Nov 12, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats guard Sean Kilpatrick (23) steals the ball from North Carolina State Wolfpack guard Anthony Barber (2) during the first half of the game at Fifth Third Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

Preview and Prediction: UC-Appalachian State

After a very impressive win on Tuesday night against the Wolfpack of NC State, the Bearcats return to the hardwood tomorrow to play Appalachian State. The Mountaineers are currently 0-2, after losing 98-77 to NC State and 73-66 to Campbell. They have four players who have averaged double-figure points per game, lead by Tevin Baskin at 14 points a game. Jay Canty, a former Xavier Musketeer, was supposed to play a key role for the Mountaineers, but has been suspended 9 games due to academic reasons.  Look for the Bearcats to intensify their pressure on defense, as Appalachian State is averaging 12 turnovers a game and shooting a very poor 54% from the charity stripe. The Mountaineers are shooting 28% from behind the arc, as compared to 45% from the field. If the ‘Cats can force Appalachian State into jacking up a lot of threes, this game could be over very quickly.

Playing against inferior competition, look for Mick Cronin to continue to sub players in and out like they are hockey players. The freshmen should see a lot of action in this one, especially Troy Caupain and Jermaine Lawrence. I have been very impressed with Caupain, as he looks much cooler and collected than most freshmen usually do. Hopefully, he continues to attack the basket and dish out assists, along with making free throws (he was an un-Bearcat like 5-6 from the line against NC State). Jermaine Lawrence has shown steady improvement already, and I think this game will be a great opportunity for him to showcase his talent. He grabbed eight boards against a pretty physical NC State team, so hopefully he continues to attack the glass. Kevin Johnson has struggled so far this season, going a combined 0-8 in his first two real games in a Bearcats uniform, but this game will provide the perfect opportunity for him to break out. I watched him play a few times in high school, and he should develop into a good scorer for the ‘Cats.

The Bearcats have two juniors on their roster this year, and both have shown steady improvement. Jermaine Sanders displayed a nice shooting touch against NC Central and while he didn’t score much against NC State, he played a nice game defensively and didn’t look like he was lost like he did last year. Ge’Lawn Guyn has continued to play good defense and has shown the ability at times to get down the lane. He also can contribute an occasional three ball. I still don’t understand why Mick insists on having SK take the ball up the court with Guyn in the game, as SK is far more effective when someone else can set him up. Guyn has done an excellent job of cutting back on his turnovers so far this year, as he has five assists to one turnover. While it is still very early in the season, Guyn had 18 turnovers to 14 assists last season, so his numbers thus far are encouraging.

So far this season, the Cincinnati bench has looked far deeper than it did last season. There have been three guys on the bench this year, however, that have been very frustrating to watch. I have no clue why Mick does not play JD3 more often, as he has shown flashes that he could be the extra scorer that this team so desperately needs. I know his defense isn’t great, but he could very well be the best pure shooter this team has. Shaquille Thomas has not played as well as he did at the end of last year, and he looks visibly frustrated as he walks off the court sometimes. He is oozing with potential, but so far this year, he has struggled to get things going. I am not too worried about him, however, as he is definitely one of the best slashers on this team.  I wish that they would’ve adjusted his line drive shot and added some muscle to him this summer, but he will still be a key contributor this season, in my opinion. Dave Nyarsuk has been a non-factor so far this season, and I unfortunately don’t see it getting any better. In the first two games of the season, he has only given the ‘Cats 4 minutes TOTAL. Clearly, we need another big body this season (see Jamaree Strickland in the last paragraph).

Look for the senior trio of Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson, and Titus Rubles to dominate the Mountaineers. I don’t need to say anything about SK, as we all have seen that he is “the guy” on this team. Justin Jackson fought through foul trouble against NC State to post the first double-double of his career. If he can play aggressive while still playing under control, he should have a good chance of grabbing his second career double-double. Hopefully, Coach Cronin continues to put Titus Rubles up close to the free throw line or down closer to the basket, since we have all see his shooting (or lack thereof) abilities. Titus is an amazing passer and plays stout defense, and he also has that JaQuon Parker-like quality of putting his head down and attacking the basket. If these seniors play well, the ‘Cats should cruise to a big win.

On a side note, I would like to address the Jamaree Strickland and Deshaun Morman situations. Strickland has yet to be cleared to practice or play with the team, but regardless of what the almighty NCAA imposes on him, he will have four years of eligibility remaining (according to Coach Cronin). I have read multiple articles on Strickland from before he was struck with injury in high school. He was getting interest from a few big-time programs and he had developed into a pretty solid low post scorer. He displayed the same ability in prep school last year, averaging 21 points a game, 8 rebounds a game, and 3 blocks a game. I think Mick may have found a diamond in the rough with Strickland, and I actually saw Strickland at the NC State game the other night. He looked like he was dying to be out there, and he definitely has the size to at least give the Bearcats another big body. Morman, on the other hand, looks like he will be redshirting. I was surprised by this, as I would’ve guessed that Kevin Johnson would’ve been redshirted, as Mick has stated multiple times that Morman is an excellent defender. Either way, I’m glad Mick is going to give someone a year to develop, as he clearly regretted the decision he made with JaQuon Parker.

Prediction

UC wins big, 75-52. The seniors will continue to lead the way, but the freshmen will show why they were such a highly-touted class for Mick Cronin and company. As always, be on the lookout for more Justin Jackson highlight reel dunks and blocks, and watch for SK to score at will.

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