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Bearcats Breakfast 5.9.11

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On a busy weekend featuring The Kentucky Derby, a collection of NBA playoff games, some high drama at Quail Hollow (it's a golf course, and in case you didn't know they still air tournaments on TV that don't include Tiger Woods) and three nip-and-tuck Reds games, what spiked my excitement didn't come from any of them.

Watching the list of players that decided to return to college basketball continue to roll in next season have me ready for November to show up tomorrow.

Not only will this be the most highly anticipated season during the Mick Cronin era at UC, but the rest of the country is playing along as well.

Here's the early-entry list. The Dagger has their list of winners and losers.

Tu Holloway and Terrance Jones were among the local big names to announce they are returning to school. Even more direct impact on UC was the return of three major seniors in the Big East: Pitt's Ashton Gibbs, Georgetown's Hollis Thompson and WVU's Kevin Jones.

Don't forget, we already knew Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and North Carolina's Harrison Barnes both decided to turn down an almost certain lottery pick to pursue a national title.

We saw the kickback from a record number of departures last season and the cloud of impending NBA labor strife.

I wanted to take today to give a glimpse into what each team in the Big East will be returning. By using the KenPom offensive ratings, minutes and possession percentage numbers, I'll break down who has the most offense coming back beyond the points and rebounds per game stats.

I will go in alphabetical order with eight teams today and eight teams tomorrow. Then we'll do some analysis of those stats once those are concluded.  

Let's start with the Bearcats:

CINCINNATI

Record: 26-9

Finish: Lost in second round NCAA tournament

No. of players used in at least 20 percent of possessions returning:

Sean Kilpatrick, soph.: 24.2%

Yancy Gates, senior: 22.9%

Dion Dixon, senior: 22.4%

Cashmere Wright, junior: 22.3%

No. players 20 percent possession lost: 

Zero

Percentage of total points scored returning: 66.8% (46.1 of 69)

Players averaging 20+ minutes returning/leaving: 4/1

Analysis: The Bearcats return their top four scorers and top four possession users. This team will lose little besides depth on offense, need to find a replacement for Rashad Bishop's defense on the opposite side.   

CONNECTICUT

Record: 32-9

Finish: Won National Championship

No. of players used in at least 20 percent of possessions returning:

Shabazz Napier, soph: 20.9%

No. players 20 percent possession lost: 

Kemba Walker: 31.4%

Percentage of total points scored returning: 54.1% (39 of 72)

Players averaging 20+ minutes returning/leaving: 4/1

Analysis: Almost every statistical measure should come with an asterisk*.

*Losing Kemba Walker

DePAUL

Record: 7-24

Finish: No postseason

No. of players used in at least 20 percent of possessions returning:

Brandon Young, soph: 25%

Tony Freeland, jun.: 24.2%

Cleveland Melvin, soph: 26.4%

Moses Morgan, soph.: 21.6%  

No. players 20 percent possession lost: 

Mike Stovall: 26.5%

Percentage of total points scored returning: 81.4% (55.3 of 68)

Players averaging 20+ minutes returning/leaving: 5/1

Analysis: DePaul only won one Big East game last year but returns nearly everyone who contributed last year. Cleveland Melvin appears to be a budding star, but even with all this talent back they are still a year away from making any waves.      

GEORGETOWN

Record: 21-11

Finish: Lost to VCU in first round

No. of players used in at least 20 percent of possessions returning:

Jason Clark, senior: 20.5%  

No. players 20 percent possession lost: 

Austin Freeman: 24.5%

Chris Wright: 25%

Julian Vaughn: 21.8%

Percentage of total points scored returning: 51.5% (36.6 of 71)

Players averaging 20+ minutes returning/leaving: 2/3

Analysis: Hollis Thompson's return will bolster a team lacking much experienced scoring. If you thought they looked lost without Chris Wright late in the season, wait to see them without Wright, Freeman and Vaughn early next year.

LOUISVILLE

Record: 25-10

Finish: Lost to Morehead St. in first round of NCAA

No. of players used in at least 20 percent of possessions returning:

Peyton Siva, junior: 23.4%

Rakeem Buckles, junior: 23.4%  

No. players 20 percent possession lost: 

Preston Knowles: 25.2%

Terrence Jennings: 20.3%

Percentage of total points scored returning: 67.8% (23.2 of 72)

Players averaging 20+ minutes returning/leaving: 4/2

Analysis: The Cards will miss Preston Knowles shot-making and dribble-drive, but will likely become point guard oriented behind Peyton Siva and a collection of talented freshmen next season. Still, they return four players who averaged more than 20 minutes and two-thirds of their scoring. That doesn't scream fall off even while losing Jennings.

NOTRE DAME

Record: 27-7

Finish: Lost in second round of NCAA to Florida St.

No. of players used in at least 20 percent of possessions returning:

Zero  

No. players 20 percent possession lost: 

Ben Hansbrough: 25.0%

Tim Abromaitis: 21.1%

Ty Nash: 21.3%

Percentage of total points scored returning: 21.0% (15.7 of 75)

Players averaging 20+ minutes returning/leaving: 1/5

Analysis: Carleton Scott returning would have been the lone ray of hope for the Irish. With his choice to go pro, the Irish are in full-on rebuilding mode. It's been since pre-Luke Harangody this program saw such a lack of talent on the roster.

PITTSBURGH

Record: 28-6

Finish: Lost to Butler in second round NCAA

No. of players used in at least 20 percent of possessions returning:

Ashton Gibbs, senior: 21.0%

Nasir Robinson, senior: 21.9%

JJ Moore, sophomore: 24.6%  

No. players 20 percent possession lost: 

Brad Wanamaker: 23.8%

Gilbert Brown: 21.0%

Percentage of total points scored returning: 59.1% (43.7 of 74)

Players averaging 20+ minutes returning/leaving: 3/3

Analysis: Ashton Gibbs' apparent reversal and decision to stay was a game-changer for Pittsburgh's hopes next year. If he'd have joined Wanamaker and Brown, the Panthers would have gone from losing 59 percent of the scoring to 36 percent. The combination of Robinson and Gibbs will be enough to keep Pitt among the league elite.

PROVIDENCE

Record: 15-17

Finish: No postseason

No. of players used in at least 20 percent of possessions returning:

Vincent Council, junior: 20.5%  

No. players 20 percent possession lost: 

Marshon Brooks: 29.7%

Percentage of total points scored returning: 65.7% (49.9 of 76)

Players averaging 20+ minutes returning/leaving: 4/1

Analysis: Four 20+ minute players returning looks nice on paper, until you realize the one is Marshon Brooks, who single-handedly kept Providence in games last year. Even losing Brooks, they return about two-thirds of their scoring, but without any defensive improvement it could be another long season for the Friars.

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