If you live in Cincinnati, follow sports, have a heartbeat, and do not have your head buried deeply in the Queen City soil, then you know that the Crosstown Shootout is a big deal. A huge deal. UC fans live and work with Xavier fans. Xavier fans live and work with UC fans. Both fan bases love their hometown…but only one institution proudly displays its city’s identity as a moniker for all the world to see – the University of Cincinnati. Fair warning Norwood State fans, biased reporting forthcoming.
The bottom line is that this game is the most heated basketball rivalry the Queen City has to offer, and tensions between the schools have grown over the years. Mark Titus (a former Buckeye) had this to say about the rivalry last year:
When I say that these two schools hate each other, I mean they haaaaate each other. I don’t even think it’s an “I cheer against you, but I also respect you” hatred. It’s full-blown “kiss my ass” mixed with some “no, seriously — kiss my ass.” The rivalry is so heated that the people in charge stopped calling it the “Shootout” and used “Crosstown Classic” for a couple of years because they thought “Shootout” promoted violence.
It’s a big game, both on and off the court for those that call the 5-1-3 home.
First, the basics…
The Bearcats will enter the Cintas Center (located in the heart of Norwood) to face the Muskies on their home court, with the game tipping at 5:30 PM. The undefeated Xavier Musketeers (8-0) are ranked #12 in the AP poll, and #13 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Bearcats have one blemish on their record, having lost to Butler in a last second heartbreaker. UC is ranked #23 in the AP poll, and #22 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Vegas has Xavier as a 4.5 point favorite.
Next, the what ifs…
If UC’s frontcourt plays aggressive (and UC’s backcourt feeds the low post), then the Bearcats may sneak out of Norwood with a victory. Senior forward Octavius Ellis and sophomore phenom Gary Clark must have big games. Both have great frames and athleticism. I expect Ellis to play hungry early as he best understands the importance of this game.
If Xavier’s scorers get hot, it could be a long evening for the Bearcats. Xavier has some perimeter shooters that can fill it up. Trevon Bluiett averages around 16 points a game, and guards Myles Davis (not this guy) and Edmond Sumner both average in double figures. All three of those athletes ought to be of concern to the UC faithful. The Bearcats’ one loss was to a Butler squad that shot the ball well, and UC’s perimeter defenders have struggled at times early this season.
Bearcats by a mile. Why? Because I’m biased. Also, I think guards Troy Caupain and Farad Cobb will get hot early and stay hot. I think Kevin Johnson will play better in this game than he has all year. I think Shaq Thomas will play out of his mind, and use his athleticism to chase down loose balls. I think Octavius Ellis wants to win in the last shootout of his UC career more than anything else. I think Gary Clark is a jewel of a player, and his confidence grows by the week.
Time will tell. Go Bearcats!
By Brian Fox