Crosstown Shootout

Tonight is the night when a lot of eyes turn to the Queen City to watch one of the best rivalries in college basketball: The Crosstown Shootout.
For me, there are a few important things to make rivalries really, really good. Proximity is big. Cincinnati and Xavier’s campuses are approximately 3.5 miles apart (according to MapQuest). So, proximity: check. Next is importance. In the grand scheme of things, this game means very little as far as either season is concerned–no conference implications and I don’t remember when both teams were ranked nationally coming into the match-up. But it means so much to the city of Cincinnati, so…importance: check. Third is passion. Did you watch last year’s Shootout? There’s passion in this game. The atmosphere surrounding UC/XU is unlike anything you’ll see. I’ve personally been to two Shootouts in my life (tonight will make three), and each of my previous experiences have been incredible. The fans want to win. The players want to win. When my XU fan friends start referencing the big Xavier upsets of the ’90s and early 2000s, I say it’s because UC didn’t care just to piss them off. But that’s not the case. This game matters so much to both teams. So, passion: check. This rivalry is, in my opinion, of the absolute best college basketball has to offer. This NBC Sports article has it as one of the four best in the nation.
And here are my top five, in no particular order:
–Duke vs. North Carolina
–Kentucky vs. Louisville
–Cincinnati vs. Xavier
–Kansas vs. Missouri
–Kansas vs. Kansas State
Three of those five have conference implications, which means the games’ importance is enormous and that the teams play twice each year. That’s awesome. Could you imagine if UC and Xavier were in the same league? With all the fire in this game already, that would just be incredible. TCU made it 17 teams in the Big East. Why not let XU make it 18? As that little kid in Angels in the Outfield always says: “Hey, it could happen.”

Now to break down tonight’s game. I’ve seen the Bearcats at eight- and nine-point favorites. That kinda bodes well for XU. The Muskies have pretty much played the underdog role for as long as I can remember, minus the last three seasons. Now, with Mick Cronin’s Bearcats at 14-0 and ranked 25/24 in the nation, Xavier is back to its usual spot. They’ve dealt with the underdog role extremely well in the past, upsetting the ‘Cats several times, including twice when Cincy was ranked #1 back in the ’90s. As I told a friend of mine, there couldn’t have been a worse time for UC to crack the Top 25.
That being said, almost everything about this game seems to work in Cincinnati’s favor. The Bearcats’ depth is the major advantage. XU has relied heavily on Terrell (I refuse to call him “Tu”) Holloway this season. They’ve really got no one outside of Holloway and Mark Lyons in the backcourt. If I remember correctly, Chris Mack had to go to a walk-on for almost 15 minutes of the Muskies’ loss to Florida. Even though Xavier will almost definitely have the best player on the floor in Holloway, Cincinnati’s ability to have more good players on the floor throughout the game could prove huge for Mick’s Bearcats.
But Cincinnati really hasn’t been challenged yet. This team has faced little to no adversity all season long. Sure, they had a mini-slump against a mediocre Oklahoma team and had to stay strong down the stretch to win that game…but Xavier has played the likes of Florida, Butler and Gonzaga. The Musketeers lost two of those three, but they were able to find out how they stack up against quality competition. Cincinnati hasn’t really gotten that chance yet. If this game’s tight down the stretch, I think Xavier has a slight edge. And if it comes down to it, UC needs to do a hell of a lot better from the line than they did in last year’s game.
The teams have two common opponents: Miami (OH) and Seton Hall. Both teams beat the Pirates, but Cincinnati beat them more convincingly than XU. And UC beat Miami–something X couldn’t do. I give Cincy the edge based on that fact, but there’s more to it than that. When Xavier took on Seton Hall, the team was still trying to figure out how to work without leading scorer Jeremy Hazell who had just gone down with an injury. Cincinnati played them after they had a chance to figure it out. As for Miami, both teams played the Redhawks at Millett Hall, but Cincy beat them by 16 as opposed to XU losing by 11. If that’s not enough for you to like the Bearcats, Charlie Coles (Miami’s head coach) gives UC the “slight edge” in tonight’s battle at Fifth-Third Arena.
Like I said, I think UC should win this game when you look at all the statistics, figures and facts. But in this game, as anyone from Kenyon Martin to Steve Logan to David West to Skip Prosser to Bob Huggins can tell you, it isn’t about who should win. It really comes down to who wants to win. The way this Bearcat team has played so far this season makes me think they will want it and want it pretty damn bad.
Mick Cronin really needs this win, too. He’s 0-3 against the Muskies during his time in Clifton. A lot of people (myself included) aren’t sold on Mick just yet. A win tonight could go a long way as far as converting the doubters. A loss could mean–even at 14-1–that he gets crucified by those people who don’t like him (I won’t be one of them).
UC needs this win. In their first game against a quality squad, the Bearcats need to prove themselves. With the toughest part of their schedule just around the corner, 15-0 with a ‘W’ tonight would go a long way as far as confidence. Mick played this soft schedule to help the team mesh and learn to play together before things got tough. Tonight we find out if that’s worked. A win tonight could translate to wins against the likes of Villanova, Notre Dame, St. John’s and West Virginia later on in January. I really believe that.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m rooting for the Bearcats. So, here are five Musketeers some guy loves to hate. I’m totally with him on Chris Mack. I hate that guy. Watching his classless antics at last year’s Shootout–you know, when he was helping to start a fight between all the players–it’s really easy for me to hate him. I really hope that Xavier is no longer a “stepping stone program” for coaches, solely based on the fact that I don’t want Chris Mack to get a job anywhere else.
In conclusion, enjoy the game tonight. You won’t find one like it anywhere else in the country. I love the Crosstown Shootout. Go Bearcats!

Now for a major link dump because I don’t have time to really think…I’ve got a basketball game to go to!
–I’m sure everyone has seen the video of the homeless guy with the great voice. And I’m sure you heard he got a job (which makes it seem that radio stations actually do just “hire people off the street). But, more importantly, this guy looks exactly like that Jobu thing Pedro Cerrano prays to in Major League.

–Here are the 13 “most talked-about” commercials of 2010.
Here’s my favorite of those 13:

But this one was my favorite of the year. “Y’all didn’t even know he was a virgin until he was 28. And now…Roll Tide.”

Tiger Woods 2012 will have August National. I am jacked.

–And to take you into the evening, the Blues mascot performing to some hits from the year that was. Enjoy…

A lot more to come later. I’ve gotta get down to Fifth Third. Go Bearcats!
Carpe Diem.
Altiora.

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~ by nchaney3 on January 6, 2011.

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