Bearcats Breakfast 4.4.12

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Tonight will be the Bearcats basketball banquet. I'll have the results and awards for you tomorrow on the blog. Most importantly, for us nostalgic nerds, we'll have Tommy G's highlight video from the festivities as well.

Hard to imagine the difficulty of compiling a limited number of highlights from the season that was. Intrigued to see what TG came up with.

The most prominent award to come out of the festivities will be the Most Valuable Player award and it's a tougher call than I can remember in recent years. Last season UC took the easy way out and sliced the MVP pie six ways to all the seniors. It made sense for a class at the foundation of rebuilding the program.

This season, though, so many players made meaningful contributions, it's difficult to choose just one.

Here's the candidates and their arguments:

Sean Kilpatrick: The team's leading scorer (14.3 ppg) typically takes this type of an award and nobody can deny that the restructuring of the offense was meant to feature SK's talents. He became the most consistent and lethal offensive threat and the one of the primary guys other team's had to plan specifically to defend.

In Cincinnati's biggest wins of the season, Kilpatrick provided some of its biggest shots. (See: Syracuse, Florida State) He has a chance to compile one of the great four-year careers in UC history and this was the season his true potential came to reality.

Yancy Gates: He deserves the MVP as much as a lifetime achievement award as a season-long honor. The four years he put in at UC in a spotlight under heavy scrutiny became one of the most pressure-packed four-year careers I can remember in UC history.

People expected Gates to be a combination of Danny Fortson/Kenyon Martin/Eric Hicks and do so in a program in rebuilding mode. At the end of the day he was Yancy Gates and became the only player in history to lead the team in rebounding four consecutive seasons and finished the year nearly averaging a double-double (12.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg). And when UC's season ascended from good to great in the final month -- particularly at the Big East tournament -- it was on his shoulders.

JaQuon Parker: By the specific meaning of Most Valuable Player Parker maybe fits this bill more than anyone. Just look at this team pre-brawl to post-brawl and the difference speaks for itself. Without his ability to play inside and out the four-guard attack would be worthless. If it weren't for his knack at grabbing rebounds over 6-foot-11 trees on a regular basis, UC would have been beaten to submission on the boards.

Parker made as much of an improvement as anyone on the team and should receive recognition tonight for doing so. If not for his play, UC does not even make the tournament this season and I firmly believe that.

Versatility, grit, hustle and toughness were all attributes UC lacked early in the year and all attributes Parker brought with him and proved contagious as the year drug on.

Cash.jpg--- All these players made great contributions and are all deserving of the MVP title, but for my money, when viewing the big picture of all tangible and intangible elements of the award, there's one player slightly above the rest: Cashmere Wright

Sure, he finished fourth on the team in scoring (10.9 ppg), but Wright fueled the UC attack -- both offensively and defensively. His assist percentage (30.0) to turnover percentage (20.2) was among the best in the country for point guards.

Wright set the single-season steals record in UC history (74). That sentence alone might be deserving of an MVP. This team won game after game by owning turnover margin. That stat funneled directly back to Cash.

Plus, he finished one of the best 3-point shooters (.371) on a team with a stockpile of them.

Maybe Wright's most ringing endorsement, however, would the job he did taking over leadership of the team during the brawl and suspensions. Mick Cronin recognized Cash repeatedly in the days and weeks after the incident for the leadership he displayed in picking up his teammates and asserting himself as the face of the team.

Whether he liked to admit it or not, this was Cash's team and they would go as far as he could take them. He took them to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 12 years. That's why he receives my vote.

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