The official start of the college basketball season is only a few weeks away.
Practice is already underway in preparation for the 2012 campaign and as recently as last week, Cincinnati was picked to finish fourth in the Big East.
This is the highest they have been picked to finish since joining the league less than a decade ago.
Head coach Mick Cronin has slowly transitioned the team from a tall, plodding squad to one of the most athletic teams in the country, with experience and talent at the guard position.
When Yancy Gates was suspended last season, Bearcat fans saw their first installment of the four-guard offense, and it worked quite well.
This year, Cincinnati will be doing a lot more of that and with the best back court in the Big East, it will be a fun season for the players and the fans.
The group is led by junior Sean Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick was named a first-team preseason all Big East selection and is one of the best offensive threats in the conference.
He will be joined the in the backcourt by fifth-year senior Cashmere Wright. The speedy point guard can score off the dribble and from deep.
The third backcourt member is JaQuon Parker. The senior is the tallest of the bunch and at 6'3", he has the ability to guard four positions with his strength and athleticism. He can also score in a multitude of ways around the rim.
No team in the conference, and very few in the country have as much experience and talent in the backcourt as the Bearcats.
Up front it will be a bit of a different story as 6'8" junior Justin Jackson is almost certain to be a starter when the season begins. He can run the floor and even though he does not have much of a touch from the outside, not many bigs in the country are as athletic as him.
The fifth starter is still up in the air. If Cincinnati wants to go small there are a few options, including junior college transfer Titus Rubles. The 6'7' wing man has plenty of athleticism and talent to guard multiple positions.
Another option would be redshirt freshman Shaquille Thomas. Thomas is also 6'7", but not quite as filled out as Rubles.
If Cincinnati decides to go big, the obvious choice would be 6'10" senior Cheikh Mbodj. Mbodj struggled last season after a high ankle sprain slowed him down early in the season, followed by a suspension.
The other option is junior college transfer David Nyarsuk. Nyarsuk is the tallest player in the history of the program and at 7'1", the junior also has a soft touch from 12-feet in.
One thing is certain, head coach Mick Cronin can not go wrong with any of these selections, as there is more talent and much more depth on the roster than he has had since his arrival.
The depth goes much deeper than the players listed as sophomores Jeremiah Davis, Jermaine Sanders, Kelvin Gaines and Ge'Lawn Guyn will be much improved from their freshman years.
With the combination of experience, depth and talent, it is going to be a fun season in the Queen City. Cincinnati has gotten better every year under Cronin and the 2012-2013 campaign looks to be no different.
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