The Crosstown Shootout is finally here, and regardless of the weather, it feels like there's extra pep in the step of Cincinnatians today. Is it because an NCAA Tournament bid may be on the line - or is it because the game is back on campus? Or maybe some other innocuous reason that no one cares to talk about?
Regardless, we did a Q&A with our
friends hated rivals over at Banners on the Parkway - a site I'm sure none of you visit on the regular. Here's their take on tonight's titantic struggle:
The Bearcats seem to be reeling as of late with unexpected losses this month to Tulane and ECU. This has somewhat affected the morale of the fanbase. Can you describe the mood of Xavier fans coming into the Crosstown Shootout? Is this season going as expected?
It's a mixed bag, mostly because expectations were all over the place when the year began. As far as current morale goes, we're still losing games due to the same basic things that were costing us games early in the year. There's a camp that thinks it's just a function of the roster, another camp that wants to burn the coach in effigy, and a third group occupying the vast gulf of space in the middle. We're tense though; a lot rides on the next five games.
If you had to describe the strengths of this year's Musketeer squad, what are they?
In a word: balance. In more words: this team has about half a dozen guys capable of getting double digits in any given night. When things are clicking, buckets are coming from everywhere and the opponent has nobody to key on. When that happens, we can do things like roll over Georgetown by double digits at our place and then repeat the trick at theirs. When this offense hits its stride, they can play with anyone.
And weaknesses? When XU has lost a game this year, has it been for a consistent reason?
Defense, particularly three-point defense. Most of our guards are either too small (Dee Davis) or too slow (all of the rest of them except Remy Abell) to effectively defend the perimeter. Coach Mack tries to counter this with any number of wrinkles off the man defense, but the bottom line is that a team patient enough to keep the ball moving is going to get its share of open looks. If a team has a forward who can hit three-pointers, we're going to have a hard time defending them.
Is there an X-factor (pardon the pun) that might sway this game one way or another for the Musketeers? A specific stat or a specific player's contribution?
Three-point shooting. I know I said just a minute ago we could score from all over, but that's really predicated on our guys hitting open jump shots from behind the arc. In wins this year, Xavier averages basically 7 makes in 18 attempts (38.1%). In losses, that number falls to about 5.5 makes in about 19.5 attempts (27.8%). If Xavier starts out by hitting threes and then keeps it up throughout the game, it's a fairly solid bet that they're playing really well.
What's your take on the hype surrounding the Crosstown Shootout? There's obviously important NCAA tournament hopes at stake, but is there more or less anticipation this year compared to other years?
I think there's more. When the game is in December, it's probably the crown jewel of the non-conference season, but there's always a sense that you can right yourself if you get a bad result. This year's game comes with both teams in really uncomfortable tournament positions, and there's the feeling that a loss here could be the beginning of an NIT bid for either program.
And, finally, who wins, by what score, and why?
My stomach is tight just thinking about it. I'm going to hope that Cincinnati's jump shooters aren't able to get hot and Xavier wins a rock fight something like 60-56 in about 65 possessions.
So, there you have it. Check out part 2 (another Q&A) over on their today.