ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 23: Dee Davis #0 of the Xavier Musketeers shoots on Perry Jones III #1 of the Baylor Bears in the first half during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball South Regional Semifinal game at the Georgia Dome on March 23, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Crosstown Classic 2012: UC is the favorite, but Xavier's style of play gives them a chance

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CINCINNATI - It's that time of year again. The smell of pine, the presence of mistletoe and the Crosstown Shootout, er, Classic.

That's still taking some getting used to.

The Xavier Musketeers and University of Cincinnati Bearcats could not be coming into this year's Queen City rivalry game in more different positions than they were last year.

In 2011, XU had the explosive backcourt; that belongs to UC now. Last year, the Muskies were the favorite to the upstart Bearcats who had stumbled through their first dozen games of the season; this year No. 11 UC is the favorite at an undefeated 10-0 and Xavier has bumbled their way to a 7-2 record, winning games by more than seven points only twice. In 2011, the teams played on a college campus; this year they move to a "neutral" site in U.S. Bank Arena downtown.

With all the changes, Musketeer fans certainly aren't expecting much at this year's annual Skyline-sponsored meeting, but all is not lost at a chance to "upset" the Bearcats. (Note: There is no such thing as an "upset" when these two teams play. Look back through history, Xavier teams that only won five games all season won this matchup, and similarly very bad UC teams have taken down competitive Xavier teams. Don't let those ESPN analysts tell you different, emotion alone evens these two squads, despite talent level.)

And even as the season has progressed, XU has had their bright moments, but their inability to put teams away has shocked their fan base time and time again.

Thus, this year's Shootout, er, Classic, has a few shocking stats that will dictate the flow of play, and ultimately determine who wins this one.

Shocking Stat #1: Xavier University is 10th in the nation in field goal percentage. Let that sink in for a minute.

The reason why XU hasn't found their way to an undefeated start on the back of that 49.9 shooting percentage? First keep in mind that number is mostly reflected off of the season-opener against Fairleigh Dickinson when the Muskies shot a once-in-a-decade 70 percent from the field, but even without that, Xavier is at a very respectable 47.5 percent, just about a full point higher than UC's 46.6 percent (45th in the nation).

The real reason XU hasn't performed better even with that high-percentage shooting is this year's Muskies style of play. They slow down the game by going inside to their big men, they take up shot clock, they run long plays and they rarely take 3-pointers early in possessions.

That style of play creates good opportunities, but not necessarily plentiful amounts of those opportunities (XU is 114th in the country in points per game at 71), which is one reason why Xavier hasn't pulled away from their opponents in many cases. With a high-octane team like the Bearcats, it could be their undoing if XU can't control the pace of the game.

Shocking Stat #2: On the other side of the court, UC is a decent 45th in the nation in field goal percentage, but 6th in the nation in points scored per game with 83.0.

That ranking is a product of their guards' prolific offensive skills and fast pace of operation on breaks, usually coming from one of the 11 steals the team averages per game.

The Bearcats' guards have also excelled in the points department thanks to their hot 3-point shooting early in the season. Between Cashmere Wright (47.5 percent from 3-point range), JaQuon Parker (41.4 percent from beyond the arc) and Sean Kilpatrick (38.5 percent from 3-point), they have made 66 of 155 3-point shots so far this season and recorded a very solid 42.58 3-point shooting percentage between the three of them.

The Musketeers' top three-point shooters, Dee Davis (47.6 percent from 3), Brad Redford (47.4 percent from outside) and Justin Martin (46.4 percent from downtown), have a great combined percentage at 47.13 percent, but they've thrown up 47 less three point attempts than the Bearcats' top three 3-point shooters, and as a result made less (just 51).

That's a lot of references to threes.

Here's one more, in the form of Shocking Stat #3: UC is 1st in the nation in rebounds per game with 46.1.

Despite 6-foot-10 senior Jeff Robinson, the long arms of Travis Taylor and the big body of Isaiah Philmore, rebounding has been Xavier's Achilles heel, and the major contributor to their inability to put teams away: The Muskies are ranked 304th in the country with just 31.6 rebounds per matchup.

For those who don't feel like doing the math, that's almost 15 less rebounds per game. That's 15 more chances the Bearcats will get than the Musketeers, should the stats hold true.

If that is not rectified, there's no chance the blue beats the red in this one.

Xavier has an obvious size disadvantage when David Nyarsuk (7-foot-1) is in the game off the bench, but it hasn't been UC's size that has gotten them all their boards. Kilpatrick (6-foot-4) is the team's leader in rebounds per game with 6.2 and Titus Rubles (6-foot-7) and Justin Jackson (6-foot-8) are tied for second on the team with 5.7 rpg.

That in mind, these two teams

CINCINNATI - It's that time of year again. The smell of pine, the presence of mistletoe and the Crosstown Shootout, er, Classic.

That's still taking some getting used to.

The Xavier Musketeers and University of Cincinnati Bearcats could not be coming into this year's Queen City rivalry game in more different positions than they were last year.

