Every season, two local Cincinnati basketball teams collide in a contest for supremacy in the Queen City.
This match, sponsored by Cincinnati treasure Skyline Chili, is known as the Crosstown Shootout and pits the University of Cincinnati against heated rival Xavier University.
The Bearcats head into the Crosstown Shootout as winners of 10-straight games and remain the only team in the American Athletic Conference to be undefeated against AAC competition.
Cincinnati is ranked No. 19 in both polls and has been steadily rising, despite playing considerably weaker teams than Xavier has.
Winners of three-straight Shootouts, Xavier enters the week after dropping again in the NCAA rankings for Division I men’s basketball following three consecutive losses – albeit each loss was to a team currently ranked in the top 12 in college basketball.
Xavier is now ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 22 in the Coaches Poll.
The teams are evenly matched on the stat sheet, only being separated in some major categories by single digits, and dead even in others.
For instance, both teams are averaging 77 points per game, and Xavier is only averaging one more rebound per game, according to ESPN.
Cincinnati believes they finally have the talent needed to break the three-shootout loss streak against Xavier, as they made multiple additions in the offseason. This includes noted North Carolina State University transfer, forward Kyle Washington.
Washington averages 13.4 points per game, second-best on the team, while also leading the team in rebounds per game, despite playing an average of seven fewer minutes per game than guards Jacob Evans and Troy Caupain.
Caupain is in his senior year at Cincinnati and has yet to notch a victory against Xavier in the Shootout.
“I want it real bad,” Caupain said. “My squad wants it real bad. We’re just preparing to win. We’re not going to let the hype of the game affect us or make us play any different. We’re just going to go out and play it as if it were a conference game.”
Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin will be leading his team for the 11th time against Xavier in the shootout.
“I’m thankful for being the head coach of Cincinnati and [the Crosstown Shootout] is a big part of being the head coach at Cincinnati, whether you like it or not,” Cronin said. “In a game like this, the battle for every loose ball may be a little more heated, the battle for rebounding position may be a little more physical, so yeah, you better be prepared for that and you’d be foolish not to be prepared for that.”
Cronin believes his team will be ready because of the key games they have been a part of this season already.
“When Xavier played at Butler last week, it was World War III,” Cronin said. “In a couple weeks, we’re going to [Southern Methodist University] and it’s going to be World War III, so it’s not like we don’t play in these types of games. The spotlight, locally, is obviously on this right now.”
The Crosstown Shootout will take place at Fifth Third Arena tonight at 7 p.m. The game will be aired on ESPN2.