Basketball season is right around the corner with the first regular season game on November 14th. Let’s reminisce and watch some highlights from last year’s memorable squad.
This year marks Mick Cronin’s ninth season as the head coach in Clifton. He just signed a seven-year deal, paying him $2.2 million a year. I’m not aware of any statistics comparing inches of height to salary, but he has to own that category. Cronin has led his team to four straight NCAA tournament appearances. The Bearcats are coming off a 27-7 season, 15-3 in the AAC, and a regular season league title. Now 42, he has won 231 games in his career, which includes an initial stop at Murray State.
One of my least favorite things in the world is the concept of preseason rankings. For what it’s worth, UC is picked to finish fourth in the AAC this year. They are also unranked in the preseason coaches poll. As basketball and football fans we all know these “rankings” are meaningless. UC has consistently overachieved in both sports when compared to the “expert” preseason rankings.
- East Carolina
Noteworthy games on the schedule include an early trip to the Emerald Coast Classic, playing at Nebraska, hosting VCU, playing at North Carolina State, and of course the showdown with Xavier, this year at Fifth Third Arena.
#2 Octavius Ellis rejoins the team. The new freshmen are forward Quadri Moore, guard Deshaun Morman, center Jamaree Strickland, and forward Gary Clark.
Two junior college transfers will also be joining the team, including center Coreontae DeBerry and highly touted guard Farad Cobb.
Mick Cronin is very excited about this team. He believes they are deeper on the bench and have better overall team speed and defensive skills compared to last year. He also expects the team to run a fast-paced, up and down offensive attack.
Key losses include the one and only Sean Kilpatrick (20.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG), mean face Justin Jackson (11.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG), and glue guy Titus Rubles (7.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG).
Junior forward Shaq Thomas is the team’s returning leading scorer at 6.8 PPG. Based on their play in practice to this point, the starting five for the beginning of the season are Troy Caupain at point guard, Kevin Johnson at shooting guard, Octavius Ellis at center, with Shaq Thomas and Gary Clark as the two forwards.
Key questions for the season:
- How will the Cats replace the offensive prowess of #23 Sean Kilpatrick?
- Who will replace the defensive tenacity of #5 Justin Jackson?
- Will the team finally have someone step-up at the center spot?
- Will UC have a true starting point guard or alternating rotations between everyone on the team?
- Who will be the leader of this year’s squad?
- Which newcomers will play to potential?
- Will the unranked Bearcats put together a resume to make a fifth straight NCAA tournament appearance?
By Technical Writer: Andy Smith