season he did last year, primarily due to the increased depth at the post position this season. Also, teams have a full season of film on Vogt in the Cincinnati offense. In the second half of last season, you could see that teams were figuring him out. Guards would collapse down to double him in the post which flustered the 7’1” big man and resulted in turnovers whether they be traveling violations or errant passes. Those are the things Vogt will have had to work on this past offseason in order to be a better player: footwork and passing.

A lot of Vogt’s productivity last year was a surprise as opposing teams weren’t ready for him to be a major contributor right away. His confidence soared and as a result, Vogt became a bit of a black hole on the offensive end. When the ball went into the post, it rarely came back out. Defenses started to pack it in which neutralized Vogt at times and forced him to kick it out more. No doubt Brannen has implored Vogt to give it up more often as the UC head coach hates to see stagnation in his offense.

On the defensive end, Vogt just needs to improve his rotations. At 260 lbs, he is just too heavy-footed to become a good defender on the perimeter and we will still have to pray when Vogt switches onto a guard when an opposing team uses the pick-and-roll.

Mamoudou Diarra

The fan-favorite forward came on strong in the second half of last season. He was essentially splitting minutes with Chris Vogt by the end of the year as he finally seemed to grasp his role on the team. Since he came to Clifton, everyone has talked about Diarra’s raw potential due to his unique combination of size and athleticism to go along with a smooth shooting stroke. Unfortunately, Diarra looked lost on both ends of the floor during his first full season in 2018-19. He frequently missed defensive assignments and stagnated offensive sets.

Something clicked for the 6’9” 220 lb Diarra last season. He wasn’t a star by any stretch, but he looked confident and filled his role well. He filled fastbreak lanes, boxed out, set screens with purpose, and shot over 55% from the field. Instead of spot duty, Diarra was a key part of the rotation, especially after Jay Sorolla bailed on the team.

Mamoudou must pick up where he left off last season if he wants more minutes in 2020-21. Frankly, I would prefer to see a Diarra and Ivanauskas frontcourt because of the increased mobility but Coach Brannen will likely start the season with Vogt and Ivanauskas due to experience and proven offensive production. The Mali native will likely be the first big off the bench to spell Vogt or shore up the Bearcats’ post defense.

NCAA Basketball: Wichita State at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Rapolas Ivanauskas

As long as he stays healthy, Ivanauskas will be in the starting lineup all season, whether he is at the four or five. His transfer from Colgate to UC was crucial to Coach Brannen and the staff. A crafty big man with a solid handle and outside game, Ivanauskas will provide many problems for opposing defenses. The 6’10 230 lb Ivanauskas shredded the Bearcats a season ago when he had 21 points and 9 rebounds en route to a 67-66 Colgate win.

Rap doesn’t need the ball to have an impact on the game. He plays well off the ball by slipping, rolling, and popping off screens which keeps the defense guessing when guarding the pick-and-roll, but his skill set doesn’t stop there. In addition to his impressive two-man game, he has excellent footwork which keeps defenders guessing when he utilizes an up-and-under, a reverse-pivot face up jumper, or a drop-step and dribble from one side of the basket and finishing on the other side of the basket. There will be a few sets that will involve an entry pass to Rap just to let him go to work. Defenses will try to double Rap once he gets on a roll, but he is more than capable of kicking it out to the perimeter for open jumpers which could be deadly for this budding Bearcats offense. I worry a bit about his dips in shooting percentages from his sophomore year to his junior year, but he won’t be asked to do as much in Clifton which should help boost his efficiency overall. He is going to get fouled quite a bit so if he can convert 70% of his free throws, he’s going to have a great year.

NCAA Basketball: Colgate at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Tari Eason

Eason was the crown jewel of the 2020 recruiting class. An athletic 6’8” 210 lb forward, Eason projects to be a power forward at the college level. He runs like a gazelle and possesses fantastic defensive IQ exemplified by his positioning, anticipation, and the ability to defend without fouling. In a pace and space offense that emphasizes getting up and down the court, Eason will thrive in transition as he is an excellent finisher. Expect Eason to get a fair share of offensive rebounds and putbacks due to his high motor and relentless approach to the game.

However, Eason will have a lot of work to do in the half-court game. He doesn’t seem to have much of a low-post game and while his jumper goes in occasionally, he needs to refine his form and speed up his release. His elbow juts out and longer quicker defenders in the college ranks will block his shot due to the slow release. As with all freshmen post players, Eason will have to put on weight if he wants to bang around in the post on the D1 level.

Viktor Lakhin

Lakhin is the largest question mark for the Cincinnati Bearcats this season. With a wealth of international experience playing for CSKA Moscow in the EuroLeague, Lakhin is no stranger to tough competition. Despite his experience, the Russian freshman is a project for the Bearcat coaching staff. Although he possesses impressive mobility and exceptional touch, Lakhin must continue his adjustment to the speed of the game while also adding the necessary weight and strength for his body to hold up over the course of a season. In a normal season, Lakhin might have been a redshirt candidate, but with all the COVID-19 protocols that will be in effect, he will most certainly get playing time and may be called upon for extended minutes if one or multiple players are out for two weeks for quarantine.

The 2020-21 Season Preview & Prediction will be covered next.

Juncta Juvant