As part of its preview of the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense statistics are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All other advanced stats are also from kenpom.com (unless noted otherwise), and are through March 14.
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 107.7 (97th)/93.1 (8th)
Seed: West No. 9
Impact player: Troy Caupain, junior, guard. 13.2 PPG, 4.8 APG.
The case for: Consider a game that features a small number of possessions. Now consider that you will have a really hard time scoring on each of those possessions. That scenario is a simple way to describe what it’s like to face Cincinnati. The Bearcats rank 320th in the country in adjusted tempo and they allow opponents to score an average of only 0.93 points per possession, according to kenpom.com. They do an excellent job forcing misses inside the arc (14th nationally in two-point field goal percentage defense) and protecting the rim (fifth in blocks per game). Those statistics, of course, presuppose shot attempts. Cincinnati often doesn’t allow possessions to get that far, as it ranks 24th in the nation in steals per game.
Defense is the Bearcats’ calling card, but they can be tough to stop on the other end of the floor. Point guard Troy Caupain is a savvy facilitator who’s cut down on his turnovers while dishing out more assists as a junior, senior guard Farad Cobb has canned nearly 40% of his treys this season and Cincinnati creates extra shot attempts by grabbing 36.8% of its misses. On a separate note, the Bearcats are probably due for some good luck after falling victim to a 60-foot buzzer-beater in the AAC tournament.
The case against: Cincinnati can be hard to watch at times because you get the feeling that it just can’t put the ball in the basket. The Bearcats lack shooters, they don’t possess an elite off-the-dribble creator, getting to the free-throw line is a major challenge and they give the ball away on more than 16% of their possessions. Cobb is a threat from three-point range, but during AAC play no Cincinnati player who attempted at least 20 threes converted at better than a 35% clip. The Bearcats do excel in transition (1.13 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports), but that doesn’t outweigh their issues scoring in a half-court setting. Put it all together, and the Bearcats rank 97th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com.
Not only does Cincinnati labor to score on every trip down the floor, it doesn’t take many trips, period: the Bearcats average only 65.8 adjusted possessions per game, well below the Division I average of 69.0, according to kenpom.com. Cincinnati will make teams work hard for all of their points, but something as minor as one opposing player getting hot from three-point range could doom the Bearcats. They simply won’t be able to keep up.
SI prediction: Lose to No. 8 Saint Joseph’s in the first round.