One of college basketball’s most intense rivalries will take place on Saturday night when Cincinnati and Xavier meet in the Crosstown Shootout. The two schools are only separated by three miles, making it one of the most hotly contested rivalries in the country. The Bearcats won a couple of National Championships in the 1960s and Xavier was considered the little brother in this rivalry. The 1970s saw the Muskies win just one meeting in the entire decade. That changed with the arrival in 1979 of new Xavier Head Coach Bob Staak. since then if anybody has been the little brother in this matchup it would have to be the Bearcats. The Bearcats did dominate this game last year 62-47, but in the history of Xavier playing at its new home, the Cintas Center, Xavier has been 7-1 in those eight matchups.

Keys to the Game

Will Jarron Cumberland play?

The Bearcats could be without their best player on Saturday. Senior guard Jarron Cumberland is officially listed as ‘questionable’ after leaving Tuesday’s game with a hip injury against Vermont. Cumberland was the AAC Player of the Year last year and this game could be over before it starts if he can’t go at 100 percent.

The Bearcats still have some talent that could take over some of the scoring if Cumberland can’t play. Sophomore center Chris Vogt is the Bearcats’ second-leading scorer, adding almost 13 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per outing. Junior guard Keith Williams is scoring 12.8 points per game and is adding 4.1 rebounds per contest. Senior guard Jaevin Cumberland is scoring 11.0 points per game and has 2.1 assists per game. But, depth will be an issue for the Bearcats and losing Cumberland would be devastating for this team.

Can Xavier make shots from the perimeter? 

Xavier’s play has been spotty this year and consistent shooting from the outside has been a huge problem for the Musketeers. KyKy Tandy could come off the bench and help with the outside shooting. Early results from his limited action so far have been positive. Xavier should dominate this game inside and they have the best player on the floor in Naji Marshall. Xavier is one of the best defensive teams in the entire country and that will keep them in most if not all the games they play.

Hitting outside shots and free throws, however, would make them a top-10 team in the country. If they shoot well from the perimeter this game should be in the bag for the Muskies. If you have seen Xavier play this year though you know that is no guarantee.

Prediction

Anything can happen in a rivalry game that’s this heated and I assume Cumberland will play, but the Muskies are deeper and they will eventually wear the Bearcats down. Look for freshman Zach Freemantle to play a big role off the bench. The Xavier guard tandem of Paul Scruggs and Quintin Gooden should keep the pace to the Musketeers’ liking, too. Look for a close game early on with the Musketeers slowly pulling away.

Musketeers 74  Bearcats 62