Musketeers look to retake bragging rights at home against rival Bearcats
By Luke Feliciano | Sports editor
The most highly anticipated game of the season is nearing its arrival. Xavier men’s basketball clashes with rival Cincinnati for bragging rights at the Crosstown Shootout this weekend.
The annual meeting between the teams, which is now on its 87th installment, returns back to Cintas Center in the alternating venue format.
Here’s what to expect from the rivalry game Saturday evening.
1. KenPom tells the tale of the tape
According to kenpom.com, a popular method of ranking college basketball teams based on advanced metrics, this game has the expectation of being a stout defensive battle. The Musketeers, who are currently ranked No. 27, have an adjusted defense that’s rated 16th in the country. Adjusted defense measures the number of points a team would give up in 100 possessions against the average offense. Cincinnati, meanwhile, sits at No. 51 in the KenPom rankings with an adjusted defense that ranks 33rd in the nation.
There is more disparity in offensive production. KenPom’s adjusted offense has Xavier as the 47th best team while Cincinnati ranks nearly double that number at the 83rd spot.
2. NCAA Tournament
Both of these teams have a long history of being perennial NCAA Tournament contenders. This year shouldn’t be any different, with Xavier picked to finish third in the Big East. Cincinnati, likewise, was tabbed to place third in the American Athletic Conference (AAC).
In addition, both teams have a player on their conference’s First Team. Xavier junior forward Naji Marshall represents the Musketeers, while Jarron Cumberland, who was voted the AAC Preseason Player of the Year headlines, the Bearcats.
Xavier currently stands at a 7-1 and plays Green Bay at home on Wednesday. Cincinnati, who has a 5-2 record, played Vermont on Tuesday. This early-season tilt before conference play has strong implications for March because it is a built-in out of conference game that adds to strength of schedule.
3. Starting a streak
Historically, the Crosstown Shootout is chock full of win streaks between both teams. In the last decade, Xavier has owned the matchup with a 5-4 advantage. After Saturday, the series will either end up being tied at five games apiece for the decade or will go to a 6-4 edge for the Musketeers. Overall, Cincinnati is ahead in the series 51-35.
Xavier won three straight matchups from 2013-15, but Cincinnati won last year at Fifth Third Arena in a decisive 62-47.
The last three meetings have been decided by eight or more points.
Luckily for the Musketeers, home court advantage will be on their side. Xavier has a strong winning percentage at Cintas Center, which is ranked as one of the toughest venues to play at. The Musketeers hold a 7-1 record against Cincinnati when the game is played at home. If the Crosstown Shootout numbers are any indication of Xavier’s success at its on-campus arena, Saturday’s game should be favorable.