In no other conference in America is point guard play more vital to a team's success than in the Big East.
Even with the ever-changing complexions of the conference due to realignment, as long as the Big East remains standing, it will continue to be a physical culmination of programs that are heavily dependent upon the floor general to dictate whether or not a team is successful.
Look no further at just last season and which teams enjoyed success on the floor: Peyton Siva of Louisville, Anthony Collins of South Florida, and even the progression of the Providence with Vincent Council, have all been the main reason for its team enjoying some sort of success on the court.
The Big East Conference has seen is bevy of high-level point guards over the past 20 years. Recently it has been dominated by either bucket-gathering scoring shooters who have been forced to hover over the basketball, or blue-collar bigs that force their presence in the paint. However, a team's success has heavily depended upon how sturdy of a point guard that leads their respective team throughout the season.
Look no further than last year's Pittsburgh men's basketball squad. After losing Travon Woodall to a nagging groin and abdominal injury the Pitt squad was forced to move scoring guard, Ashton Gibbs, to the point guard spot. The transition was not an easy one for the star and it was the first time that a Pittsburgh-coached squad under Jamie Dixon did not reach the NCAA Tournament.
Fast forward to the 2012-2013 campaign and with a rejuvenated and healthy Travon Woodall; Pitt looks to be back in the fight for a Big East Championship crown. I am not here to convert the Bearcat faithful into Pittsburgh advocates, but to point out the tremendous need for a sturdy presence at the lead guard position; a position that is held securely by senior, Cashmere Wright, on the Cincinnati men's basketball team.
Cashmere Wright has seen his numbers progress and get better in nearly every statistical category in each of his seasons as a Cincinnati Bearcat.
It seems like he has made another jump up in his game in his final year in the 513 as a lead guard that has excellent ball security and is not afraid to step up and knock down a crucial shot during crunch time. After evaluating the lead guard during Cincinnati's Las Vegas escape over the Thanksgiving weekend, it seems that this Bearcats ballclub has a lot to look forward to come March, not just because of all-Big East guard, Sean Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick can score in bunches, just like he did against Iowa State. Having Cashmere Wright alongside such a scoring punch really forces defenses to consider more than Kilpatrick for all 40 minutes. The chemistry that the two guards have between each other is a scary matchup for opponents and it is something worth noting entering postseason play. A big time scorer without a solid point guard is like having a Porsche and filling it up with regular, unleaded fuel: nearly much useless unless you have the right fuel to make it purr.
As already stated, Ashton Gibbs without his point guard was a disaster last season. But guys like Gerry McNamara alongside Carmelo Anthony and Shabazz Napier alongside Kemba Walker during their championship seasons have been overshadowed to a degree. Each point guard allowed for the ball to enter into the primary scoring option with the least amount of pressure possible on that star scorer.
Each team celebrated amazing seasons and the same can be possible with this year's Cincinnati ball club. A team in the NCAA Tournament, either one that is a heavy favorite, or a savvy underdog, usually has a chance of success because of past experience and a solid set of guards.
Oregon performance reveals pathway to future success
Though questions remain with the bigs, Cashmere Wright can carry this team up into March allowing for post player maturation. Players like Cheikh Mbodj and Justin Jackson will smoothly acclimate. Take the Oregon game for instance; Kilpatrick was not having the best scoring game as he has had in the past and the bigs were a non-factor throughout most of the game. Wright sensed the urgency of the situation and took it upon himself to take the bull by the horns and to keep his team afloat. Hitting five 3's and taking the pressure off of his fellow teammates showed that the Georgia-native was more than ready for the big stage and proved once again that this Cincinnati squad is capable of making some noise come March because of its leadership out top.
Cincinnati has now started the season undefeated, showing off a few cupcake wing, but also with two giant wins over a Pac 12 and Big 12 squad. The Bearcats have a pretty intriguing roster. JaQuon Parker adds another boost of experience to the backcourt. Titus Rubles brings a scoring punch off the bench. Jermaine Sanders brings the toughness of the New York blacktops to the hardwood, and Justin Jackson brings a mixture of athleticism and versatility to the floor that can be relied upon more and more as the season progresses.
This Cincinnati team, with the continued seasoning, can make some major noise, not just during the Big East conference slate and at Madison Square Garden, but also deep into March and possibly even running into the month of April.
In my full evaluations of the senior point guard, I fully believe that he is the type of guy that can have the ball in his hands come crunch time, and make the proper decisions in putting his team in the best situation to win the big game; whether that be finding the hot hand, or taking it upon himself to win the game off his own stroke.
All a team needs to do is win four games in the tournament to make it to the Final Four. Sure there are plenty of questions that remain on this Cincinnati squad, especially with the degree of potency of the bigs in the frontcourt. To be fair every team has its question marks, especially this time of the year. Wright has all of the leadership qualities and experience to lead this Big East squad to the best season that the Bearcats have enjoyed ever since the days of University of Cincinnati-great, Kenyon Martin.