Bearcats Breakfast (Shootout Edition)

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Crosstown Shootout. 7 p.m. Tonight. 13,176. Fifth Third Arena. ESPN2.

This is going to be fun.

For one day the Bengals blunderous press conference and Reds offseason silence takes a distant back seat to college hoops.

So, there is only one way to write today's Breakfast, that's all Shootout, all the time.

Let's eat....

--- One matchup stands out to me more than any on the court tonight. PG Cashmere Wright took a major step this season. His offensive game has him on the brink of being one of the top point guards in the conference.

His defensive game, however, have come under criticism from Mick Cronin quite a bit recently. Wright's on the ball defense needs to improve.

You want a test to see where he's at in that development? How about maybe the best scoring point guard in the country, one that toasted the Bearcats for 26 points last year, Tu Holloway.

He's thrown this team on his back at times, averaging 21.3 points and 5.6 assists. He messed around and got a triple-double against Wake Forest. He tossed in 26 points and 6 assists on NYE against Florida.  

Wright must find a way to keep Tu away from the basket where does such a great job creating contact and getting to the free throw line.

He's shot double-digit free throw attempts in 6 of 12 games and less than seven only twice. Tha'ts a nice way to make a living when you knock down 84.2 percent from the stripe.  

"(Cronin) has been yelling at me all week about improving on things, especially my defense," Wright said. "I just got to work hard and go out and show what he told me.

"I like (Holloway's) game, you can tell he's been doing things with his game and has been improving since he's gone to college." 

Maybe the most explosive guard the Bearcats faced this season came on NYE against Seton Hall's Jordan Theodore. He doesn't own the complete game of Holloway, but attacks the rack in the same manner. UC held him to 2 of 10 shooting and just seven points. He had four turnovers and zero assists.

It wasn't as much a product of Wright as the team defense concept. Picking up the slack behind Wright was the key then and will be an even larger one tonight.

"Right now I'm more worried about the team than myself," Wright said. "I am not going to sit here and worry about no one-on-one matchup because at the end of the day the team should win not me. If the team wins, I'm going to look good either way."

--- An area where UC typically owns an advantage, but an even larger one tonight, will be depth. Xavier's depth issues are well-chronicled. They are down to only nine scholarship players.

Dante Jackson, Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons all average at least 36 minutes a game.

All but 30 points and 42 rebounds by the Musketeers this season have come from six players.

UC's rotation of 10/11 players running full court should eventually wear Xavier down. Although, they have been in good enough shape to make late game runs like the one against Florida where it nearly overcame a double-digit deficit in the final four minutes.

Still, an uptempo, pressing game will slant a huge advantage to the red and black.

"When you look at how we play defense right now it should help with all the switching and defensive pressure we bring and the press it should tire them out because they don't have a deep bench where  he can't do certain things like he used to," Wright said.

Chris Mack with similar sentiments:

"They play a lot of really good players, they press, they run, they get the ball up and down the floor, they share the ball really well. We are not playing as many players as they are so we have to be judicious with our substitutions. We have to use a time out if we have to sub in certain players. That is something we have to worry about more than Cincinnati does this year." 

--- Two men at CBSsports with perfect teeth preview tonight's Shootout.

--- ESPN the Magazine allowed UC-Xavier might be the best rivalry in college basketball a few years back. Here''s the piece.

--- I wrote a piece on the evolution of Ibrahima Thomas from his UC debut in last year's Shootout, to now, where he represents one of the most important pieces in the Bearcats puzzle to beat Xavier.

--- Holloway played in an Adidas summer camp with Thomas and the two became decent freinds there. In fact, Holloway made his way over to Fifth Third for a couple games this season.  

--- Shootout nugget: 16 of the last 22 years at least one of the two teams in the Shootout has been nationally ranked.

--- Shootout nugget No. 2: 16 of 22 media types will consume at least three cheese coneys tonight (Note: Facts are completely fictional)

--- Friend fo the blog Bill Koch has three golden matchup nuggets of his own with his keys to victory.  

--- The Enquirer as a whole pulling out all the stops for this one with a fun Shootout Through the Years the best 45 photos from the game. You're going to want to skip No. 19. I think the rivalry is best defined by No. 45.

--- Paul Daugherty talks about how this game really matters. Some of the Shootout reniassance I talked about yesterday I think is reflected in this column. Both programs on the way, both returning to prominence on the national scene. Thats how you create epic rivalry runs like this series saw in the 90s.

--- Any opportunity to talk to Charlie Coles is a good one and he weighs in on tonight's game.

--- We would be remiss without including some words from The Voice on Skyline time.   

--- Sam Elliot at the News-Record talks about the Shootout's intensity. Personally, I'm just excited to be reminded what 13,176 sounds like again.

--- Last year, the intensity bubbled over. Bill Koch touched on Cronin stressing the importance of not being focused on the outside influences.

I know this probably isn't what Cronin wanted to hear, but I loved the quote from Rashad Bishop, who sort of shook his head at the concept of not getting caught up in the emotions of it.

"That's just part of that game," Bishop said. "I don't think it's nothing personal. It's just two teams trying to win, bragging rights for the city. So, tempers are going to flare. I don't think you can really control it sometime because you get so into the game, emotions just fly and people bump heads."  

--- There's intensity, and then there's just old-fashioned, personal, low-blow hate.

--- Not shockingly, Twitter is all aflutter with Shootout smack talk. Recently brought up was Connor Barwin's halftime speech. "If Xavier had a football team, we'd beat their ass!"

--- It should be noted I have zero knowledge of or say about this situation, but I would love to see the Bearcats come out in the white throwbacks tonight.   

--- Before the game, everyone should head over to The Holy Grail where ESPN1530 will set up shop with Mo Egger's live remote show before the game from 3-6 p.m. I will be on with Mo at 3:30 p.m. Enquirer XU reporter and all-around good people Shannon Russell will be there, The Voice, XU broadcaster Joe Sunderman, should be a great time. I'd love to talk to you guys if you're there.

--- Of course you can follow all the up-to-the-second news, courtside trash talk, clever signs and observations on Twitter. @pauldehnerjr 

--- I hope you all will be there when this comes on the big screen tonight.

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