Cincinnati vs. Xavier: Previewing the 80th Crosstown Shootout

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Via Cincinnati Magazine.

Disclaimer: Technically the name has been weenied-down to the Crosstown “Classic” but there’s no way they’re getting me to call it that because that shit is stupid and makes my ears bleed.

Anywho, for the first time in over two decades the Cincinnati Bearcats and Xavier Musketeers will be facing each other on a neutral court. This year, and presumably in the seasons going forward, the game will be played in US Bank Arena downtown. When the move was announced I couldn’t believe the University of Cincinnati and Xavier would decide to fly so close to the sun. Not only have tensions between the fanbases never been higher but now the schools were willingly placing thousands of the most die hard fans under the same roof, letting them stand only feet away from each other, and giving some of them alcohol.

Words cannot begin to describe how idiotic that sounds.

My fingers are crossed that the fans are as tame as the teams intend to be but I fear that fights will breakout on the pavilion outside or even in the stands. That would almost assuredly be the death knell for this series as both schools would have no other choice but to call the annual game off. Hopefully nothing happens and both fanbases behave themselves but this could be a recipe disaster.

Let’s get to the main factors for each team:

Key Numbers

Without a surplus of known stars the Xavier Musketeers have become very careful with the basketball this year. They are running a more close to the vest offense this season trying to use good ball movement to create open shots. And it’s worked tremendously well. Xavier is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country boasting the 10th best shooting percentage from the floor and 39th best from beyond the arc. They will work to patiently wear down a defense and give themselves the best possible opportunity to knock down a shot.

For a Cincinnati team that thrives on creating points off of opposing team’s mistakes the Bearcats might find it difficult doing so tonight. I’d expect UC to use a half-court press to throw the Musketeers off rhythm and use their collectively long arms to deflect passes. That’s the hope anyways and would go a long way to disrupting an ultra-efficient Xavier team.

Players to Watch

Semaj Christon (#0): The main question for the Musketeers going into this season was how they were going to replace Tu Holloway. Well it seems that Chris Mack has plugged in the super-Frosh to shoulder the load and he has been extraordinary. Christon leads Xavier in points and assists per game and really sparks the Musketeer offense each and every night. I’m not quite sure who Mick Cronin tabs to slow this guy down, probably either Parker or Kilpatrick, but they will have their work cut out for them slowing Christon down. If they don’t he could be in for a big night.

Cashmere Wright vs. Dee Davis (#11): It’s point guard against point guard in this matchup with the onus on Cashmere Wright to beat his opposition on both sides of the basketball. Out of sheer intrigue I’m extremely excited to see the clash between two players who manage their respective offenses well and don’t make many mistakes.

Final Thoughts and Prediction

After Xavier lost so much talent from last season either via graduation or transfer, it looked like the Musketeers and Bearcats were trending in opposite directions. I had originally figured Cincinnati would win easily but Chris Mack has done a nice job putting the right pieces in place to keep the XU basketball machine rolling. However this is Xavier’s toughest test to date as the Bearcats are clicking on all cylinders with no signs of slowing down. There’s just too many things going right for Cincinnati to drop this one. ‘Cats win.

Cincinnati: 77

Xavier: 72