Cincinnati is playing an intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday, which will be the team’s final game in its six-day stay in the Bahamas. On Friday, the Bearcats played their only game against an opponent outside the program, picking up a 94-64 win over the PJ Stingers at the Sir Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium in Nassau.
Underclassmen Kevin Johnson and Gary Clark led the Bearcats with 17 points apiece. Clark, a top 100 recruit, was part of a new-look front court, along with with junior college transfer Octavius Ellis and three-star recruit Quadri Moore. The trio helped Cincinnati outrebound the Stingers 53-29.
Cincinnati assisted on 24 of its 39 field goals. Although, the team did commit 15 turnovers. Ball movement is something Cronin is stressing this offseason. Last season, the Bearcats had an assist rate that ranked them 145th in the country, according to kenpom. While its defense led Cincinnati to a second-place finish in the American, its offense caused an early exit from the NCAA tournament, as No. 12 Harvard upset the No. 5 seed in the Round of 64.
The offense will need to account for the loss of its top three scorers, including All American Sean Kilpatrick, who averaged 20.7 points per game.
Cincinnati will have seven additions to this year’s team — five newcomers and two redshirt freshmen — to go along with returning starters Shaquille Thomas and Ge’Lawn Guyn. This week’s trip to the Bahamas was an important one for Cronin to mold a team looking to contend with conference favorite SMU and reigning national champion UConn.
“We’ve had a great trip,” Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said after Friday’s game. “Attitude of the team has been great. We’ve got a lot out of this, not just basketball, but just team bonding. When you have a new team like this, with so many new players, you have to become a team before you can worry about X’s and O’s. We’ve really tried to focus on that in the last few weeks.”
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.