By Andy Mac Williams, 11/26/2018

Xavier and Miami meet for the 102nd time in men's basketball Wednesday evening at Cintas(6:30PM Tip-TV FS1). The series dates back to 1920. There were classic match-ups especially in the mid 1980's when Miami featured Ron Harper and XU was led by Byron Larkin. There was the Wally Szcerbiak-David Scott Era at MU. Then Charlie Coles took over as Redhawk's coach and repeatedly upset more talented Muskie teams at Millett Hall in Oxford frustrating Skip Prosser and later Sean Miller. XU and Miami used to play every season during the long salad days of the Mythical Miami Valley Conference when Xavier and UC and Dayton and Miami played each other regularly. TV money, shifting conference affiliations and changing approaches to scheduling courtesy of power ratings has now doomed the old MMVC. Miami and Xavier play no more in Oxford at all. The Redhawks come to Cintas irregularly and don't play UC or Dayton at anymore. Thus this game is ultra-important to Miami. It's a rare foray into the Cincinnati media market where they've lost relevance lately because of poor performance in basketball and football plus limited TV exposure. Miami considers this game the crown jewel of their pre-MAC non-conference schedule-their Super Bowl.

XU showed progress with a win over Illinois in Maui and tight losses to Auburn in OT and to San Diego State. The Muskies cannot afford another non-conference home court stumble after losing at home two weeks ago to a now Top 25 Wisconsin team. This could be close. Miami is much improved in year two of the Jack Owens coaching regime. The former Purdue assistant has scoured Indiana and quickly reloaded. Miami returns 6 of 7 top scorers from last season's 16-18 surprisingly competitive team. The Redhawks lost a bunch of close OT games and posted wins over the MAC's best Buffalo, Akron and Ohio U.


The Rdhawks' last winning season came in 2008-2009. Wily coach Charlie Coles retired and MU hired John Cooper (Tennessee State). He seemed a fine fellow, but Miami should have picked Pat Kelsey. He was perceived as "too enthusiastic" by the Miami AD after reaching the final two for the job. The five seasons under Cooper were a disaster (sub .500 records-dwindling Millett Hall crowds). Owens has put the Redhawks back on track.

They come in at 3-3 so far with an 85-55 blow-out win over Army last Saturday in Oxford. Butler handled Miami 90-68 at Hinkle Fieldhouse in the opener. MU beat North Dakota State then lost to Montana and Pepperdine in the Bahamas. Miami can score the ball(81PPG). Owen's two recruiting finds from last year continue to thrive. MAC Freshman of the Year 6-4 Nike Sbande has upped his production to 18.5PPG. He is a deadly serial shooter (15 shots/game) and earns a ton of FTs. 6-7 Dalonte Brown (17.5PPG-6.7 rebounds) has made a huge leap. He makes 48% of his threes. XU beware! Running shooters off the three point arc has been a giant problem for the Muskies. The enemy is shooting 43% from long range and they're triggering almost 50% of their shots from outside the arc.

Xavier is much bigger and stronger down the line-up than Miami, but coughing up 10 or more made three pointers to Miami would level the playing field. Senior PG Darian Ringo almost left school after leading the MAC in assists(6.9?game) and steals. He's an unselfish passer and sticky on the ball defender. Frosh guard Mekhi Lairy may be only 5-8 or smaller but he's adjusting well to D-1 after finishing runner up in Indiana Mr Basketball voting (Evansville Bosse HS). He is a super quick lefty who frequently plays with Ringo in the back court.

Miami's inside load is 6-8 270 pound Bam Bowman who ran roughshod over Army(18 points-8 rebounds). MU shoots free throws well(81% #4 NCAA). They are a low turnover low fouling group despite some nice steal numbers. Xavier is favored, but Miami is dangerous especially if Sibande is allowed open looks(make him give the ball up) or the team gets hot from distance.

Xavier must play inside out and distain quick long shots. BIGS Tyrique Jones and Zach Hankins are among NCAA leaders in FG%(great post moves) and rebounding. Tyrique is #1 in offensive rebound%. Both shoot FTs well. The winning formula calls for a ton of low block touches. The Muskies haven't played since last Wednesday in Maui. They chartered back from Hawaii last Thursday-took Friday off-practiced hard Saturday-rested Sunday and resumed regular 3PM practices Monday. Three point close-outs were job #1 at Monday's workout.


DePaul crashed back to earth losing 95-70 at Notre Dame Saturday. The Blue Demons have Northwestern and Boston College as possible signature non-conference wins just ahead before hosting Xavier in the BIG EAST opener Saturday December 29th in Chicago. Villanova won the Advocare Tournament at Disney in Orlando knocking off Canisius Oklahoma State and Florida State Sunday. VU made just 3 three pointers against the physical Seminoles in a 66-60 rock fight victory over Top 25 FSU.Nova's PG is Soph Colin Gillespie with five star Frosh Jahvon Quinerly buried on the bench. Fellow Soph Dahmir Cosby-Roundtree has evolved into an inside force with Seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschal playing huge minutes as expected.

Seton Hall won the Wooden Legacy out West beating Grand Canyon Hawaii and Top 25 Miami-Florida late Sunday night 83-81. Coach Kevin Willard is replacing 4 impact Seniors. Myles Powell dropped 40 on Grand Canyon.He's 7th in NCAA scoring at 27PPG. Transfers Quincy McKnight (PG-Sacred Heart) and Taurean Thompson(3-4 Syracuse) are playing well. Junior Michael Nzei scored 21 in the win over Miami (ACC). Xavier opens its Cintas BIG EAST schedule against Seton Hall Wednesday January 2nd.


The Muskies and Bearcats play in less than two weeks in Clifton(Saturday December 8th 2PM-TV ESPN2). UC has won 5 in a row since their opening loss to Ohio State. They won the Emerald Classic over last weekend in Destin,Florida besting George Mason(A-10) and Ole Miss(SEC). UC plays Arkansas Pine Bluff at home, at UNLV and at NKU before the Shootout.

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