The Layup Line: Xavier

Jamie Sabau

Shootout or Classic, I don't care what you call it. Just don't call it over. Not yet. It's rivalry week in the 5-1-3.

There are things in life that elicit an automatic response. You pull up to a fast food drive-thru and you expect someone to take your order. You eat a Chipotle burrito and you spend a few extra minutes in the bathroom. You hear Adam Levine on the radio and you turn it off. You know, things like that.

I haven't encountered a person this week that didn't have an opinion on a Shootout-related topic. Should the annual contest continue? Should it remain at a neutral site? Will Mick Cronin call off the dogs before halftime? Inquiring minds want to know...

And that's why you're here. Week after week, I pack the preview stories with facts you undoubtedly spout off to your friends and family without crediting me. It's Christmas morning every morning on DTD, and Santa is deliverin'.

  • Game: Saturday, December 14 @ 8:00pm ET
  • Location: US Bank Arena; Cincinnati, OH
  • TV/Radio: FOX Sports 1; 700WLW

So Little Brother's coming to play their final neutral site game against the Big Bad Bearcats - is that what I'm hearing on the interwebs? I'll try my best not to get into the politics of the game since I wrote yesterday on why the Crosstown Classic must continue. Instead, let's look at what the Bearcats are scouting against on Saturday night.

Semaj Christon (#0). He only scored 6 points in last year's Shootout, so I expect him to be cramped up and ready to take over. Did I say cramped up? My fault, I obviously meant amped up. Christon leads the team with 16 points a game, and he's looked great in transition play so far this year. The Bearcats are going to have to take care of the ball - especially around him - in order to win.

Mick's pretty good at locking down an opponent's best player, though (Kendall Williams could only muster half of his average last week for New Mexico). The Muskies are fairly spread out scoring-wise after Christon. There next big threat comes from their big man in the paint. If Vanilla Ice and Chewbacca had a kid, it'd be Matt Stainbrook (#40), the 6'10" ogre wearing blue and silver; he averages 10 points and 8 rebounds a game. Justin Jackson is definitely the quicker of the two, but Stainsworth's big build might cause a problem or two. It'll be important for Jumping Jack to stay out of foul trouble (when hasn't that been the case?).

The guy that I'm most concerned with after those two is Mr. if peeing your pants is cool consider me Myles Davis (#15). For our purposes, he's the only long-range threat on the team; 50+ three-point attempts and he's making them at a 46% clip. The Bearcats are holding teams to around 31% from the beyond the arc so far this year, but this is something I don't think they've been tested with yet. And to say I've been impressed with UC's perimeter defense over the years would be similar to saying I've been impressed with Miley Cyrus' rump. More squats. Less tongue.

And here's the final kicker: the Bearcats haven't played in a week. Mix in the fact that they're shooting into rims they don't normally snipe into, and I think there's a little cause for concern. My hope is for a defensive battle early-on followed by the 'Cats attacking the basket and imposing their will with the press. Is that too much to ask?

What the 'Cats have to do to win:

  • Fluster Dee Davis. He leads the Muskies in assists and steals. After watching XU play Evansville this past week, I came away impressed with his composure; he's cool, calm, and collected. Get him to commit 3 or more turnovers, and the Bearcats will be fine.
  • Rebound on Defense. Xavier might be bigger inside, but their bigs aren't New Mexico-like (but whose are?). I think our quickness here will be an asset - not the liability it was a week ago. Rebounding margin is the one area that both teams have similar numbers. This one statistic could determine whether it's a UC blowout or just a close win.
  • Convert baskets in/around 15 ft. Can I get an AMEN? Where is that Shaq Thomas patented mid-range jumper we saw against Creighton last year? Why is Justin Jackson careening line drive jumpers towards the rim? Drive to the basket and convert. You'll probably get fouled on the way in.

My prediction: On paper, this is a mismatch. The 'Cats turnover margin is +7.4; Xavier's is -.7 (and they haven't played a D like Cincinnati's). Both teams get to the free throw stripe at similar rates, but XU's FT% is 12 points less than UC's. The 'Cats average 19 point victories to XU's 9 point wins. BUT: Xavier has played a much tougher schedule?How tough, you ask? Well, as of right now, The Bearcats' schedule ranks 239th to Xavier's 110th ranked schedule. And I haven't even mentioned the fact that this is a rivalry game. I think the Bearcats win, but it won't be a blowout this year: 68-62.

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