The Cincinnati Bearcats saw their hot streak continue on Wednesday night, hammering Temple in the friendly confines of BB&T Arena to the tune of a 75-42 final. Cincinnati's average margin of victory at home is 24.7 points. They are dominating teams. Here's what happened Wednesday:
Gary Clark has notched four straight double-doubles. He is a problem. He's averaging 14.5 points and 12.3 rebounds over the last four and has committed three turnovers in total. To boot, he's played just 26 minutes in each of his last two games. He's experiencing phenomenal production--even in games in which he isn't used to his full capacity. He's playing the best basketball of his career, and I pray it keeps coming. He had a high-flying smashmouth game last night, and it's making the end of his career even harder. The thought of Gary's final collegiate game is following me like a black cloud.
Jarron Cumberland had another productive game. It was his fourth double-figure scoring effort in the last five outings, with the only weak showing coming in that weird UCF game. Jarron is making it happen, finally. I'm optimistic this is here to stay because all phases of his game are clicking. It's not as if his shot simply started falling. In fact, his shot is still spotty, but his defense is rolling and he's even shooting 13-for-16 at the line in the last five--remarkable for a guy who's 62% on the year. I think Jarron will be okay. He's coming back at the right time.
I'm almost afraid to say this, but I think Kyle Washington has become an underrated player for this team. His efficiency still leaves a bit to be desired and his lack of rebounding ability can be baffling (just one 10-rebound game this year), but he's had 13 or more points in two of the last three and has oddly turned into a good closer, really pouring it on at the end of games.
Jacob Evans stuffed the box score like it was a Thanksgiving turkey. 10 points? Yum. Six rebounds? Pass the butter. Five assists? Did someone bring stuffing? Five steals? Pumpkin pie, baby. Extra whipped cream!
Trevor Moore is fun to watch. My favorite parts of his season are that 1) He's really surpassed my expectations, 2) His playing time and impact is actually increasing after an iffy start, and 3) It's not really showing up in the box score. He's just a smart player who has a knack for hustling and being in the right place at the right time. He has a high ceiling, but he's just scrapping out there for now. It's good to see.
Trevon Scott is in the same boat as Moore. I think people rag on Scott because he's not the most complete player on the offensive end, but he doesn't need to be on this team. He had six rebounds in 13 minutes last night. Come on. That's worth 13 minutes.
Nsoseme is in the same boat as Moore and Scott. Seriously, this team has real bench potential. Four points and five rebounds on 2-for-2 shooting in 11 minutes.
The defense is absolutely phenomenal. No AAC team has been able to crack 60 on the Bearcats through seven games. If anything, the defense is picking up steam. Virginia is far ahead of the pack in the KenPom AdjD rankings, and Cincinnati is creating a similar gap ahead of third place.
Temple kills me. They nearly beat the Bearcats in the last meeting! Tonight their leading scorer recorded seven points and they committed 20 turnovers to just 16 field goals. Hilariously bad.
Again with the slow starts. First "quarter" vs Temple: 13-13. Second "quarter" vs Temple: UC outscored the Owls 22-6. Just start hot so nobody has a chance to hang around. This will cost the 'Cats if it isn't fixed.
I don't know what the point guard situation is. I was a major proponent of the two-guard setup for a while, but it's starting to make less sense on both ends. Justin Jenifer hasn't scored in three games, and he's a starter. To be clear, that isn't his role and his lack of scoring isn't really impacting the Bearcats. On the flip side, Broome played just 12 minutes last night, scoring three points. I don't know what to make of the point guard situation, and I'm not sure it's a simple as starting Broome. We're nearly to February and nobody has exactly emerged to make the decision obvious.
Here are the two approaches, and I'm torn:
1) If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Right? Huge win streak. Blowing teams out at home. Why mess with something that's evidently working? Keep rolling like it is. I think this is likely Mick's stance. Until they have empirical evidence that the point guard situation has cost them a win, I don't see Mick straying. Why should he?
2) Why wait until something breaks to fix it? Be proactive instead of reactive. This sounds great, in theory. In practice, I think it's risky. Moving Jenifer to the bench gives the Bearcats virtually no consistent scoring threat from the reserves. Maybe that doesn't matter. Put your best foot forward and worry about the rest later, some would say.
I really don't know that either of these is the right answer. I just think we've gotten to a point where the guard situation is so abnormal that we have to at least examine it.
In case you've missed my rantings and ravings on this topic, the Bearcats are four wins shy of achieving the short-term goal I've set for them. They need to enter the meat of the schedule at 22-2, and KenPom gives them an 84% chance or better in each of the next four games. Just keep winning.