The UC men's basketball team begins conference play tonight against No. 10-ranked Connecticut. The stakes for the season have just been raised.
It's with that in mind that we bring up Deonta Vaughn and his senior season.
Vaughn is already the No. 11 scorer in school history (tied with Darnell Burton). UC has at least 20 games left. Vaughn needs to average 21 points a game to catch No. 2 Steve Logan and 15 points a game to catch No. 3 Danny Fortson.
Right now, Vaughn is averaging a career-low 9.8 points. At that rate, he'll be lucky catch No. 4 Roger McClendon.
The start to his final season as a Bearcat has been shockingly inconsistent.
In the first 11 games, Vaughn has scored in double digits only six times with a high of 16 points against Maryland. He went scoreless in 26 minutes against Miami then in the first half against Xavier. Over the last five games, Vaughn has averaged just 7.2 points while shooting 30.2 percent from the field and 23 percent from 3-point range.
Vaughn is obviously capable. He dropped 34 points on Notre Dame as a junior. His sophomore year he scored a career-high 36 against Coastal Carolina.
In reviewing his stats, I became curious as to how others fared as seniors. I looked back at Logan and McClendon. Why those guys? Fortson only played three years and didn't have a senior season. And there's no sense comparing anyone to Oscar Robertson, who, of course, is No. 1 on the scoring list.
Logan was simply spectacular from the first game of 2001-02 when he scored 31 points against Oklahoma State. He scored 30 or more five times (including two games with 40 or more), averaged 22 points a game and only had one outing in single digits (seven points against Charlotte). You could pencil in Logan for 15 to 20 a night, knowing you might get more. He was incredibly consistent. UC finished 31-4.
Like Vaughn, McClendon got off to a slow start in 1987-88, scoring nine points against Northern Kentucky and seven against Kentucky. But he did come back with 33 points against Miami in Game Four and averaged 15.3 points over the first 11 games. McClendon averaged 14.5 points for the season, down 5.4 points from his junior year. The Bearcats finished 11-17.
None of the top 20 scorers in UC history averaged less than 10 points as a senior. The last 1,000-point scorer to do that was Damon Flint, who averaged 8.9 points in 1996-97 as he took on a different role behind Fortson, Ruben Patterson and Burton.
You could argue Vaughn is doing the same as freshman Lance Stephenson has become the Bearcats' go-to player.
You could - and should - also argue that Cincinnati needs Vaughn to score more and be more consistent to do well in the Big East Conference. Vaughn is still second on the team in minutes played and field-goal attempts and No. 1 in 3-point attempts, assists, turnovers and steals.
He should benefit from the attention Stephenson is taking away, not to mention all the other talented players on the team. Vaughn needs to be playing with the sense of urgency with which seniors typically play.
An NCAA Tournament bid could depend on it.