This might come as news to some who believe the only relevant college basketball rivalries are Duke vs. North Carolina and Kentucky vs. Louisville, but the one with perhaps the most animosity tips off Sunday at Cincinnati's Fifth Third Arena.
When the Bearcats host Xavier in the 88th iteration of the Crosstown Shootout, it brings together schools less than three miles apart geographically. And if one remembers the scene following the game in 2011, when the teams infamously brawled as the Musketeers wrapped up a lopsided win, that should reinforce the notion nothing is ever given in this rivalry.
"The best rivalry in America," Xavier coach Travis Steele said on Fox Sports 1 minutes after his team closed out a 79-48 rout of Tennessee Tech on Wednesday night.
It's a rivalry that lately has been controlled by the Musketeers. Xavier has won five of the last seven and nine of the last 13, including last season's 73-66 decision at Cintas Center. Overall, Cincinnati owns a 51-36 lead in the series, including a 12-6 advantage on its campus.
The Musketeers have been one of the busiest teams in the country so far, fitting their first five games into eight days. But getting three days off to prepare for their city rivals excites Steele, as does the mere fact the game is likely to be played in this pandemic season.
"We're excited to get back on the floor and play," he said. "We know how much this game means to the city and to both fan bases."
Xavier brings a high-scoring, sweet-shooting offense into this one, averaging 81.2 points and converting 49.7 percent of its field goal attempts. Zach Freemantle's 17.4 ppg leads four players in double figures.
As for the Bearcats, they were one of the last teams in Division I to start their season, doing so Wednesday night at home with a 67-55 defeat of Lipscomb. Mika Adams-Woods tallied a career-high 16 points and Chris Vogt added eight of his 12 over the last eight minutes.
"They dictated the terms for 29 minutes and we dictated the terms for 10 minutes, and because of our length and athleticism, we were able to win the game," Cincinnati coach John Brannen said. "But that's not the way we want to play."
--Field Level Media
|12/7/19||CIN 66||XAV 73||73||33||46.7||66||41||40.0|
|Xavier Off vs Cincinnati Defense|
81.2 Points For
55.0 Points Against
|Cincinnati Off vs Xavier Defense|
67.0 Points For
63.2 Points Against