Scouting Cincinnati basketball ahead of the NCAA Tournament

Cincinnati defends well, plays with a slower pace, and relies heavily on do-it-all guard Jarron Cumberland.

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Scouting Cincinnati basketball ahead of the NCAA Tournament

Connecticut's Jalen Adams (4) steals the ball from Cincinnati's Jarron Cumberland (34) at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. The visiting Bearcats won, 65-57.

Connecticut's Jalen Adams (4) steals the ball from Cincinnati's Jarron Cumberland (34) at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. The visiting Bearcats won, 65-57.

Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/TNS

Connecticut's Jalen Adams (4) steals the ball from Cincinnati's Jarron Cumberland (34) at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. The visiting Bearcats won, 65-57.

Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/TNS

Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/TNS

Connecticut's Jalen Adams (4) steals the ball from Cincinnati's Jarron Cumberland (34) at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. The visiting Bearcats won, 65-57.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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10-seed Iowa basketball has just a few days before it clashes with 7-seed Cincinnati in Columbus, Ohio.

In the meantime, The Daily Iowan takes a deep dive into the numbers behind Cincinnati’s biggest strengths, weaknesses, and other key focal points.

Strengths

Defense

Cincinnati does an excellent job on defense, allowing just 62.2 points per game (12th-best in the country), and holding opponents to 40.6 percent shooting overall (31st) and 44.7 percent from inside the 3-point arc (18th).

In 11 of the Bearcats’ 34 games, they’ve held opponents below 60 points – that’s just less than a third of their games. In three of those contests, opponents have scored in the 40s.

Cincinnati also does an excellent job clogging the paint and defending 2-point shots. Opponents have made just 464 shots from that range – 17th in the country.

Offensive Rebounding

Offensive rebounding is a major plus for Cincinnati. The Bearcats have 431 offensive rebounds this season, ranking 11th in the country. In contrast, Iowa has 343.

In 20 of Cincinnati’s 34 games, the Bearcats have finished with an offensive rebounding percentage greater than 35 percent. For comparison, Iowa has six on the season.

Free throws

Much like Iowa, Cincinnati does well getting to the free throw line. There, it has made 524 of its 744 attempts at the line. The Bearcats attempts and makes rank in the top-40 nationally. Five players on the roster average 2 shots or more per game from the charity stripe.

Weaknesses

3-point shooting and 3-point defense

Cincinnati enters the tournament having made 22 of its 646 attempts from downtown – both of those marks rank 248th or worse in the country. Simply put, the Bearcats don’t take many shots from deep, and when they do, they don’t make them at a high rate.

Defending the long ball isn’t a strong suit, either. Cincinnati has allowed 778 shots from deep this season, ranking 274th-worst in the nation. Opponents have hit 35.1 percent of those shots (273).

Iowa’s 3-point defense – one of the team’s biggest improvements this season – ranks in the top 85 percentage-wise (32.6).

Defensive rebounding

Coming into March Madness with just 801 defensive rebounds, the Bearcats rank 11th in the AAC (a conference with 12 teams). Only three Cincinnati players average more than 4 rebounds per game.

Biggest difference: pace of play

Cincinnati likes to slow things down. The Bearcats have attempted 1,307 shots from inside the arc – 32nd-most in the nation – making 618 (47.3 percent). Cincinnati has attempted just 646 3-pointers this season, which is the 268th-fewest in the country.

Meanwhile, Iowa’s attempted nearly 100 shots more from beyond the 3-point arc. The Hawkeyes also average 6.6 points more per game than Cincinnati.

Looking at pace of play (an estimate of possessions per 40 minutes), the Bearcats have finished 16 games with a pace above 65 possessions (more than half of their games). They’ve had five games above 70.

Iowa has finished 17 games with a pace of play above 70. On 30 occasions, the Hawkeyes had a pace of play better than 65.

Player to watch

Jarron Cumberland

Cumberland, the 2018-19 AAC Player of the Year, is Cincinnati’s do-it-all guy. The junior guard averages 18.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.1 steals per game.

By scoring alone, he carries a large slice in Cincinnati’s offense production. Cumberland’s points per game rank third in the AAC. Out of the top-10 scorers in the conference, he has the second-best 3-point shooting percentage (39.1 percent).

Cincinnati uses Cumberland fairly often – he’s got a 32.3 usage percentage – and rightfully so. He’s a great scorer (23.3 points per 40 minutes) and an excellent facilitator, assisting on 25.9 percent of possessions.

Under the radar player

Nysier Brooks

Cumberland takes up most of the Bearcat highlights with his scoring, but Brooks gets the job done on the defensive end.

In 23 minutes per game, the 6-11, 240-pound center averages 8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks. Expand those minutes to 40, and Brooks is looking at a 13.9 points, 11 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks.

In his three seasons with Cincinnati, Brooks has a block percentage of 6.9 or better. This season, with expanded minutes, his block percentage sits at 8.4.

Cumberland leads all Cincinnati players (with major minutes) with a 23.2 player efficiency rating, but Brooks follows close behind with a 20.9 mark.

Best win of the season

Houston (69-57, March 17)

The Bearcats’ best win was their last.

In the AAC Championship, Cincinnati took down then-No. 11 Houston by 12 points. Cumberland went off for 33 points and 8 rebounds. Cane Broome added 15 points off the bench as well.

This season, Cincinnati has faced five teams ranked in the top 25 (at the time of play). Its first and only win came in this game.

Worst loss of the season

East Carolina (73-71, Jan. 5)

Cincinnati only had six losses to choose from this season, and this was the only one coming from the hands of a team not included in the NCAA Tournament.

Eastern Carolina finished with a 10-21 record this season, having only won three conference games. Cincinnati was one of those victories.

In that game, 65 of the Bearcats’ 71 points came from starters, leaving just 6 points from bench players. Eastern Carolina, though, dominated with its bench production. K.J. Davis scored 17 points with the second unit.

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