Not a normal day around UC today. Of course, the day of the Crosstown never is. This one definitely feels different, though. In the past, I always felt like I knew what to expect from this game and that's why I couldn't wait to get in the building. Hard to know what to expect tonight, not on the floor, I expect the same intense game there, but off it.
How will the neutral floor play in this rivalry? Will it add to the atmosphere or will the need to move back to campus be obvious? Is this the next IU-UK to see extinction because of differing views between the two? Can these two fan bases get along?
Personally, having somebody to cheer against at a game always made them more enjoyable and we've seen that from Bearcats fans. One of the biggest reasons the Louisville game last year, which Rick Pitino lauded as one of the best home-court advantages he'd seen, became so rowdy was the strong contingent of Cardinals fans in the upper corners to yell against.
Hopefully that will be the case tonight and this game will make sense. Whether it will make sense to move back to campus or stay at US Bank is yet to be seen, but I think everyone is ready for this game to make sense again, from many angles.
Let's eat ...
--- Mike DeCourcy will be in the house tonight and wrote this preview about this game being the chance to close the book on the infamous disaster of last season. Of course, you'll want to read this.
--- I heard that in these games you throw the records out the window. Can anyone confirm?
--- For reference and entertainment purposes only, UC is an 8.5-point favorite against Xavier. Though, somebody should ask Cedric McGowan and Lenny Brown how much being a favorite really matters in this rivalry.
--- USA Today took a deeper, national look at the Crosstown rivalry. Interesting to hear from many of the departed parties involved in last year including Dez Wells, Mark Lyons, as well as some old names like Huggs and Nick Van Exel.
Good quote from Chris Mack in here as well:
"The perception of it being the Hatfields vs. McCoys ... I think there are some fans that maybe take it to that level," Mack said. "But our players are in the Deveroes summer league together. They drive ofter to Clifton and vice versa. They'll come over here. They'll play pickup, and it's not like we need security over here to have our guys play with their guys in an open gym.
"The familiarity, just wanting to be able to prove to the people you know very well that we can win this game, we're going to win this game."--- Stat to watch tonight: Xavier offensive eFG. This pits the strength of both teams against each other. Xavier does a great job of making the majority of their shots, in fact their effective FG% on offense ranks 11th in the country (56.3). On the flip side, UC does a great job of taking teams out of their offensive comfort zone and ranks 5th nationally in eFG% defense (39.2).
UC is now 5th nationally in overall defense (KenPom).
Xavier's offense has been among the most efficient in baskteball, but like most who face UC, they haven't seen a defense quite like this one. Here are the defensive ranks of Xavier's opponents this year
- Opponent: KenPom national defensive rank
- Farleigh-Dickinson: 341
- Butler: 92
- Robert Morris: 137
- Pacific: 243
- Drexel: 203
- Drake: 174
- Purdue: 28
- Vanderbilt: 106
- Kent State: 230
- Cincinnati: 5
--- Can the Bearcats jump out to an early lead and shock Xavier with their defensive intensity the way they have most everyone else on the schedule this season? No team has topped 35 points in the first half yet this season against UC. The Musketeers have gone five straight games with fewer than that in the first half. No lead is safe in this rivalry, but UC should hope to take a sizable lead into half.
--- The area to exploit on Xavier would be their defense. As with any young team, getting them to buy in and pick up complex defensive concepts can be a challenge and X is still learning. They rarely block shots (326th nationally), rarely get steals (322nd) and worse than the national average in 2-point FG percentage defense (283rd).
--- Matchup of the game: Semaj Christon vs. Cashmere Wright. Christon is one of the top freshmen in the country and one of the players on the absurd CBS Top 50 PGs list above Wright. The UC single-season steals leader loves matchups like this and who comes out on top might be the determining factor considering how well Xavier has done this year at not turning the ball over.
--- College Basketball Talk's Daniel Martin took a stab at profiling the Classic here.
--- Scott at Bearcats Blog lists his five favorite Shootouts. Have to admit the Lance Stephenson game was one of the more underrated in the series and maybe his shining moment as a Bearcats player.
--- Zac Jackson of Fox Sports writes about moving past the regrettable moments of last season, including some aspects of the game only those sitting courtside witnessed.
--- Two quick football notes, hope everybody took a look at my column yesterday stating why renovating Nippert trumps playing at Paul Brown and also Tommy G compiled the Top 5 plays of the years as voted on by the fans. Here they are.
--- No randomness today, only some music help get you by and get the juices flowing for tonight's game. Enjoy the game everybody.