Mick Cronin talked to Bill Koch yesterday, mentioning that Cincinnati is going to run a new offensive system. While that sounds incredibly exciting and we are all looking forward to seeing it unveiled as soon as tomorrow afternoon, it's nothing to really be excited about on the surface. The big new offensive system? Getting the ball inside.
That's it. It sounds so, so, so very simple. It really isn't. Cincinnati ran a lot of 1 post man on the block, one post man on the wing near the corner, offense last year. UC spread out the floor to help the shooters. What ended up happening, especially with the stiffer competition later in the year, was that teams would push out on the shooters, daring Cincinnati to beat them inside. Cincinnati couldn't. Results like the USF game where Cheikh Mbodj was able to take over for a time late in the game happened because all of the attention was out on the shooters. Shaq Thomas had a huge game against Creighton because the Blue Jays were keyed on staying on the guards.
When you think back to the Louisville game last season, it seemed like the Cards knew what Cincinnati was going to do. They were able to jump in passing lanes and torment Cincinnati into a thousand turnovers. Same with Notre Dame in the horrible second meeting. And Georgetown in the Big East tournament. Taking Louisville out of the equation, Notre Dame and Georgetown made much better adjustments after they played Cincinnati the second time. Both had closer victories in Cincinnati followed by blowouts on the road and at a neutral site. Cronin knew it. He talked about changing things at tournament time. He said to Koch: “It really hurt our offense not having an inside game,” said UC coach Mick Cronin. “It made us too predictable.”
Cronin elaborated about the offensive change:
“We’re running a completely different system offensively, playing some guys closer to the basket and throwing the ball to them. We spent all offseason working with Justin (Jackson) and Dave (Nyarsuk) on their strength and their balance and Titus (Rubles) and with Jermaine Lawrence once he got here.
Whether we’re scoring inside or passing inside-out, we’re trying to get the ball in closer to the basket more frequently.”
That's an interesting way of doing things. Especially since there was no inside production from any of those men. Dave Nyarsuk was the most effective around the basket at 39-66, 59%. But he was bad at the line, 8-15, and a turnover machine, 22 turnovers, 27.1% turnover percentage.
Jackson posted the worst shooting percentage of his career last season at 41.8%. His usage rate was only up about a percent, his short game was very off. He is a very poor foul shooter as well, 66-141, 46.8% for his career. He was a decent passer, 44 assists, 1.5 a game, assisted on 15.8% of UC buckets. But he was a turnover machine with 54, 1.8 a game and he turned it over on 32.5% of possessions.
Titus Rubles was 66-195 from the field, which included 4-43 from 3, for a 33.8% shooting year. He was 64-97, a decent 66% at the line. He was not that great on the offensive glass. He was a great passer with 67 assists, assisting on 18.6% of UC buckets. He turned the ball over 64 times, with a 24.4% turnover percent.
Shaq Thomas was not mentioned in the quote, but it was mentioned he would play some of the 4. He shot the ball poorly last season, 42-101, 41.6%. He was poor at the line, 48.1%. But he was also a freshman and his game an grow.
Jermaine Lawrence is awesome and will probably never make a mistake.
I mention the turnovers in here because if you are going to have an offense where the big men play a large role, pun not intended, they are going to have to be safe with the ball. Jackson has well documented turnover problems. Rubles could be lax at times, although he can definitely make plays. Nyarsuk is either going to dunk or turn the ball over. If they are going to be keys, they have to be sharp on all things.
This includes offensive rebounding. Jackson pulled down around 9% of the offensive rebounds. Rubles pulled in around 8%. Thomas had 9.4%, although in a smaller sample. Cronin touches on how they were poor at finishing around the basket. That has to get better. Maybe it will without Mbodj missing a million put backs.
The most important thing to note is that Mick Cronin knows this team has a flaw. The flaw is the post. There is not a true center on the team. The guys we have are going to have to get better at executing on the block. You can have all the talent in the world at guard. But if you can't get the ball inside, you are going to put up contested jumpers all day long. That's a recipe for a first round exit. Justin Jackson being better at offense is something that I'm going to have to see against someone decent before I believe. But he's trying to get better. He's a senior. He has done it for bursts. I wonder if Mick will use a lot of pick and rolls and slashes to the basket. With athletic guys like Thomas, Jackson, Lawrence and Rubles, that could be effective. Most of them can pop for a jumper. That could be effective.
The new offense doesn't sound like anything fantastic on it's head, but when you dig deeper, it's should be a jolt of fresh air. I don't know what you do for a low post scorer, but you don't really need that. You need someone to keep teams honest inside. You need to make them guard. You need to make them sag the post because that's where the ball is going. I am ready for a new look offense.