The Bearcats have now played their annual red vs. black scrimmage and won two exhibition games, handily. The regular season tips off on Friday at noon against Savannah State. Let’s dive into our initial thoughts so far on a much anticipated UC basketball season.
A Temporary Place to Call Home
The Cats are calling BB&T Arena home this year. Don’t drive to Fifth Third Arena – they won’t let you in until November 2018, especially if you don’t have your hardhat and lunchbox. I was initially annoyed by the move. Call me selfish, even a stick in the mud, but I’m a creature of habit and traditions. However, my personal inconveniences are outweighed by the brand-spanking-new state-of-the-art arena next year, and the drive to NKU’s campus in Highland Heights, Kentucky, across the mighty Ohio River really isn’t that bad. More importantly, the Norse actually have themselves an awesome, intimate basketball arena. BB&T Arena reminds me of the trip I took to VCU in 2015 to watch UC beat the Rams. Anyone who has been to the Stu knows how great of a basketball atmosphere VCU has to offer.
BB&T was built in 2008 and holds 10,000 fans. I’m a fan of smaller, jam-packed venues, and this place foots the bill. BB&T should get very, very loud when some of the marque opponents come to town, including Mississippi State, Wichita State, and SMU. On top of that, there is a Braxton Brewery beer garden for the fans to enjoy.
Please let us know your thoughts on the venue, as well, as the season unfolds.
Is It Hype? The Preseason Accolades Are Piling Up.
Admittedly, I was a young teenager growing up in Toledo, Ohio, trying to grow hair on my chest, during the heyday of Bob Huggins and Kenyon Martin. That being said, this season sets up as the far most hyped Cincinnati Bearcat basketball season I can recall. Sure, Sean Kilpatrick’s senior season with Justin Jackson was up there – but this just feels different and much more significant. Are we about to witness something we’ve not seen this winter and spring? Are we getting too “over our skis” by thinking a National Championship is possible?
Several polls placed UC around the preseason top-10 mark. UC is even getting some good looks and headnods from the talking heads at Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, and ESPN. Just today, CBS released an article (and demonstrative map) indicating that the University of Cincinnati should exercise geographical dominance over weaker Ohio programs like Xavier, Dayton, and Ohio State. ESPN’s Sean Farnham and Seth Greenberg predict the Bearcats will make the Final Four, and Jeff Borzello predicts Mick Cronin will win National Coach of the Year. Gary Clark and Jacob Evans are also showing up on lots of watch lists for end of year player-specific awards.
To make matters better, you have the sophomore videogame-like scorer Jarron Cumberland who put up 27 points on 11/15 shooting in the last exhibition. Go ahead and stir into that mix highly-touted transfer point guard Cane Broome, the always steady Kyle Washington, and a host of talented role players with game experience like Justin Jenifer and Tre Scott. As if that wasn’t enough, the Bearcats also feature talented incoming freshman like Keith Williams and Eliel Nsoseme (who may even get enough playing time for you to learn how to say and spell his name – the dude is a beast).
This team is deeper than the wedgies I used to get before wising-up and switching to boxer briefs. One commentator observed this team is deeper than magma, or the basement of hell. I can’t wait to see how Coach Cronin rotates his players off the bench in a quasi-hockey-line fashion. This team is fast. Broome and Co. can really move the ball up court with Evans and Cumberland on the wings.
My only real question is how far will #15 Broome take us? Cane is a lights-out, savvy ball handler and scorer. But a year of practice and two exhibition games against teams you’ve never heard of simply do not tell us how he will handle his first Crosstown Shootout, Florida, or the AAC slate. Lucky for him – Broome does not have to do it alone. This team is oozing with offensive talent. When was the last time you could say that? Who will shoot the final shot? On top of that, Justin Jenifer isn’t bad at all as a backup point guard with an incredible left hand.
Prediction: This Squad Is All Beer, No Foam.
I think this year is more than hype. If they can figure out how to allocate opportunities, UC has a real chance to make a move in March. Their strength of schedule currently sits at #1 in the AAC and top-10 in the country. The Bearcats face Xavier, UCLA, Florida, and Wichita State twice, just to name a few big games. I am fully expecting Mick to get this squad back to the Sweet 16 and to make a deep run in the conference tournament and March Madness.
I cannot wait for Saturday, December 2nd at noon when the Cats march into the Cintas Center ready to make it two in a row for the good guys. It will be interesting to see how the 1’s and 2’s grow together in the games leading up to the Crosstown Shootout, as well.
Basketball is back!
By Andy Smith
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