The Cincinnati Bearcats have been ripping through conference play to lead up to Thursday night’s epic inner-city rivalry game against the Xavier Musketeers. The ‘Cats have really been hitting full stride with a 10=game win streak to show for it. The Musketeers, however, have had quite the opposite stretch.
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The Musketeers will ride into Fifth Third Arena on Thursday night, hoping to put a rough patch in conference play behind them. The Muskies lost three straight conference games from Jan. 10 through Jan. 14 to Villanova, Butler and Creighton. However, all three of those teams are ranked in the top 20 in the country and all have a great opportunity to make huge impacts in March. Dropping three straight games to ranked opponents is obviously a not great look for Xavier, but it doesn't take it out of the tournament picture, especially if the Musketeers get back on track.
That comes down the Musketeers big three; Trevon Bluiett, Edmond Sumner and J.P. Macura. Those three are the difference makers, and great one's at that, all averaging over 14.5 points per game and they can all make plays from a lot of different areas on the court. If UC allows Bluiett, Sumner and Macura to get hot early, they could be in for a long night. Behind the three big names on the roster, there are a number of players on Xavier that have the abilities to step up, but if UC can shut down that trio, then the Muskies have very little chance of walking away with the win.
The Crosstown Shootout is quite honestly my favorite game of the entire NCAA basketball season. Not very often does one city produce two major college basketball programs and have national success, but Cincinnati has found a way to do it. The all time record between the two teams sits at 49-34 in favor of the Bearcats, but since the turn of the century, momentum has swung toward Xavier. Since the year 2000, Xavier has come out on top 12 times, making the rivalry that much closer and that much more important to the fans.
The Crosstown Shootout has created memories that will stick with the residents of this city for a lifetime, like XU defeating UC when the Bearcats were ranked No. 1 in 2000 (Editor’s note: Why’d you have to bring that up?!), the 2010 double overtime thriller and most notably/notoriously the 2012 season, when the game ended in a fist fight that got multiple players suspended and had the Crosstown Shootout moved to a neutral location.
I believe that Bearcats will take home a “W” on Thursday night against the Xavier Musketeers. Playing with a huge home court advantage and a chip on their shoulder, I think that Mick Cronin and the ‘Cats will come ready for war.