Transfer Kyle Washington looks to be a key player, having displayed excellent scoring and ballhandling skills as the #24 Bearcats have started the 2016-17 season with victories over Brown and Albany.
The 24th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats opened their 2016-17 season with an easy 84-55 win over Brown last Friday night, then pulled away from Albany to turn what was a two point game at the half into another blowout, this one by the score of 74-51.
Sophomore wing Jacob Evans lit up the scoreboard, tallying 23 and 19 points respectively with six total three-point goals, but junior transfer Kyle Washington showed what a key addition he is to Mick Cronin’s program. scoring 16 and 13 of his own. Washington is a versatile post player – much more so than the last wave of big men we’ve seen come through Clifton. He can score effectively from the low block, but he brings a lot of other skills to the table offensively that guys like Yancy Gates, Octavius Ellis, Cory DeBerry, and Justin Jackson never really had.
Washington can shoot effectively from mid-range, but most importantly, I was impressed by his passing. Against Brown, he threw several pinpoint passes from the free throw line area down to Gary Clark in the low post, setting Clark up for easy buckets. This is going to ge HUGE for UC as the Bearcats get into conference play. Defenses have to respect Washington’s mid-range game and guard him closely in the high post, which is going to allow him to tear up opposing defenses, especially the 2-3 zone.
The weak spots of the 2-3 are the short corners and the free throw line, since (naturally) there are no defenders there. Because Washington is a threat to make that 15-foot jumper, the defense must rotate and send someone there to guard him. This then leaves another part of the floor open. If he can continue to pass effectively as he has done in the first two games of 2016, UC will shred the zone this year. And if there’s one thing that UC has struggled with in the past it’s just that: scoring against the zone.
We’ve seen a lot of passing around the perimeter and very little attacking out of Mick Cronin zone offenses in years past. But this year, with a high post threat in Washington, a low post threat in Clark, and outside threats, I expect to see a big improvement in offensive output. The emergence of Washington as a mid-range threat and excellent passer should especially help Gary Clark, as he will be the recipient of many of Washington’s passes into the post. I think Clark could be in for a big year if defenses have to key on both he and Washington.