In my opinion, the Crosstown Shootout is one of the top 5 best rivalries in present day sports. It is by far the most underrated on a national coverage basis even though it is the second biggest NCAA basketball rivalry behind Duke/UNC. They only play once a year, since they are not in a conference together, which helps make it an even bigger once a year spectacle (Note: When XU was an independent they faced twice a year from 1948 to 1958). The biggest drawback this year is they decided to schedule the game on NCAAF conference championship weekend. This has led to a tip time of 12:00pm ET. This game should be on an empty weekend so it can be a prime-time tip or on a weeknight to give it the extra special feel that it deserves. Final exams are coming up next week at UC and would have given them another reason to avoid scheduling the game for this week.
These are two of the top 20 college basketball programs in the country right now and separated by just a few miles. The schools have a divided fan base that typically do not like each other. Xavier is a private Catholic university while UC is a public state university. The teams have played 84 times with Cincinnati leading the battle 50-34. The UC Bearcats dominated the series from the mid 1950’s through the 1970s with Xavier only winning twice. Xavier has had a stretch of trying to even up the all-time record by winning 13 of the last 20 match-ups.
The 2011 Crosstown Shootout was quite memorable for all the wrong reasons. There was a nasty brawl with 9.6 seconds left in a blowout Xavier win. The brawl consisted of throats grabs, shoves, punches, basketball launched at someone’s head and a stomp on the back of the head. The three years prior to this brawl really started the build up to this blow up. During the match-ups from 2008-2010 there were 9 technical fouls, an ejection, UC clearing their bench early in a game and multiple heated incidents.
The current XU and UC teams seem to play with more respect and less hatred than in the past. This leads to a better experience as we focus on the game and rivalry and not a bunch of incidents that do not belong in basketball.
The Bearcats won last year’s match-up 86-78 even though Trevon Bluiett had an incredible performance with 40 points. The Bearcats have not won at the Cintas Center since 2001, which is their only victory there ever.
Hibachi’s Keys to the Game for Xavier:
- Can Tyrique Jones and Xavier stop Gary Clark? Clark had 24pts & 14 reb last year. Jones needs to stay out of foul trouble, help control the glass and keep Clark from getting easy buckets
- Xavier Freshman Naji Marshall and Paul Scrubbs must provide quality minutes. The Bearcats defense is no joke and can be exhausting working against to get open shots. The reserve freshman play decent sized roles for X and must show up like UC’s freshman Jarron Cumberland did last year.
- Xavier must avoid the 5-minute scoring drought. There seems to be a spot in each game that Xavier goes without scoring for 5 minutes and turns the ball over constantly. A stretch like this is unlikely to overcome when playing a team of UC’s caliber.
This should be a great game between two really strong teams that have National Championship aspirations and potential. These two teams are not fond of each other but seem to respect each other as well as the coaches. It should be a great hard fought game that comes down to the final minutes.
Mick Cronin described the game really well the other day with his comment: “I’ll tell you what I like. It’s a great game between two really good teams. It’s a chance to get a quality win. It also is going to make you a better team because you’re going to find out a lot about yourself.”
Chris Mack had a prediction for the game:
Mack also said to Pat Brennan “It’s not hard to focus when you play Cincinnati. I mean, it’s just not. The hard part is them (UC). They’re really good. I think we’re really good and I think it’s going to be an unbelievable game for the city.”
I grew up absolutely hating Bob Huggins and the Bearcats. I was a Duke and Xavier fan. My Xavier fan-hood grew significantly when I started attending Skip Prosser (RIP) basketball camps at Xavier. He was an amazing person and coach and then I met Bob Huggins and he was a complete dick. As soon as Huggins was ousted at UC my tune changed except for this game each year. Fuck UC on Saturday and then I will hope they succeed after. I have softened my stance in recent years on Huggins as he’s honest about who he is and the NCAA tourney game when De’sean Butler was injured you got to see the compassionate side of Huggins. My hatred, which will likely appear in many more blogs in the future, moved full force into UNC, UK and Nova.
