Record: 11-3, 2-0
Head Coach: Mick Cronin Interim Head Coach: Larry Davis
Before we delve into the Bearcats, I would like to give my best wishes to Mick Cronin and am very happy to hear that his illness is not life-threatening. While Cronin can be a pain in the butt most of the time, he is a great coach who gets the best out of his players, and he is very nice to have in the American conference. Along with Ollie and most Husky fans, I wish that he would be on the sidelines for this game and for the rest of the season, but at the end of the day, this is just a game and his health is far more important.
The Cincinnati Bearcats are having a typical Cincinnati Bearcats season- standing at 11-3 and 2-0 in conference. Points have been at a premium for this squad, as they rank 287th in the nation and last in the AAC in PPG at 62.9 and don't have a single player averaging double-digit scoring. However, the Bearcats' defense is tough as usual, ranking seventh in the nation and first in the AAC in points allowed at 54.1.
The Bearcats are on a four game winning streak including a 76-60 win over N.C. State (AAC>ACC), in which Shaquille Thomas led the way with 15 points on 5-10 shooting. The win over the Wolfpack catapulted the Bearcats into conference play, as they beat SMU in their opening game with Farad Cobb scoring 18 points off the bench before taking care of business against ECU. Earlier in the season, Cincinnati notched their first quality win of the season, defeating then No. 19 San Diego State 71-62 in overtime. It was a much needed win for the AAC so thank you Cincy.
Due to Cincinnati's struggles on offense, it was hard to identify who would be considered a key player. The six players who average over 20 minutes a game will be the ones covered in this section.
#2 Octavius Ellis, Junior, Forward (6-10,226): The cousin of NBA player Monta Ellis, Octavius was a part of the Cincinnati team that made the Sweet 16 in 2012, but was kicked off for legal problems. After spending some time at a JUCO, Ellis came back to Cincy which just goes to show how much players love playing for Mick Cronin. Ellis is leading the team with 9.9 PPG on 61.3% shooting while averaging 7.4 RPG and 2.5 BPG. He is a great shot blocker and rebounder while also being one of the team's better defensive big men. Ellis has scored in double figures in five straight games, including a 12 point performance in the win over SMU in which he went 6-7 from the field.
#10 Troy Caupain, Sophomore, Guard (6-4, 200): An intelligent player who is averaging 9.2 PPG while averaging 3.8 RPG and 3.6 APG. He does not shoot the three-ball often as he is only 10-28 on the year. Caupain has stepped up with the loss of Sean Kilpatrick (20.6 PPG), and has emerged as the primary scorer out of the backcourt, something that was a question mark before the season started. Caupain had very high expectations for him heading into the season, and has more than produced for the Bearcats. He has scored in double figures in eight games this season, including a 13 point performance against NC State.
#11 Gary Clark, Freshman, Forward (6-7, 223): Second in the conference in rebounding, Clark is averaging 7.7 per game while also scoring 8.7 PPG on 50% shooting. He is a combination forward who can hit midrange jumpers, drive to the hoop, and even post up at times. Cronin is very high on Clark and even went as far as saying "He is going to be an All-American someday." He has scored in double figures in five games this season, including scoring 10 points in their victory over San Diego State.
#21 Farad Cobb, Junior, Guard (6-1, 175): The sixth man for the Bearcats who plays starter minutes, Cobb is averaging 7.6 PPG while shooting 31.8% from behind the arc. He is great off the pick-and-roll and has the ability to make shots as he was over 50% from the field in Junior College last season. Cobb has scored in double figures three times this season, including 18 points in their win over SMU in which he went 6-12 from the field and 4-9 from three. His season high this year was 24 points against Morehead State.
#3 Shaquille Thomas, Junior, Forward (6-1, 210): One of the only returning frontcourt players from last year, Thomas is averaging 6.4 PPG and 4.2 RPG. He gets most of his points in the trenches and around the basket. Cronin thinks that he could score about 10 a game strictly off putback lay-ups and dunks. Thomas was going to be looked at as a scoring threat early in the season, but guys have stepped up nicely for the Bearcats. His best game of the season was a 15 point performance on 5-10 shooting in the win over NC State.
#25 Kevin Johnson, Sophomore, Guard (6-3, 175): Averaging 5.9 PPG while shooting a rough 28.9% from three. Johnson started seeing time late last season and made strides over the summer. Combine that with his fearless approach to the game, he has been able to stay on the court, averaging 20.5 MPG. He is coming off one of his better games this season, scoring 12 points against ECU on 5-9 shooting, 2-4 from three.
The interim head coach for the Bearcats is Larry Davis who has filled in nicely in the absence of Mick Cronin. Davis has head coaching experience, as he was the head coach at Furman University from 1997-2006 where he went 124-139. Before Furman, he was an assistant as a variety of places including Minnesota and Wake Forest. As programs know, it is nice to have assistants with head coaching experience, and this is one of those cases where it is working out nicely for the Bearcats.