By Jon Rothstein
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1. BATTLE TESTED
The number one thing that stands out from Cincinnati? Veteran experience. The Bearcats return the Big East’s best back court in Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick, and JaQuon Parker and all three of those players already have 10 years of college experience combined. Wright is a red shirt senior while Parker is a true senior and Kilpatrick is a red shirt junior. After 52 wins in the past two years and an appearance in the Sweet 16 last season, this trio has their set their sights higher in 2012-13. The goals for this team are simple — a Big East championship and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
2. CHEIKH’S TRANSFORMATION
Cheikh Mbodji is a completely different person than he was last season. The 6-11 big man is down 40 pounds from the spring and is moving at a completely different speed than he was a year ago. The senior should really have a presence defensively as a shot blocker and could emerge as one of the better rim protectors in the Big East. Lock Mbodji in as Cincinnati’s starting center.
3. GYM RAT
The Cincinnati coaches rave about Kilpatrick’s work ethic and it’s immediately noticeable in his game. The 6-4 junior has improved his ball handing skills from last season and is adding more elements to his offensive arsenal. It’s more than a legitimate possibility that Kilpatrick leads the Big East in scoring and becomes one of the better offensive perimeter players in the country.
4. FACE UP
Titus Rubles is a prototypical face up four-man and he should have a major role this season for Cincinnati. Similar in mold to Jamil Wilson, Jae Crowder, and Lazar Hayward who played during the last few seasons at Marquette, Rubles has the potential to add a completely different dimension to the Bearcats. The 6-7 JUCO transfer could very well average in double figures during the next two seasons. Don’t be surprised if this is one of the breakout players in the Big East.
5. DA BENCH
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin has stated he’s going to play 10 guys this season and the Bearcats perimeter reserves are going to play a vital role in this team’s overall success. Ge’lawn Guyn, Jeremiah Davis, and Jermaine Sanders are three guards who had minimal roles last year but will now be counted upon to play legitimate minutes with regularity. Guyn in particular is a vital piece considering he’s the likely heir apparent to Wright at point guard after this season. 7-1 big man David Nyarsuk also could play a big role as a backup center thanks to his size and presence at the rim.
The pieces are in place for Cronin to have his best team yet at Cincinnati. The Bearcats are loaded on the perimeter and have an underrated veteran in high energy forward Justin Jackson. If Rubles can develop into the type of offensive threat that people expect and the trio of Guyn, Davis, and Sanders augment their games from a season ago, there’s no reason to think this team can’t challenge for a Big East title and another run to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
What’s your prediction for Cincy? Let us know in the comments below…