Alex Frank | Sports Director

The University of Cincinnati Bearcats men’s basketball team was chosen to finish second out of 12 teams in the American Athletic Conference Coaches Preseason Poll unveiled Monday at the conference’s men’s basketball media days in Philadelphia.

Coaches Preseason Poll
Team (1st-Place Votes) — (Points)

  1. UCF (6) — 114
  2. Cincinnati (3) — 107
  3. Houston (2) — 103
  4. Memphis (1) — 85
  5. UConn — 75
  6. Temple — 74
  7. SMU — 63
  8. Wichita State — 60
  9. Tulsa — 48
  10. Tulane — 23
  11. ECU — 22
  12. USF — 18

Poll courtesy of theamerican.org.

Cincinnati comes into the 2018-19 season as the reigning regular-season and conference tournament champions and will look to extend a streak of eight consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.

They’ll have to it, though, without three of their top four scorers from last year’s team.

Seniors Gary Clark and Kyle Washington both graduated last spring and junior Jacob Evans III left school early to enter the NBA Draft. Evans was drafted in the first round by the Golden State Warriors, while Clark was signed by the Houston Rockets after going undrafted. Washington is now playing for a pro team in Turkey, according to head coach Mick Cronin.

Cronin will lean heavily this year on junior guard Jarron Cumberland, who was named to the preseason all-conference first team and the list of 20 players comprising the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year preseason watch list.

Preseason Player of the Year
B.J. Taylor, guard – UCF

Preseason Freshman of the Year
Nate Hinton, guard – Houston

Preseason All-Conference
First Team
Jalen Adams, guard – UConn *
Jarron Cumberland, guard – Cincinnati
Jeremiah Martin, guard – Memphis
Quinton Rose, guard – Temple
B.J. Taylor, guard – UCF

Second Team ^
Corey Davis, Jr., guard – Houston
Tacko Fall, center – UCF
Jarrey Foster, guard – SMU
Markis McDuffie, forward – Wichita State
Jahmal McMurray, guard – SMU
Sterling Taplin, guard – Tulsa

Team and award listings courtesy of theamerican.org.

The latter of the awards is given to the nation’s top shooting guard, which will be announced at The College Basketball Awards presented by Wendy’s in Los Angeles on Friday, April 12, 2019.

Cumberland, a Wilmington, Ohio native, started all 36 games last year for the Bearcats, averaging 11.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game a year after being named the AAC Co-Sixth Man of the Year as a freshman during the 2016-17 season.

University of Bearcats shooting guard Jarron Cumberland shows off his championship hat after the Bearcats won the 2018 American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament in March in Orlando, Fla. Mark Brown | Getty Images

With the departures of the three aforementioned players, Cumberland is the leading returning scorer and will have to assume a larger role than he had in his first two years.

He told Shannon Russell of The Athletic in June that he didn’t feel good about that larger role because it could mean having to talk to the press more frequently this year, something he has always been reluctant to do — but something he is going to have to get used to.

Cumberland did show signs of what he could do as the team’s leading man in both the conference and NCAA tournaments last year by averaging 14.0 points over five postseason games, including a team- and career-high 27 points against Georgia State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

In the second-round loss against Nevada, Cumberland had 17 points before fouling out with just over four minutes remaining.

Cronin said keeping Cumberland on the floor will be another key this season, as he told Justin Williams of The Athletic last week that the most important thing is to keep him out of foul trouble early in games.

Cumberland understands that has to be disciplined and know he can’t pick up a dumb foul.

“I can still be aggressive,” Cumberland told The Athletic. ” I just have to be smart with what I’m doing on defense.”

As a team, the Bearcats held opponents to just 57.5 points per game last season, and defense has been something the Bearcats have always relied on and most likely will again this season.

The Bearcats begin their 2018-19 season on Wednesday, Nov. 7 when they open newly renovated Fifth Third Arena against Ohio State. The 6 p.m. game will be televised on ESPN2.

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