DB’s Perspective From the Other Side of the Court
I’ve addressed this on the Nati Boys Podcast before, and it surprised Mac a little bit: I don’t have hate in my heart for Xavier like I used to. I was born and raised a Bearcat fan and at one point in my life, I hated everything about X. Whether it was David West’s bitch ass on the court (something I would never say to his face because he’d murder me just by flexing in my general direction) or Thad Matta getting rosy-cheeked on the sideline, something about their holier-than-thou attitude rubbed me the wrong way.
That hate is gone. I’m in my thirties now, and know a few Xavier fans that I can actually stomach. The fight on the court in 2011 that Hibachi previously mentioned really made me open my eyes and ask wtf we’re doing here in our city. So, I changed my views. I have found myself able to root for X as long as they aren’t playing UC. Xavier playing well is good for the rivalry, and good for Cincinnati as a city.
That being said, on Saturday, Hibachi, you can go f*ck yourself. I’m not confident at all in UC’s chances, being that this is their first real test of the season. I’ve only seen X play a few times this year, but they’re just as good as they have been the past few seasons.
DB’s predictions for the game:
- Macura will wear enough skin tight accessories under his uniform that Xavier’s equipment manager will have to make an emergency run to Dick’s just to restock before tip-off.
- UC will dominate the paint with their experienced bigs. Kyle Washington, Gary Clark and Nysier Brooks will all be too much for X to handle.
- In the future, Bearcat fans will call this the “Jacob Evans game.” He’s arguably UC’s best player, and will be all over the court for the Cats on Saturday. He’ll need to be if we expect to win.
The knock on many Mick Cronin teams has been that they’re great on defense, and leave much to be desired on offense. This year is different. He’s infused shooters into this team, and paired that with long, athletic guys who can still get after it on D. UC will need to shut down X in transition, and they’ll get the win.
UC pulls it out, and blows their load all over X’s chest.
Mac Hates Xavier
I hate Xavier. I hate everything about them. I refuse to grow up like DB. I have family that went to Xavier (I’m looking at you, mom) but that doesn’t temper my evil feelings towards Norwood College. X might be on Victory Pkwy, but they might as well name that bitch Sobbing Loser Ave by 3pm on Saturday afternoon. I’ll admit, the fight was stupid. It was embarrassing on both sides, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t move a little every time I see that famous picture of Kenny Frease bleeding out after Yancy Gates clocked him during the brawl.
I’m glad this year the talk around the game isn’t who will fight or how they need to increase security around the court. It’s about the game itself and how two of the best teams in the country are going to be squaring off for the pride of Cincinnati hoops. We’re going to be watching two Final Four quality teams play in a game that the entire city will have an interest in, and that’s pretty fucking cool if you think about it. There have been too many years where either X or UC are having down years and the game doesn’t seem to mean as much. That is, until Xavier upset UC, which seemed to happen too often there for a while. It’s no secret that Xavier has been better over the last ten years, and the friendly rival between Chris Mack and Mick Cronin (two homegrown guys themselves who can appreciate the true rivalry and what it means for this city) has gotten more interesting in the past few years with more at stake when they find themselves both ranked in the top 25.
Mac’s predictions for the game:
- Mick Cronin’s short guy complex finally takes it’s toll on him and he wears platform boots to try to get closer to Chris Mack’s height.
- UC struggles early after one or two big guys get in foul trouble.
- Jacob Evans takes over and gets the Cats within striking distance at halftime.
- JP Macura does something that pisses me off and leads to a heated conversation between Hibachi and me that puts our friendship at risk.
I agree with DB in regards to the knock on Mick Cronin over the years. This is his season to prove that he can take a strong offensive team deep into the tournament. The Xavier game is the kickoff to their tough stretch of their non-conference schedule (Florida and UCLA). If they want to be considered a possible Elite Eight or better team, they’ll need to win at least 2 of the 3 games during this stretch. I think they get started off 1-0 after their offense takes over the second half of the game.