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Cincinnati Area College Basketball Preview


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By Max DelBello ’18, Contributor

 

#12 Cincinnati Bearcats

Led by head coach Mick Cronin, the 12th ranked Bearcats enter the season as the favorites to win the American Athletic Conference. Cincinnati will play their home games at Northern Kentucky’s BB&T Arena this year while Fifth Third Arena undergoes an $87 million renovation. Despite the off-campus location, season tickets have already sold out for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. UC returns its three top scorers from last year in Jacob Evans and senior forwards Kyle Washington and Gary Clark. Transfer Cane Broome, who averaged 23.1 points per game at Sacred Heart in 2015-16, should be able to replace the production of last year’s senior point guard Troy Caupain. The 2016-17 AAC Sixth Man of the Year Jarron Cumberland could provide the biggest impact in his new starting role. He averaged 8.3 points per game in only 19.1 minutes per game last year, and showed up in big games last year, scoring 15 in both the Crosstown Shootout and the NCAA Tournament game against UCLA. Cumberland has continued last year’s strong finish by averaging 16.3 points per game and 6.0 rebound per game through the first three games this year. The Cincinnati roster has more depth this year than any other year under Mick Cronin, and for that reason, this year might be Mick Cronin’s best chance at a deep NCAA Tournament run. The Bearcats are in the Cayman Islands this week before they come back to Cincinnati to kick off a tough four-game non-conference stretch with the Crosstown Shootout December 2nd. The AAC’s addition of Wichita St should help the conference’s national perception and give Cincinnati two more elite conference matchups.

Notable Non-Conference Games

Dec 2—at #15 Xavier

Dec 9—vs #7 Florida (Newark, NJ)

Dec 12—vs Mississippi St

Dec 16—at #23 UCLA

Postseason Tournament Prediction: NCAA Tournament (3-seed)

 

#15 Xavier Musketeers

Coming off an Elite Eight appearance in last year’s NCAA Tournament, Xavier and Head Coach Chris Mack are looking for another deep run and perhaps the first Final Four in school history in the 2018. Even though guard Edmund Sumner departed for the NBA Draft after last year, Xavier proved they could win without him. After Sumner tore his ACL in January, Xavier struggled through the second half of their Big East schedule including a stretch of six straight losses. Without Sumner, Xavier did manage to not only earn an 11-seed, but also win three Tournament games following that tough Big East stretch. Last year’s leading scorer Trevon Bluiett returns this year with an outside chance at being an All-American. JP Macura, another senior, will look to build upon his strong season last year, where he averaged 14.4 points per game. If JP Macura limits his poor shots, something he was unable to do in the six-game losing streak last year, he will be a dynamic scorer alongside Bluiett. Sean O’Mara was a productive forward for Xavier last year while playing less than 14 minutes per game, and Xavier adds graduate transfer Kerem Kanter, who averaged 11.3 points per game last year at Green Bay. Xavier has started the year with three straight impressive wins including a big road win at Wisconsin.

Notable Non-Conference Games

Nov 28—vs #22 Baylor

Dec 2—vs #12 Cincinnati

Dec 9—vs Colorado

Postseason Tournament Prediction: NCAA Tournament (4-seed)

Northern Kentucky Norse

NKU made the NCAA Tournament in their first year of eligibility last year before falling to 2-seed Kentucky 79-70. NKU should be better than last year, because they only lost one starter, Cole Murray. Head Coach John Brannen will rely on veteran guard Lavone Holland and center Drew McDonald to take this team back to the NCAA Tournament. The only team in the Horizon League better than NKU is Oakland, and with the Horizon most likely being a one-bid league, NKU will need to win the conference tournament to make their second straight NCAA Tournament.

Notable Non-Conference Games

Nov 25—at Memphis

Dec 6—at East Tennessee St

Dec 19—at #16 Texas A&M

Postseason Tournament Prediction: NIT/CBI/CIT

Dayton Flyers

Anthony Grant takes over a Dayton team that loses the top three leading scorers from last year’s 7-seed NCAA Tournament team. Junior Xeyrius Williams, who averaged 8.2 points per game and 4.8 rebounds per game last year, will be the leader of this Dayton team. Kostas Antetokounmpo is a notable freshman with high potential to watch. Dayton has already lost to Hofstra and Old Dominion and will struggle to reach the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight year out of the Atlantic-10.

Postseason Tournament Prediction: NIT

Miami (OH) Redhawks

Even though Miami got off to a 3-0 start this year for the first time since 1998, once again, they will struggle to compete in the MAC.

Postseason Tournament Prediction: None

Ohio State Buckeyes

Former Butler Coach Chris Holtmann takes over an Ohio State team that missed the tournament for the second straight year in 2016-17. Senior Jae’Sean Tate will lead Ohio State this year after averaging 14.3 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game last year. Ohio State has the skill to make the NCAA Tournament in Holtmann’s first year, but it is more likely they will end up in their third straight NIT.

Postseason Tournament Prediction: NIT

Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky loses their top seven scorers from last year’s team. Coach John Calipari has another elite class of freshmen to work with, but most of the elite freshmen are post players. The guard position will be a struggle for Kentucky, and shooting will be an issue at times this year. The combination of a very inexperienced team and a stronger SEC will lead to a tougher season for Kentucky. They already lost to Kansas and struggled to beat Vermont and Utah Valley.

Postseason Tournament Prediction: NCAA Tournament (5-seed)

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