We are now 19 games into the 2015-2016 UC basketball season. The team stands at 13-6 and a painful 8th place in the American. The season high so far is a toss-up between losing in the final seconds to a highly ranked Iowa State team or beating VCU on the road. The season low has to be getting pummeled by Xavier at the Cintas Center.
We had very high hopes coming into the season, returning stars like Octavius Ellis, Troy Caupain, and Gary Clark. However, quite frankly I have been more impressed by freshman forward Jacob Evans and three-point phenom Farad Cobb. So far Cobb leads the team in scoring with 227 total points, 12 points per game, shooting 43% from the field. Clark is leading with 9 boards per game. Gary has also made 5 of 9 attempted 3’s. As a team, the Bearcats are also shooting 70% from the charity stripe. However, with Evans shooting at 94% and Cobb at 86% this stat is a bit skewed.
I hate to say it, but so far it is a season of “what ifs.” UC lost to Butler by a Roosevelt Jones buzzer beater layup. When is that guy ever going to graduate anyways? Likewise, the Cats lost to Iowa State at home and undefeated SMU on the road in the waning seconds. Then came Temple on the road in not one, but two overtime sessions. Indeed, what if the ball bounced a little differently in these games? We would be talking about a top-15 Bearcats squad easily.
This team is tremendously deep, with Cory DeBerry, Kevin Johnson, Jacob Evans, and even Quadri Moore contributing quality minutes. UC is also playing its cutthroat defense, giving up an average of 61 points on 38% shooting.
So what gives? UC has a problem closing out games in the second half. The team does not have a “go-to guy.” Cobb and Evans are tremendous shooters. However, both tend to be streaky, and neither takes shots late in close games. Whenever it comes down to a last shot, a play is almost always designed for point guard Troy Caupain. Caupain can drive and shoot free throws. But this team simply does not have a star player to close out games. We are missing a game changer/closer like Sean Kilpatrick.
All is not lost, however. This team still has plenty of potential for March. The Cats have scratched and clawed their way to very narrow defeats against quality top-15 opponents. Although some of the end results have been disappointing the process in getting there has been extremely fun to watch. Now it’s just a matter of continuing to grow, click, and learn how to capitalize in similar games later in the season and post-season. To make the NCAA tournament, the Cats are going to have to play better, if not flawless, basketball going forward.
Midterm Grade: C
By Andy Smith