Cincinnati opened a 2.5 point favorite in Las Vegas. The line has since move to UC as a 4.5 point favorite. Who wins? Why? Join the conversation below.
Getting a read on either team has been tough to this point. XU started 5-0, got wiped out in the Bahamas (0-3), has reeled off back to back wins over Bowling Green and Evansville, but struggled in both.
UC dined on cupcakes, stepped up in class vs New Mexico and took a TKO at The Pit.
Over the last five games UC has averaged 11 steals, forced nearly 22 turnovers and scored nearly 28 points off those turnovers. I'll be interested to see how Dee Davis and XU handles UC's pressure. XU has had games turning it over 19, 19, 16 and 15 times this year. If UC can't get turnovers, and has to score in the half-court, it will get interesting (see New Mexico). Xavier struggled in the half-court Wednesday vs Evansville and could not finish around the basket in the first half. Chris Mack then cranked up the pressure, XU got turnovers, got to the line and got easier baskets.
Semaj Christon is in constant attack mode. He's been to the line 90 times and is 25 of 33 in the last two games alone. Isaiah Philmore, 2nd on the team in FTA, has been to the line 34 times for the season. Can UC keep him out of the lane and off the line? Christon cramped up and scored just 6 points in this game last year. You've got to think he's more than a little fired up at a second chance at UC.
Sean Kilpatrick has been so good, so much more patient and efficient with his game this year. This feels like a big game night for him.
I can't wait to watch Justin Jackson and Matt Stainbrook go at it. They each average 10 points a game and grab boards, but Stainbrook has a couple of inches and about 30 pounds on Jackson. Can Jackson avoid foul trouble? Both are emotional.
Justin Martin came up big for XU on Wednesday, with blocks, boards and points down the stretch. He is long and athletic and it will be interesting to see how much he can hassle Kilpatrick.
UC shoots just 44%, but has lived off rebounding their own misses this year, can they do that vs XU?
UC's Shaq Thomas has flashes that drop your jaw and a nice mid-range game, but it doesn't happen often enough. Titus Rubles is physical and gets after it on defense and on the glass.
XU will need more rebounding from Philmore and could use help from FR Jalen Reynolds.
XU's has had issues getting back in transition defense this year, they better fix that tonight.
You never know what freshmen will give you in this game: Myles Davis a momentum changing three-point shooter for XU, averaging 9.9. James Farr adds 8.1. They are 3rd and 4th on the team in scoring.
Troy Caupain (7.5 pts, 2.5 asst) has impressed me, seems like a cool cat that will handle/thrive in a game like this. Kevin Johnson is a solid defender. Jermaine Lawrence has seemed lost at times.
UC shoots.725 from the line to Xavier's .607.
I'll take the Bearcats, based on better defense/turnover margin, rebounding and FT's.
I'll say Bearcats 67-61.
Huggins has never seen a rivalry like UC-XU
The Exponent Telegram
“I think a lot of it is proximity,” Huggins said, going back to the Cincinnati-Xavier skirmishes. “The whole thing starts two weeks before the game with Xavier people calling WLW. It is non-stop. It’s like you probably shouldn’t play for two weeks, because those other people you are playing really don’t matter.”
It just overrides everything in the city of Cincinnati. You have to remember, too, in Huggins’ heyday in Cincinnati, at times when his teams were competing for national titles, Xavier was a prominent program and there was no middle ground.