SCOUTING THE CROSSTOWN SHOOTOUT!!!
Andy Mac Williams,
The last four Xavier-UC games have been dominated by the home team. 2016 at Cintas XU 65-55. 2017 in Clifton UC 86-78 despite Trevon Bluiett's amazing 40 point effort. 2018 on Victory Parkway 89-76 Muskies w/ J.P. outfoxing Mick. 2019 at Fifth Third the Bearcats skunking XU, 62-47. The most recent Shootout road team upset 2015 when Dee Davis shocked the Bearcats w/ 5 made "3s" 16 points and 8 assists and X rallied twice in the last minute to win 59-57. Are we due for a close Shootout and maybe a Cincy road upset? Maybe especially if Xavier plays as inconsistently as we've seen over the last 3 games (Florida-Lipscomb and Wednesday vs Wisconsin Green Bay.
X graded out about a gentleman's C vs the Phoenix. The first half was not pretty. The much bigger Muskies broke even on the glass w/ GB. X mustered just 2 defensive KILLS(3 stops in a row). Close-outs on Phoenix shooters were short and late. XU seemingly could get to the bucket at will. They settled for open "3s" and bricked most of them. Offensive devolved into one on one free lancing. After halftime, Travis Steele just played the Core 4 mainly w/ Frosh Kyky Tandy until he got slugged in the mouth.
Tandy was a bright spot(10 points in 15 minutes). Expect to see more of him vs UC even off the ball in a 3 guard line-up. Naji Marshall went off for 24 points. Tyrique busted a 14 point-14 rebound double-double. "Q" showed progress confidently attacking the rim(14 points-8 boards). Bottom line-if Xavier comes out w/ iffy energy and wavering focus against UC. it could be ugly.
MUSKIES HAVE THE EDGE:
X is out for redemption after being punked 62-47 in Clifton a year ago. Gooden and Zach Hankins were slowed by the flu. Tyrique took a shot in the head vs Ohio U 3 days before the UC game and seemed in a fog.
Seniors "Q" and Tyrique are 1-2 vs Cincy. No Muskie 4 year Senior has gone 1-3 over his career against the Bearcats since the mid 1990's when Bob Huggins fielded his best teams. The other Core 4 members Paul Scruggs and Naji Marshall may go pro after this season? Consider them semi-Seniors. Both are now much improved over last December and All BIG EAST caliber players.
Home court advantage is HUGE. X is 7-1 at Cintas vs UC w/ a 7 game win streak. Huggins coached the lone Bearcat win back in 2001(75-55) in Thad Matta's first season. David West missed almost the entire game w/ an ankle sprain. It's history, but it means something and Xavier has a pretty impressive home court record overall and especially in sell-out high leverage games against teams like Villanova and Creighton and Baylor etc.
Granted UC has 3 prime players back from last year's Xavier ass kicking (Jarron Cumberland-Tre Scott and Keith Williams). All 3 are terrific players, but the unsung hero of that game was Senior PG Justin Jennifer(7 points-9 assists-just 1 turnover) and fellow Senior Cane Broome chipped in 3 points and 3 more assists. The veteran lead guards allowed UC to chew up Xavier w/ long possession ball control offense. Cumberland lurked out on the wing-worked for his driving angles and preferred match-ups and launched "3s" when the defense sagged. The approach was lethal.
UC has a PG problem. Much travelled 5th year G Chris Mc Neal is fast on fast, but sort of unproductive against good teams. Frosh Mika Adams-Woods is long and quick, but turnover prone and might have a bit of a problem handling the wild hostile atmosphere at Cintas. Jarron needs to be the prime ballhandler(like 30 minutes worth).. When he is the PG, he is very good, but he's at his best off the ball moving and then doing his bulldozer thing. And Jarron apparently is nursing leg injuries??
Tre Scott is going to get his double-double against anybody. Junior Keith Williams gets his own shot-floats out to shoot "3s" and can drop 25 anytime. Who are Coach Brannen's other producers? Jaevin Cumberland is strong from "3" but he's been hurt although he sucked it up and scored 21 against Vermont.
The NKU transfer Chris Vogt has surprised me w/ his mobility and shot making(12.9 PPG-67%FG-7 rebounds). He played behind Drew McDonald, but now he's blossomed. Vogt is the whole deal at Center though. Back-up Jay Sorolla(Valpo transfer) is injured. Tyrique and Zach Freemantle need to wear out Vogt and get him into foul trouble.
Muskie Frosh Tandy and Freemantle could impact the game unlike normal freshmen in Shootouts. Kyky and Zach are advanced and ready for prime time. None of UC's Frosh Adams-Woods, Harvey, Davenport are that BIG GAME ready IMHO. X has another bench ace in grad transfer Bryce Moore. He can heat up a guard defensively and stick "3s".
XAVIER AND UC BY THE NUMBERS:
Both teams are about plus 5 on the glass. Neither team shoots a decent % from the foul line(mid 60s). Both get to the line a lot(UC 3rd most in the country). If Jarron is healthy and plays BIG minutes, he might shoot 12 FTs.
UC averages 76PPG w/ a much more uptempo offense than Cronin's. The Bearcats play hard man defense. They press some and could roll out a 1-3-1 zone especially if Xavier continues to shoot sub 305 from "3". UC has had more turnover problems than XU especially in the unsettled back court.
Ohio U transfer Jason Carter is a Muskie wild card. His floor game-rebounding and hustle have been excellent. Scoring has been a problem especially from long range(4-17 from "3"). Jason could explode. He will not be bothered by the crazy crowd. He's Karem Kanter from two years ago w/ a strong track record ready to go nuts.
Iím a Ken Pom guy. like his Shootout prediction. Xavier wins 73-67 w/ a 70% chance of victory. Home court-more depth-better guards-better frosh-all add up to a Miuskie "W".