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Cincinnati built to be near the top of American again next season

Jacob Evans was Cincinnati's leading scorer as a junior in 2017-18 and helps form a nucleus that should be formidable next season. William Purnell/USA TODAY Sports

Our recruit and return series continues with a look at the Cincinnati Bearcats, who lost on Sunday to Nevada. Here's a look at what 2018-19 could hold:

Possible 2018-19 starting five:

G: Justin Jenifer

G: Jarron Cumberland

G: Jacob Evans

F: Tre Scott

C: Nysier Brooks

Who is lost: Mick Cronin loses two mainstays of the frontcourt, 6-foot-8 Gary Clark and 6-9 Kyle Washington, both of whom were seniors. Clark had possibly the finest individual season of any player in the American in 2017-18, and Washington was perhaps the best rim defender on a team renowned for its interior defense. Replacing these two will be no small task, but the Bearcats do bring back just about everyone else.

Who is added: Currently, the lone member of UC's 2018 recruiting class is 6-2 Logan Johnson out of Mountain View, California, the No. 68 point guard nationally. Cronin might sign an additional recruit or two before the start of practice, but, again, UC played 10 players with just two rotation seniors last season. Absent any forthcoming departures or transfers, space is tight on this roster.

What it means for next season: Cincinnati will have a veteran nucleus in Evans, Cumberland and Jenifer. That's three returning starters right there, and Evans and Jenifer will be seniors. Evans is coming off his second straight season of efficient scoring from both sides of the arc as a 6-6 wing, and as a junior he showed considerable development in terms of distributing the ball. The 6-5 Cumberland became the starter at 2-guard as a sophomore and earned good marks on defense and inside the arc on offense while working to improve from 3-point range. Jenifer shared duties at the point with nominal sixth man Cane Broome, who came off the bench but effectively logged about as many minutes as the starter.

Trending: Neutral. It's hard to go up coming off possibly the program's best season in 15 years, but Cincinnati has the talent to stay at the top of the American along with Houston and Wichita State. In Evans, Cronin has a potential preseason American player of the year, and the Bearcats' defense has been consistently outstanding for close to a decade. Cincinnati will return and be heard from.