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The Bearcats tipped off the regular season last night, which automatically made November 11 one of the best days of the year. The Bearcats could’ve looked miserable and won by five and I would’ve been elated. Instead, they looked pretty fantastic, all things considered. Here’s what I saw in UC’s decisive 84–55 win over the Brown Bears.
- Holy cow, the offense. I’m going to reign in my hot takes for at least another game or three, but this team looks very skilled and confident on the offensive end. Early in the season, you’ll usually get a few games where they look like a good Mick Cronin offense — they can pass it around the perimeter until they find a guy open enough to take a shot. When they’re hot, that looks good. Last night, they looked like a good offense, period. This has nothing to do with anything I saw on paper. This team passed the eye test with flying colors. For the most part, the offense moved quickly when it needed to, especially when the ball got to guys like Jacob Evans, Jarron Cumberland, and Kyle Washington. There were times when it slowed down, and those worked as well. No matter what lineup Mick runs out during important games, it will always have at least three guys who can score in a few ways. It sounds nice on paper. It looks fantastic in action.
- Kyle Washington will change this team. He had a good game, but it wasn’t a perfect game. Didn’t matter. He gave us a good look at what he can do over the course of 30+ minutes, and it looked fantastic. He has energy similar to Justin Jackson, but he also has offensive knowledge and confidence to go with it. He caught passes in the post and turned around for the slam. He had guys hanging on him and went with a little teardrop for the score. He once ran from below the basket to collect a loose ball outside the three point line. He had an impressive (although perhaps ill-advised) pass from the top of the key into the post to Gary Clark for the assist. He’s got all the best parts of a big man — size, energy, interior offense, basic shot-blocking ability. On top of that, he looked like an impressive passer and scorer. I can tell he’ll frustrate us at times this season, but he has so many weapons in his game.
(video via ESPN/Bearcats TV — GIF via OhVarsity)
- Jacob Evans is as good as advertised, at least after one game against a middling Ivy League team. I’m keeping my expectations low, because I saw how he looked at times last season when shots weren’t falling. However, he looked almost like a new player last night. Everything was easy. He made the right plays. He hit the open shots. He looked very confident. 23 points is often a season-high for any player on a Cronin team. Evans did it relatively effortlessly after not playing in the preseason due to injury. Oh, he also had a ferocious dunk that was whistled off after an awful technical call. Bearcats TV doesn’t care that the points didn’t count, and put the play in the highlight reel. Thank you.
(video via ESPN/Bearcats TV — GIF via OhVarsity)
- Troy Caupain had a Troy Caupain game. I’ve seen several people say that Troy needs to average at least 15 points this year. If he’s chasing that AAC Player of the Year, that may be the case. If he’s trying to win games and let his teammates drive the train, I think he needs to do what he did last night. 10 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block. Stuff the stat sheet, kid. If he played more than 30 minutes and really went for it, that was the kid of game where you’ll see a triple-double. That’s what I want to see from the quarterback of my team.
- If Gary Clark can do this all year, look out. Not that this was ever an issue with Gary, but he played very within himself on Friday. His game was all layups, put-backs, and dunks. As a result, he quietly put up 14 points in just 27 minutes on 7-of-9 shooting. To go along with it: nine rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks.
- Jarron Cumberland is big and confident. I’m just going to keep pointing it out until I get used to it, but Jarron Cumberland has the body of a 30 year old. He does not look anything like a freshman, in stature or in playing style. You can tell he’s got it going on between the ears, because on a few occasions Friday night I caught myself thinking, “I’ve never seen a freshman confident enough to make that play.” And it’s not like they were flashy plays. At one point, he caught the ball on the wing before the defense set up, noticed he had the baseline, and took it in for an easy score. Let’s be honest, we’ve seen seniors too timid to make that play. Cumberland did it without a second thought. That will be huge.
- The Bearcats shut down Tavon Blackmon. In his media availability on Wednesday, Mick talked about how college basketball is a guard-driven game and how senior guards are invaluable. He expressed concern over Brown PG Tavon Blackmon. Last season, Blackmon averaged 13 points on 46% shooting. On Friday, Blackmon got stuffed. He finished with just six points on 2-for-13 shooting. He filled other areas of the box score, but I’m happy with completely negating the opposition’s biggest scoring threat.
- This alley-oop from Cumberland to Scott.
- THE INTRO VIDEO IS AMAZING. It won’t be on YouTube until later in the season, as the folks at UC want to keep it special for a little while. If you want to see it, you’ll have to go to the game. It’s worth the price of admission. I won’t spoil it.
- Troy had four turnovers. I’m willing to chalk this one up as a rusty start to the season. Last year, Troy’s only four-turnover game was on the road against UConn. Matching last year’s total on opening night, at home, against Brown is not a great look. The last time Troy had four turnovers in a non-conference game? 12/23/14 against Wagner, who cruised past UConn in Connecticut last night.
- The defense didn’t look great. I’m even less worried about this statistic, because the defense is never an issue with Cronin’s teams. They looked rusty against Brown, on top of getting away with a lot of errors because Brown isn’t the type of team that can make you consistently pay for mistakes. UC allowed 40% from outside the arc on 25 attempts, which is more than I want to see. They’ll be okay, though.
These are much more fun to write when I have to search for negatives instead of positives. The Bearcats are back at The Shoe on Monday night to face Albany at 7 PM on ESPNU.