CINCINNATI– John Brannen tucks himself into a bed of expectations in the evening, breathing in a humidifier of doubt. In the early morning, he eats a bowl of steel-cut hypotheticals and washes it down with a cold Diet plan Mountain Dew.

For a second straight offseason, Brannen added 7 brand-new players to the Bearcats guys’s basketball program, replacing over half the lineup. It was a method of survival last year, the civilian casualties that features a coaching change and a fervid transfer portal. Wading into a shortened offseason with a string of unexpected departures, Brannen handled to reel in a few overlooked freshmen and transfers seeking to climb up a rung or more greater. It resulted in 20 wins and a share of the American Athletic Conference regular-season title.

This year’s overhaul has been more intentional, computed. Brannen probably wasn’t banking on having to fill another 7 areas, though he did have the benefit of a longer runway, with his …