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Crosstown Shootout Preview with Bolt and Ben Dirr

posted Jan 26, 2017, 7:30 AM by Jacob Geiser
Well it is here. The Crosstown Shootout will take place Thursday Night at 7:00 P.M on ESPN2. The #19 Cincinnati Bearcats (17-2) will put their 10 game winning streak on the line when the #24 Xavier Musketeers (14-5) come to Fifth Third Arena.

History:
UC leads the all-time series at 49-34, but sadly Xavier has controlled the rivalry as of late winning 7 of the last 9. Xavier has won the last 3 games convincingly except for a nail bitter at Fifth Third Arena when XU won 59-57.

This preview will not go without fair Xavier coverage. BSN analyst Ben Dirr will give you a Xavier preview along with his prediction. I of course will give you the Bearcats coverage.

Who to watch for UC:
Cincinnati has been efficient offensively, which is surprising for a Mick Cronin led team. UC is shooting 48% from the field, something fans aren't used to seeing. UC averages 77.3 ppg, a vast improvement from teams in the past. Sophomore Jacob Evans III is the Bearcats leading scorer. Evans III recently has come out of a little dry spell as is back to his normal ways. The sophomore is shooting 50% on the year and has been the Bearcats go to scorer. Normally, that would be UC's only player averaging double figures, not this year. Senior Troy Caupain (10.8 ppg) and Junior Kyle Washington (13.4 ppg) are also scoring threats.

Evans III, Caupain and Washington all will do their thing but my player to watch is Senior guard Kevin Johnson. The Cincinnati native is possibly having the best season he has had at UC. Johnson is averaging 10.8 ppg in conference play and has really been really big for them down the stretch. It seems like whenever the Bearcats need to make a run or are on a run, Johnson is playing some of his best basketball. Johnson gets criticized a lot by fans on twitter, but you can't deny he has played well this season. This is a game where Johnson will need to be a threat offensively. Every basket counts in the Crosstown Shootout. UC will need to have the starting 5 playing some of their best basketball. It is Johnson's final Crosstown Shootout and I don't think he wants to graduate not beating Xavier.

Why UC will win
UC's starting 5 is starting to click more and more as a group. 3 of the 5 starters average double figures. Gary Clark and Kevin Johnson are the only two who don't and Clark averages 9.8 ppg. I think the senior leadership of Troy Caupain and Kevin Johnson will be a big reason why they win. These are 2 hungry seniors who haven't beat Xavier yet, I don't think that is sitting right with them.

Why will they win is a tough question because their are many ways this team can win. I hate to be that UC fan but I just think UC is playing better basketball. I think Xavier has all the talent in the world to make a run to the Sweet 16, but right now UC is the hotter team. I think their 3 point shooting will be the difference in the game. UC has shot the ball more efficiently than in years past and Xavier has struggled to guard the 3 this season. Jacob Evans III (41.3%) and Kyle Washington (42.1%) can kill you from deep if you don't rotate quick enough. You can't sleep on anybody from UC. All of the players shoot the 3 very efficiently for their given amount of playing time.

I just think UC is on a roll. They are playing at home and everything seems to be clicking for them. Xavier just seems like they are missing something and trust me I have watched plenty of XU basketball because of my roommate Dave Heisel. I can see Washington having his way in the paint and the guards doing their thing. I just have this feeling that UC is starting to click on all cylinders. I don't think we have seen the best of this team yet. The Crosstown Shootout might be the coming out party.

Why UC will lose
Xavier hasn't clicked all year. Finally pulling their best basketball out of their ass is such a Xavier thing in the Crosstown Shootout. Just look in the past few years. Dee Davis and Myles Davis have had the game of their lives playing UC. Myles Davis was more consistent throughout his career IMO. So when Dee Davis decided to drop what felt like 40 against UC in 2014-15, I was pissed. I know plenty of Xavier fans and they all complained about him, but that one game they all loved him.

It wouldn't surprise me for Xavier to chose this game to start clicking. The talent is all there. I think the 3 point shooting will the difference for both teams. Who is making them and who is defending them well will be the biggest part of the game. UC will win the rebounding battle, but Xavier could make that useless if they are firing from deep. Trevon Bluiett shoots the 3 a lot, but he can get hot real quick. Xavier's backcourt is top in the country. Edmond Sumner, Trevon Bluiett and JP Macura are as good as they come. Those 3 could be the reason why UC would lose this game.

Bolt's Prediction:
This is going to be one of the best Crosstown Shootout's in recent memory. It also is one of the biggest. It is UC's last big game when it comes to resume builders and for Xavier, it is a chance to get back on track. I think UC will come out hot but Xavier will match them and keep the game close.

However, the Bearcats will get a big win as they pull away late with big free throws. UC wins 76-68. 

Who to Watch for the Muskies
Obviously when talking about this year’s Xavier squad it starts with, and basically ends with, their Big 3 Backcourt in Sumner, Bluiett, and Macura. The three of them are averaging 47.0/14.0/9.4 combined with each scoring at least 27 points once this year. Other than that there isn’t much the Muskies have to offer consistently on the offensive end. Gaston has a chance to go for a double-double every night but has been streaky so far this season. Bernard can knock down a shot and O’Mara can make some wide open layups if given the opportunity.

Keys to Victory
Offense has been the main struggle in the losses this year. If Coach Mack can get the 47/14/9 that they average there is no reason they should lose this game. It’ll be very important that Tre and JP see one of their first coupe of shots go down to get them going. They will win the rebounding battle no matter how much of a problem Gary Clark is, the Bearcats won’t be able to command the boards even though their team averages are similar. It just depends on by how much and how many of them are on the offensive end and get extra possessions. The things that could cause X to be scrambling after this one would be if only one of their guys can get going on the offensive end, they let UCs pressure get to them, or go through long 5-10 minute scoring droughts (all of which have been a problem this year).


Dirr's Prediction
Macura has a 25+ point night and taunts the student section as he hits the sealing free throws. The best way I’ve heard it put is first to 65 wins.  XU 71 UC 67. Go Muskies. Just pains me to know that Myles won’t be able to finish his 4-0 career against the Cats.
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