Xavier vs. Cincinnati
Saturday December 11th, 5:30 pm
For those of you who aren’t from Cincinnati, or maybe aren’t a college basketball junkie you might think this is just any old close school rivalry on Saturday between Xavier and Cincinnati. You’d be correct in the thought that these schools were close to each other, three miles apart to be exact, but this rivalry is much more than that.
There is a certain type of dislike and intensity that comes from this rivalry that separates it from other great ones, the biggest display of that was “the fight” in 2011. December 10th 2011 at Xavier’s home court the Cintas Center an all out brawl started between the two teams at the end of a Xavier blowout 76-53. Numerous players received punches to the head, basketballs thrown at them, and even kicked while on the ground, this wasn’t any old pushing and shoving match.
The fight sent shockwaves through the nation and college basketball being a hot topic for weeks to come; even in the postgame interviews players from both teams were still trash talking each other. Each team suspended 4 players, and had to apologize on national television along with each schools Athletic Director. The fight basically ruined Xavier’s year, while being ranked 8th in the nation at the time they fell in the rankings after the fight and lost in the Sweet 16 even though many thought this team would go further.
The Crosstown Shootout was then named the Crosstown Classic and the games were to be played at a neutral site for the next 4 years, student and player behavior was closely monitored and essentially was on probation. With both the students and players acting in a sportsman like way it was decided to bring back the Crosstown Shootout to campus. This year is the first year the game will be played at Xavier since the fight back in 2011.
Now that we know what this game really means to both schools, lets look at some actual basketball facts. Xavier comes into the game 9-0 and ranked 12th in the nation. Xavier has some quality out of conference wins already with the likes of on the road at Michigan, and a thanksgiving tournament championship with wins against Alabama, USC, and most notably a 29-point win against a good Dayton team.
In the last three games Xavier has won by an average of 31 points albeit they played some weak teams, it’s good to see them demolish the teams they should handle easily. Much like Xavier, Cincinnati is having a strong start to the year going 8-1 in their first 9 games with their lone loss a 2-point loss to Butler who is a very good team I think. Unlike Xavier though Cincinnati’s schedule up until now is not as impressive playing many teams below the top 200 mark, but to show they are handling their business in easier games hints that they can play with strong teams too.
Cincinnati is always known for their defense and rightfully so, this year they are 15th in the nation is defensive efficiency, which oh by the way is one spot behind Xavier, but besides their defense Cincinnati is strong and not turning the ball over on offense and rebounding well. Their shooting from 3-point land is 36.6%, which is above average and their inside the arc shooting is also above average at a 53.6% rate.
Xavier this year really has both the offense and defense clicking right now, but Xavier’s biggest strength this year could be depth. The best rebounder in the nation James Farr doesn’t even start for Xavier and JP Macura averages 10 points a game coming over the bench shooting 35% from beyond the arc, he also agitates any and everyone he plays against. On offense it’s all about ball movement and getting it to whoever is open, Chris Mack was asked who the best player on his team this year was and he responded “The open one” and that’s exactly how Xavier plays.
At all times Xavier has 5 guys on the floor that can really score from anywhere. Whether is redshirt Freshman point guard Edmond Sumner slicing to the basket, Trevon Bluiett knocking down shots from well, anywhere he wants or James Farr going and grabbing a rebound and putting it back up Xavier will test this Cincinnati defense and see how good they are.
Keys to the Game
1. Staying Calm- We all know this is going to be an intense game, first game back on campus since the fight maybe heightens the intensity a little more, but Xavier needs to find a way to stay in control and don’t let their emotions get the best of them. The refs have been tight this year and it won’t be any different for this game.
2. Rebounding- Both teams like to play a tough style of basketball and in a game full of emotion and intensity rebounding can really help get some momentum going, or slow you down if you’re weak on the glass. Whoever is tougher inside and rebounds better has an advantage in this game.
3. Protect the ball- Cincinnati is a good defensive team that likes to force turnovers, while guards Edmond Sumner and Larry Austin Jr. have been good this year, they sometimes turn the ball over a little more than they should. They need to focus on protecting the ball and not trying to make too much happen with flashy plays.
When it comes down to it, no matter how much better one team is better than the other any rivalry game is hard to predict, anything can happen when two teams that have such a strong dislike for each other faceoff but I think Xavier will pull this one out. Overall I think Xavier is the better team but the thing that separates them from Cincinnati is their bench play, if Xavier gets into foul trouble they can recover pretty easily. Also Xavier at Cintas Center is basically unbeatable with a .888 winning percentage at home, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin has won at Cintas once. This game has the potential to be a blowout but Cincinnati should keep it close. Lets hope for a good clean (no fight) basketball game.
Xavier 75 Cincinnati 68
Xavier University Class of 2018