Cincinnati Midseason Report
The Cincinnati Bearcats look like a team, an actual team, which is refreshing to see after three years of the Deonta Vaughn show. The senior guard gets fewer shots, fewer points, and more smiles this season. No respected basketball player–which Vaughn certainly is–minds sacrificing shots for wins.
Offensive Identity: The cast of scoring threats now includes Lance Stephenson, the most hyped high school player since OJ Mayo. Like every NYC star, Stephenson earned a nickname. The freshman man-child was dubbed Born Ready long ago, for obvious reasons.
Stephenson has scored the most points (2,946) of any New York state prep player of all time. Previous owners of the prestigious crown included Sebastian Telfair, Kenny Anderson, and Scott Wilson.
Stephenson can score from anywhere on the floor in any way. Unfortunately, his consistency wanes; especially from three-point land. The whole team struggles from deep for some reason. The shooting form of the guard corps looks good, but the guards take too many challenged shots.
Coach Mick Cronin himself seems vexed by this malady, citing the exceptional practice performances. “It’s a good question because they are good shooters.” It is pretty late in the season, however, to expect UC to solve this riddle.
Stephenson would be the solitary impact newcomer were it not for the debut of redshirt freshman Cashmere Wright. “With a name like Cashmere you just know he is going to be something special,” reflected Miami (OH) head coach Charlie Coles. “And my momma named me Charlie. Ain’t that a shame?”
Wright really would have helped the Bearcats last season as he allows Vaughn to play off the ball in his natural off guard position. Cashmere jumps so well that he sometimes relies too heavily on his athleticism instead of playing the technical basketball UC needs from the point. Despite this minor knock on him, Wright truly makes UC a Big East team for the first time in the Cronin epoch.
“We are a long, athletic team,” says Wright. “A lot of running and jumping. That’s what we do.”
Yancy Gates continues to improve. The 260-pound PF gets off the ground like a cricket, staggeringly agile for a man of his girth.
“Coach Cronin always emphasizes getting to the FT line more,” says Gates. “When you get to the basket teams tend to put their hands on you more.”
Defensive Identity: Cincinnati plays good defense. Reserve guard Larry Davis plays great on-ball defense and Rashad Bishop also defends like a paycheck depends on it.
Stephenson and Vaughn can stop almost any player from scoring when the UC scorers summon the motivation. Stephenson already has a stronger body than most Big East wings.
Both carry the weight of the program on their shoulders with offensive responsibilities. Because of this, they occasionally take possessions off on the other end.
UC ranks third in the mighty big Big East by holding opponents to 39% shooting. Only UConn and Syracuse defend better. To get an idea how amazingly accurate defensive field-goal percentage is at predicting team success, check this: the first four teams in the conference standings are among the top six in def. FG%.
The intensity on the defensive end generally reflects the coach’s intensity in practice. Cronin appears determined, angry in games so his practice demeanor must be downright frightening. And it works.
Overall: The University of Cincinnati players are mostly slashers and bangers. Cronin runs lots of high screen action, initiating the offense with Wright darting around a Gates’ screen. With the colossal Gates diving to the hoop, Wright penetrating, and dead-eye Vaughn waiting on the strong-side wing, Cincinnati has the makings of a successful power conference team.