The University of Cincinnati basketball team (8-1) will host crosstown rival Xavier University (6-3) at Fifth Third Arena Saturday for the third time since 2010.
Both teams are coming off historical accomplishments a season ago, as the Bearcats won the American Athletic Conference tournament championship and the Musketeers (Big East Conference) won 29 games — the most in a single season in school history.
This season is different, as both teams suffered major personnel losses in the offseason.
Xavier head coach Travis Steele is in his first season, having taken over the program after former head coach Chris Mack’s departure to the University of Louisville. The Musketeers lost their top two scorers, as well as four of five starters from last season, and have five players remaining from that roster.
The Bearcats are not much different, as the team lost its top two scorers from a year ago to the NBA.
UC enters on an eight-game win streak, while Xavier has won four straight games since suffering three losses in the Maui Invitational tournament last month.
The Musketeers have had Cincinnati and head coach Mick Cronin’s number recently, winning five of the last seven crosstown shootouts.
Here are a few things to watch for Saturday:
Heart over height for the Bearcats backcourt
UC senior guards Cane Broome and Justin Jenifer will have their work cut out for them this time around, as the 6-foot and 5-foot-10 guards will have a major size disadvantage. They’ll be matched up with 6-foot-4 guards junior Quentin Goodin and senior Kyle Castlin throughout the game, along with 6-foot-3 sophomore Paul Scruggs.
Xavier’s three guards come in averaging a combined 31.5 points per game versus Broome and Jenifer’s 17.6. Freshman Logan Johnson (6-foot-2), who has the size and defensive ability to contain the trio, may see his most minutes in a game yet.
New faces, same rivalry
Both teams have welcomed numerous players to their respective programs since last season’s meeting. The Musketeers added eight new players to the program, while Cincinnati added four. Johnson and junior Rashawn Fredericks have provided a spark for the Bearcats off the bench but have only had one game each of 20 or more minutes.
The Musketeers have an older presence off the bench in senior graduate transfers Zach Hankins and Ryan Welage. The two are combining to average 38.2 minutes and 18.5 points per game for Steele.
All four players mentioned will be playing in their first Crosstown Shootout.
Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m., with ESPN2 and 700 WLW providing full coverage.