Previewing the city’s biggest rivalry
By: Adam Tortelli ~Staff Writer~
Feb. 18 marks another chapter in one of the greatest rivalries in all of college basketball as Xavier men’s basketball takes on its crosstown rival, the University of Cincinnati (UC) Bearcats.
The matchup between Cincinnati’s two premier college basketball programs dates back to the 1928 season when UC came to play at St. Xavier College’s state-of-the-art Schmidt Fieldhouse.
After taking a hiatus for roughly 15 years, the two schools began an annual meeting in which Cincinnati would dominate for the next half of a century.
However, Xavier has responded justly, winning 12 of the past 18 matchups.
Now, for the first time in three years, the Crosstown Shootout is returning to college campuses as a result of the brawl that took place in December of 2011.
From that infamous incident, which relegated the game to neutral sites, only a few players remain to see the Shootout brought back to campuses.
Xavier’s senior point guard Dee Davis played sparingly in the game while Bearcat senior forward Jermaine Sanders did not see the court until unnecessarily partaking in the “extra-curricular” activities.
Sanders was later dismissed from the university in 2012 for an off-court issue, but has since returned after playing two seasons at Trinity Valley College in Texas.
Only on the rarest of occasions have the two teams entered the game with such postseason implications on the line.
Xavier (16-10) and Cincinnati (17-8) are both looking for momentum that will carry through the rest of the regular season and hopefully result in a bid to the NCAA tournament.
In years past, this marquee matchup has occurred prior to conference play and neither team was in need of a statement victory other than in terms for hometown bragging rights.
While all experts are predicting the two rivals to make the big dance in March, recent slumps have both teams on their heels and focus levels turned to the highest setting.
Both teams have struggled to be complete on both ends of the floor this season.
In all, the Bearcats’ defense and lack of ability to put the ball through the hoop paired with Xavier’s scoring excellence and occasionally lackluster defense has local enthusiasts salivating for what should be a classic in the making.
Xavier offensive prowess will be leaning heavily on the balanced attack of leading scorers freshman forward Trevon Blueitt and senior center Matt Stainbrook and a slew of productive bench players.
Recent surges by sophomore guard Myles Davis and forward Jalen Reynolds will also play a significant roll if the Musketeers hope to overcome Cincinnati’s stifling defense.
Cincinnati will look to sophomore guard Troy Caupain and junior big man Octavius Ellis to make big plays for the Bearcats early on.
The Bearcats entire lineup of post players is different from what Xavier saw at U.S. Bank Arena last season and will be a match up to keep an eye on.
While the rivalry returns to home turf, the intensity is sure to be as high as ever. Will Wolkoff, a University of Cincinnati student who hosts a Bearcats talk show on Bearcast Media, discussed the energy that will be alive during the game on his show.
“If you think that nothing’s going to go on either on the floor or in the stands, I think you’re out of your mind,” Wolkoff said.
Editor’s note: Xavier defeated Cincinnati, 59-57. Senior guard Dee Davis led the Musketeers with 16 points and went 5-5 from 3-point range. See the Feb. 25 issue for full coverage of the game.