Queen City Standard: Xavier-UC Showdown Reigns Supreme in the 513
In the city of Cincinnati, there has never been a day in sports more exciting than tomorrow. The Crosstown Shootout, or now Classic, for years has been the rivalry that ignites a city. With two high profile programs separated by less than 3 miles, it was impossible to go the week leading up to the game without your opinion being known. From wondering Whose Kilpatrick, to Xavier girls being ugly, there is never a punch pulled when arguing for your school’s pride. Since arguing Eastside vs. Westside, there has never been an event that has so severely divided a city. The polarizing opinions surrounding this game cause you to lose friends for a week, because if you are from Cincinnati, you better choose a side. Skyline or Gold Star, Graeters or Aglamesis, Xavier or UC, there can never be both.
However, over the last couple of years, the rivalry has changed. Not just the name, from shootout to classic, or location, from the campuses to downtown; the emotion appears to have been sucked out of this game. There have been a plethora of factors leading up to this apparent lull in the series this season, most obviously the lack of appeal to the casual sports fan as this game enters two unranked opponents. Without vested interest, is it even exciting to watch? For years, the game included top ten teams, NBA prospects and the fiery personalities of controversial coaches. Sure Semaj vs Kilpatrick will be an exciting matchup for the night but does it really compare to when Kenyon Martin or David West were running the court? Can the passive, quiet personalities of Chris Mack and Mick Cronin really excite a rivalry the way Bob Huggins and Pete Gillen could? Combine that in to the fact that it is played on a neutral court without the harassing, emotional fans creating that passionate “us versus the world” environment that only an opposing arena can have, and the game seems to have lost its luster.
But you can’t blame it all just on not being in the glory days of recent past, for the game had excitement before those big players came through, and it is possible to get it back. However, the expected story lines of the past will have to go if the game expects to have a future. Gone are the days of Big, Bad, Goliath UC, dressed in all black with swagger, attitude, and a number one ranking going against the David that is Xavier; the small, private, Jesuit school. Over the last decade, Xavier has been more successful in postseason play, drawn more fans, and is now even in the premiere conference out of the two, since their move to the Big East, and it doesn’t appear either team’s fan base knows how to react. UC has traditionally dominated the series with 49 wins since the first time they met in 1927 to Xavier’s 31, but the Musketeers have won six of the last 10, creating a much more competitive rivalry, so why does it not feel as exciting?
Well for one, during the peak of this rivalry, the professional teams in Cincinnati were awful. The Bengals were in the Akili Smith-era regularly putting out three win seasons and the Reds were struggling to put together consecutive winning seasons. The premiere athletic teams were coming out of these schools, so in short the recent professional successes have saturated the pool, its weird for us to not have the best Cincinnati sporting event of the year in December.
With that being said, and despite the uncertainty of its future, the game is still being played, and it has potential to be a strong non conference victory for each team. The Musketeers, coming off a three game losing streak in the Bahamas and two very non-convincing wins over Bowling Green and Evansville, need to prove that despite being a young team, they have what it takes to be a contender this year. The Bearcats started the season 7-0 with a good win over NC State before falling to a talented New Mexico team last week.
The game will be a good test for both teams, especially dealing with their weaknesses. It will be important for the Musketeers to contain Sean Kilpatrick currently averaging nearly 20 points per game, while the Bearcats will need to find a way to deal with the big boys inside of Matt Stainbrook and Isaiah Philmore for Xavier. But as fans of either team agree, when it comes to these two teams, expect the unexpected, and when that first jump ball goes up, the US Bank Arena will be rocking. To these players on the court, it’s to win the pride of a city, this passion is unmatched in any arena around the country, so you know they’ll be ready.
-Eli Wilz, @wilz_i_am