Xavier Week – Time for Bearcats to Zip ‘Em Up!

On Wednesday, February 18th at 7 pm the Xavier Musketeers will enter a sold out Fifth Third Arena to take on UC in the Crosstown Shootout.  The game will air on ESPN2 this year.  I think we can all agree, the heated rivalry is much better as a home-and-home compared to being played at U.S. Bank Arena (unless of course you are a fan of RC Cola or outdated athletic facilities).

History:  The history of the Crosstown Shootout goes back to 1928 when the University of Cincinnati helped St. Xavier College dedicate its brand new, $350,000 Schmidt Fieldhouse, which had a capacity of 4,500. Since that time, the schools have grown in number and prestige, and so to has the rivalry between them.

Rivalry:  The schools are separated by just 3 miles in Cincinnati, making the rivalry one of the closest and most unique major rivalries in the country.  ESPN’s own Jay Bilas was quoted as saying, “Cincinnati and Xavier have created a rivalry that is unparalleled when it comes to outright passion and civic division.”  In 1990 a local TV station refused to interrupt their coverage of the game for the State of the Union address.

All-Time Record:  The teams began playing on an annual basis beginning in 1945. UC leads the all-time series, 49-32.  X, unfortunately, has won 12 of the last 18 games, including last year’s blowout 64-47.  Here is a link showing every game and a history of the rivalry.

Xavier This Year:  X is 16-9 on the year, and like the Bearcats, have struggled mightily on the road.  They average nearly 77 points per game.  X is 19th in the nation in assists per game with 17.1!   It’s safe to say they know how to pass to generate easy, open looks.  While they are strong on the offensive side of the court, they struggle mightily on defense.

Key Players: Freshman forward #5 Trevon Bluiett leads the team with 12.4 points, 4.7 boards, and 1.9 assists per game.  Uber driver and senior center #40 Matt Stainbrook is close behind with 12.1 points, 6.7 boards, and 2.3 assists per game.  Stainbrook has a big body, and should present some interesting match-up problems for UC’s bigs.  Ellis may not be wide enough to defend him in the post.  Likewise, Clark may not be experienced enough to contend with his physical presence.  DeBerry, then, might get some additional minutes because he has the frame to push Stainbrook around in the paint.  The loss of big-bodied Quadri Moore matters all the more when facing opponents with size on their front line.

Defense:  Defensively, Xavier flat struggles.  The Musketeers are ranked 212th in scoring defense, giving up a whopping 68.3 points per game, compared to UC at 5th (55). X is ranked 222nd in blocks and steals (2.9) compared to the Cats at 9th (5.8).  X allows opponents to shoot the ball 43.6% from the field, and is ranked 155th in the country in overall defensive efficiency compared to UC at 15th.

Prediction:  This is a rivalry game people, and one of the most heated ones in the country (just ask Yancy Gates…and Kenny Frease).  What does that mean?  That means you can probably throw the stats and predictions out the window.  Emotions and stamina will prove to be the most important.  Both teams are rebounding from losses.  In the last game against Tulane at home, UC looked lethargic – scoring only 13 (count them 13) points in the first half.  The Bearcats must reach deep into their reserves to raise their energy level.  Emotions, too, will likely play a role.  UC’s roster is big on upside, and thin on experience.  Will the younger guys let the environment, rumors, and passion of the game get the best of them?

Senior leaders such as Jermaine Sanders and Matt “Uber” Stainbrook have to lead by putting their teams on their back to win.  I expect this to be an all-around great game.  UC should be prepared after getting bludgeoned last year.

My hope is that the Bearcats win this Crosstown Shootout by a five point margin – 65-60 – and have a huge second half in front of an electric home crowd.  But if UC does not play absolute shutdown defense and allows X to pass the ball freely and collect offensive rebounds, this could become a very frustrating night.

Get some Skyline chilidogs and watch this one on the tube if you weren’t lucky enough to get the hottest ticket in the city! #BearcatNation

By Andy Smith and Brian Fox