Crosstown Shootout '08 Preview

The eyes of the city will fall on Fifth Third Arena tonight as the no. 10/9 Xavier University Musketeers (8-0, 0-0 A-10) will make the short trip to the campus of the University of Cincinnati to do battle with the rival Bearcats (6-1, 0-0 Big East) in this, the latest edition of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout.

The Musketeer's no. 10 ranking in the Associated Press Poll is the highest Xavier has been ranked coming into a Crosstown Shootout game since the 1997-1998 season in which they were also ranked tenth in the nation.

Cincinnati currently holds a 47-28 overall lead in the series between the two rivals. While XU has won four of the last six and eight of the last 12 meetings between the two schools, Cincinnati has won back-to-back matchups on their home court, the site of Saturday's showdown.

This year's Shootout will feature a number of interesting and intriguing matchups on the court. Cincinnati's starting big men Mike Williams (6'-7") and hometown hero Yancy Gates (6'-9") will have a tall order in guarding and scoring against Xavier's Derrick Brown (6'-8") and center Jason Love (6'-9"), as well as seven-foot freshman Kenny Frease. Frease, who is coming off the bench averaging just under five points playing just over 16 minutes per game while leading the team with 16 total blocks.

The Musketeers boast three players averaging over 11 points a game, led by senior guard B.J. Raymond and his 13.4 points per game, then followed by junior forward Derrick Brown (13.3 ppg) and senior forward C.J. Anderson (11.1 ppg).

A Bearcat team that has been spreading out their scoring responsibilities this season will meet the XU trio Saturday night. Returning leading scorer from last season, junior guard Deonta Vaughn, has been surrounded by talented and quality players and is feeling less pressure to consistently score. While Vaughn still leads the team in scoring with 13.7 points per game, three additional Bearcats area all adding at least nine points a game, led by Williams who in his first season at UC is adding 9.9 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. Gates leads the team in rebounding with 5.4 per contest and is also chipping in with 9.6 points per game. Sophomore forward Alvin Mitchell is shooting just under 47 percent (14-for-30) from behind the arc en route to scoring 9.7 points a game.

In his third season at the helm for UC, head coach Mick Cronin will be looking to go above .500 in Crosstown Shootouts. Cronin was the first rookie UC head coach to win his initial Shootout out of Cincinnati's last seven head coaches. The men of X had their revenge last year behind 17 points by Brown as no. 17 Xavier won 64-59 in the Cintas Center.

Each of the last four Crosstown Shootouts have been won by the home team, and traditionally the underdog in this rivalry has had success, having Cincinnati fans smelling and hungry for the upset. But Xavier comes into this game with their unblemished record and lofty top-ten status on the line against an up-and-coming, young Cincinnati squad, making for one of the more intriguing Crosstown Shootouts in recent memory.

The action is set to tip of in Fifth Third Arena at 8:00pm, and can be seen nationally on ESPN2.

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