Cincinnati Bearcats and the art of stealing possessions

Of the nation’s top-64 offensive teams*, only one (Cincinnati) shoots both 2s and 3s worse than the NCAA average (they’re also 314th in FT%). Yet Cincinnati is 50th in offensive efficiency, and was 5th in the Big East.

*why 64? It’s March!

So how do they do it?

It’s all about stealing possessions. The Bearcats do two things really well. They take care of the ball (10th nationally) and they crash the offensive glass (43rd). This enables them to have more effective possessions than the other team, as well as extending the possessions they already have.

On defense – especially since going with 4-guard sets – they use turnovers as a secondary offense. Few teams are better at scoring off turnovers than the Bearcats. And on offense , they gameplan for the offensive rebound.

To the video!

In this first play Shelden McClellan of Texas (circled) is attempting to drive, but Cincinnati uses excellent help defense (blue arrows) to cut it off.


Texas resets with J’Covan Brown (circled) at the top looking for a screen. Jaquon Parker follows the screener and is apparently in position to hedge or switch the screen.


But this is Cincinnati, so instead they trap, which leads to a turnover and an easy bucket.


The video:


In this next play Myck Kabongo (circled) is driving off a screen and is reading Yancy Gates (blue arrow). If Gates commits to Kabongo than it’s an easy dump-down to Clint Chapman (red arrow).


But Kabongo (circled) is indecisive and passes too late. The ball ricochets off of Gates’ foot (blue arrow). Note Sean Kilpatrick (red arrow) who is in perfect position to see this play developing.


Cincinnati is constantly ready for opportunistic scoring chances, and here Kilpatrick (red arrow) races up court as soon as he sees the ball hit Gates’ foot. This leads to more free points.


The video:


Now on to the offensive rebounding. Here Dion Dixon (circled) has the ball and is looking for Sean Kilpatrick (red arrow) who is running a curl-cut off a Jermaine Sanders screen.


This frees Kilpatrick, and this is when Cincinnati is at their most dangerous. Yancy Gates (red arrow) holds position on the block while Jonathan Holmes (blue arrow) has to rotate to cut off Kilpatrick. This means that Gates’ man now has to cover both players on the block.


Kilpatrick dumps it to Sanders (cricled) who puts up a contested shot. But the Bearcats put up lots of contested shots. Here he has two Cinicinnati players with position on the weakside, including Gates (red arrow) who gets the putback dunk.

The video:


In this play, Gates (circled) is shooting a short jumper. Texas (blue arrows) has three players in position for the defensive board. But rebounding is a man’s game. Watch Jaquon Parker (red arrow).


The video:


In our final play Sean Kilpatrick (circled) drives the lane. Three Cincinnati players (arrows) are in position to help him out.


But none do. Instead they play specifically for the offensive rebound (arrows). Here, Kilpatrick’s shot is deflected, but it doesn’t matter, because the Bearcats have position.


The video: