Of all the stats one will see this year, this may be one of the hardest to believe: Saturday’s game between Xavier and Cincinnati marked just the second time ever that both teams were nationally ranked entering the Crosstown Shootout.
Since 1988, the Musketeers and Bearcats have combined for exactly three losing seasons between the two of them. In that time there have been 39 NCAA appearances, 12 trips to the Sweet 16 and five to the Elite Eight for what are by almost any measure two of the most successful programs of the last 30 years in college basketball.
Saturday marked the first time the two played as ranked teams since 1994, and Xavier once again gained the upper hand with a 65-55 victory that adds to an early season resume that is among the most impressive in the country. That makes 14 wins in the last 20 meetings for the Musketeers in a series that remains as intense as any in the sport, as we saw once again.
There were technical fouls (two). There were elbows thrown-in the game’s first 30 seconds. There was a brief tangle in the second half, but all cooled and the game went on just fine. Good, hard-nosed competition, all in a day’s work for the Crosstown Shootout.
Balance and defense were the keys for Xavier, as five players scored at least eight points led by Myles Davis with 17 points. Watching on TV, Davis appears about twice his actual 22 years of age, with his T-shirt, shaved head and beard making him look as if he was plucked straight from the YMCA. His steadying game also belies his age; Davis doesn’t need to score and in particular has been key much of the season for his skills distributing, but the junior can fill it up when needed and is a big reason for X’s 10-0 start.
The Musketeers also turned away the Bearcats’ attempts at a late rally by going to a 1-3-1 zone defense over the final 10 minutes. Cincinnati was within five just before the midway point of the second half but scored just eight points over the final 10 minutes.
Xavier is becoming a flavor of the moment-the Musketeers are touted as nothing less than a Final Four contender here and here-but it’s well-earned. X is deep-six players average in double figures-pounds the glass, takes care of the ball and has threats inside and out. Cincy is also no slouch-the Bearcats are capable of at least a round of 32 appearance in the NCAA Tournament again and more-so the relative ease of Xavier’s wire-to-wire win on Saturday should not be diminished. Nor should the Musketeers’ relative dominance in a series that continues to be one of the best in the country.
- Phil Kasiecki has his review of Saturday, covering many of the big games from the day.
- Standout individual performances of the day…Howard’s James Daniel continues to be one of the most exciting players in the country. He scored 38, but the Bison lost to Radford 92-91 in double overtime. Speaking of exciting, Oakland’s Kahlil Felder regularly is it, and he filled it up for 34 in the Golden Grizzlies’ nice 76-64 win at Toledo. Also, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield (30 points) outdueled Oral Roberts guard Obi Emegano (29 points) in the Sooners’ 96-79 win.
- The ranks of the undefeateds is down to eight, though not without a fight. Both UNC-Wilmington (87-82 to Georgetown) and St. Mary’s (63-59 to California) lost tough ones but gave terrific efforts on the road. St. Mary’s in particular led in the final 20 seconds at Cal and had a one-and-one with 1.7 seconds left to tie the game. (By the way, for those who seem to constantly want rule changes to create drama-what provides more drama than the one-and-one? The automatic two-shot foul certainly doesn’t.) We also almost had a third undefeated go down surprisingly on Saturday, but top-ranked Michigan State held on for a 58-52 win over Florida.
- It’s not often that a team from the Southern Conference builds an at-large resume through their non-conference performance, but Tennessee-Chattanooga is doing just that. The Mocs defeated Dayton 61-59 at UD Arena, snapping the Flyers’ 26-game home win streak. UTC now has wins at Georgia, Illinois and Dayton and only losses to undefeated Iowa State plus one to Louisiana-Monroe when all-conference center Justin Tuoyo was out due to injury.
- Pacific announced on Saturday that it has placed head coach Ron Verlin and assistant coach Dwight Young on indefinite suspension as the NCAA continues an investigation into allegations of academic misconduct. Assistant coach Mike Burns-former head coach at Eastern Washington from 2004-07-will serve as interim coach, and he led the team yesterday in its 71-52 loss to Fresno State.
Today’s menu: Lot of games for a Sunday
- The day’s most intriguing game has LSU on the road to take on Houston (5:30 p.m., ESPN2). We know about the Tigers; still trying to get a read on the Cougars, who have so many new faces this year and blew away early opponents before getting handled by Rhode Island in their first road game.
- Fox Sports 1 has a Big East tripleheader, and all three are worth a glance, at least for name recognition. First, Syracuse goes to MSG to face St. John’s (Noon EST), and that’s followed by St. Peter’s at Seton Hall (2:30 p.m.) in a Jersey rivalry. The Peacocks surprised the Pirates two years ago. Finally, La Salle goes to Villanova (5 p.m.) for a Big 5 game.
- Another Big 5 game has St. Joseph’s at Temple, with the Owls’ Quentin DeCosey up against Deandre Bembry.
- Rhode Island and Nebraska played a terrific game early last year at the Ryan Center. Now the Rams make a return trip to Pinnacle Bank Arena.
- Loyola Chicago is at Notre Dame in what has the potential to be interesting if the Ramblers can slow down the Irish. Loyola defeated Creighton in its last game and now takes on another fellow Catholic school
- Seems like Yale has been barnstorming the country over the last month, and the Bulldogs now will touch the west coast when they take on USC.
Enjoy your Sunday.