It's that time of year when all things in Cincinnati are put aside and attention is focused on one game, the game, The Crosstown Shootout. This is the 75th meeting in what has become one of the most heated rivalries in all of college basketball.
The Bearcats (4-4) travel to the Cintas Center on Wednesday, December 12 to take on the Xavier University Musketeers (7-1). The two schools are only separated by 3.5 miles and are meeting for the 75th time in a series that began in 1927. Cincinnati owns a 47-27 advantage in the all-time series after winning last year's Shootout at Fifth Third Arena, 67-57, but the Musketeers have won seven of the last 11 meetings.
More often than not in this series UC has brought out the best in the Musketeers, in 1996 the Muskies upset the #1 ranked Bearcats 71-69 at the Shoemaker Center and repeated the feat in 1999 when Xavier beat the top ranked Bearcats again (66-64) at the Cincinnati Gardens. Cincinnati was also nationally ranked in 2000, 2002 and 2004 only to suffer losses to unranked Musketeer clubs.
This year offers the Bearcats the rare chance to return the favor; Xavier is ranked number 17 in both polls coming off a victory over Creighton. For UC to celebrate a win they will need to play significantly better than any performance so far this season. The Bearcats will be looking to stop a 2 game losing streak and this game offers them a chance to turn the season around.
For Bearcat head coach Mick Cronin, a native of Cincinnati and graduate of Cincinnati and La Salle High School, this will be his second Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout. Coach Cronin won his debut last season, 67-57, becoming the seventh straight rookie coach in the series to win his first Shootout, joining the ranks of Andy Kennedy, Bob Huggins, and Tony Yates from UC and Skip Prosser, Thad Matta, and Sean Miller from Xavier.
Until 1980 this series was dominated by the Bearcats. Cincinnati had won 22 of the previous 24 games when Bob Staak was named the new Xavier head coach for the 1979-1980 season. Staak's 6-11 Musketeers came into Riverfront Coliseum and upset the 10-8 Ed Badger coached Bearcats by a 77-69 final score. The Bearcats never recovered losing 5 of their next 7 regular season games and finished with a 13-15 record. Since Staak's arrival on Victory Parkway, Xavier has led the series by a slim 15-13 margin.
This season's task looks to be overwhelming for Cincinnati. The Musketeers are already nationally ranked and return two players that have scored over 1,000 points in their college careers with a third sure to follow this season. Senior Stanley Burrell leads the pack with 1,252 points going into the season and has been a starter since the sixth game of his freshman year. Fellow senior Drew Lavender has 1,040 career points after scoring 659 of them at Oklahoma prior to transferring to Xavier, and C. J. Anderson, a transfer from Manhattan College, begins his first season as a Muskie needing fewer than 250 points to join the 1,000 point club.
In addition to those scorers, Sean Miller's roster includes some size and talent in 6' 9" Josh Duncan, 6' 9" Jason Love and 6' 8" Derrick Brown. Junior swingman B. J. Raymond (6' 6") should also log quite a few minutes this season as should local products Adrion Graves (Hughes Center) and Dante Jackson (Greenfield McClain).
The Bearcats will counter with what has proven to be an underperforming senior laden lineup. Of the senior's only Adam Hrycaniuk (6' 10") center averages in double figures for points scored at 11.5 ppg. Now sophomore guard Deonta Vaughn led the Bearcats to victory a season ago, this year Vaughn is putting in 15 ppg but cannot continue to be UC's only serious scoring threat.
If the Bearcats are to pull off the upset and get their season moving in the right direction they will need productivity from players that have been quiet for to long. This would be a great opportunity for a breakout game from one of the freshmen or a rebound performance from John Williamson or one of the other seniors.