In 2011, XU had the explosive backcourt; that belongs to UC now. Last year, the Muskies were the favorite to the upstart Bearcats who had stumbled through their first dozen games of the season; this year No. 11 UC is the favorite at an undefeated 10-0 and Xavier has bumbled their way to a 7-2 record, winning games by more than seven points only twice. In 2011, the teams played on a college campus; this year they move to a "neutral" site in U.S. Bank Arena downtown.

With all the changes, Musketeer fans certainly aren't expecting much at this year's annual Skyline-sponsored meeting, but all is not lost at a chance to "upset" the Bearcats. (Note: There is no such thing as an "upset" when these two teams play. Look back through history, Xavier teams that only won five games all season won this matchup, and similarly very bad UC teams have taken down competitive Xavier teams. Don't let those ESPN analysts tell you different, emotion alone evens these two squads, despite talent level.)

And even as the season has progressed, XU has had their bright moments, but their inability to put teams away has shocked their fan base time and time again.

Thus, this year's Shootout, er, Classic, has a few shocking stats that will dictate the flow of play, and ultimately determine who wins this one.

Shocking Stat #1: Xavier University is 10th in the nation in field goal percentage. Let that sink in for a minute.

The reason why XU hasn't found their way to an undefeated start on the back of that 49.9 shooting percentage? First keep in mind that number is mostly reflected off of the season-opener against Fairleigh Dickinson when the Muskies shot a once-in-a-decade 70 percent from the field, but even without that, Xavier is at a very respectable 47.5 percent, just about a full point higher than UC's 46.6 percent (45th in the nation).

The real reason XU hasn't performed better even with that high-percentage shooting is this year's Muskies style of play. They slow down the game by going inside to their big men, they take up shot clock, they run long plays and they rarely take 3-pointers early in possessions.

That style of play creates good opportunities, but not necessarily plentiful amounts of those opportunities (XU is 114th in the country in points per game at 71), which is one reason why Xavier hasn't pulled away from their opponents in many cases. With a high-octane team like the Bearcats, it could be their undoing if XU can't control the pace of the game.

Shocking Stat #2: On the other side of the court, UC is a decent 45th in the nation in field goal percentage, but 6th in the nation in points scored per game with 83.0.

That ranking is a product of their guards' prolific offensive skills and fast pace of operation on breaks, usually coming from one of the 11 steals the team averages per game.

The Bearcats' guards have also excelled in the points department thanks to their hot 3-point shooting early in the season. Between Cashmere Wright (47.5 percent from 3-point range), JaQuon Parker (41.4 percent from beyond the arc) and Sean Kilpatrick (38.5 percent from 3-point), they have made 66 of 155 3-point shots so far this season and recorded a very solid 42.58 3-point shooting percentage between the three of them.

The Musketeers' top three-point shooters, Dee Davis (47.6 percent from 3), Brad Redford (47.4 percent from outside) and Justin Martin (46.4 percent from downtown), have a great combined percentage at 47.13 percent, but they've thrown up 47 less three point attempts than the Bearcats' top three 3-point shooters, and as a result made less (just 51).

That's a lot of references to threes.

Here's one more, in the form of Shocking Stat #3: UC is 1st in the nation in rebounds per game with 46.1.

Despite 6-foot-10 senior Jeff Robinson, the long arms of Travis Taylor and the big body of Isaiah Philmore, rebounding has been Xavier's Achilles heel, and the major contributor to their inability to put teams away: The Muskies are ranked 304th in the country with just 31.6 rebounds per matchup.

For those who don't feel like doing the math, that's almost 15 less rebounds per game. That's 15 more chances the Bearcats will get than the Musketeers, should the stats hold true.

If that is not rectified, there's no chance the blue beats the red in this one.

Xavier has an obvious size disadvantage when David Nyarsuk (7-foot-1) is in the game off the bench, but it hasn't been UC's size that has gotten them all their boards. Kilpatrick (6-foot-4) is the team's leader in rebounds per game with 6.2 and Titus Rubles (6-foot-7) and Justin Jackson (6-foot-8) are tied for second on the team with 5.7 rpg.

That in mind, these two teams

Throwing A Charity Ball?

As the Crosstown Shootout, er, Classic, games usually go, each team will be within reach of the other by the time the clock starts winding down. In that very familiar case, the game's deciding factor will likely end up on the free throw line.

For Xavier, it's been night and day. They Muskies have had great games where they've shot 86 percent on 21 attempts (Fairleigh Dickinson) and 89 percent on 18 attempts (Drexel), and then they've had terrible days at the line, shooting 41 percent and 53 percent on 17 attempts (Pacific and Vanderbilt). Overall, Xavier stands collectively at 72.7 percent, which falls in the top third of the country and isn't half bad. The trouble is knowing which free-throw shooting team will show up.

UC on the other hand has been rather predictable. At just 61.7 percent from the line for the year, they've got issues when their shots don't fall from the field.

If it comes down to the free throw line late in this game, the outcome is in XU's favor, especially if they're able to get the ball to who they want with the lead down the stretch.

The Tipping Point: The Inbounds Play

But beware hopeful Musketeers, if Wednesday night's contest does come down to late-game fouls, you better hope Chris Mack worked on an inbounds play or two in the past 10 days the team has had off in order to get the ball to someone who is reliable at the free-throw line.

Xavier has had extreme difficulty inbounding all season, especially when pressed full court. With a very aggressive, speedy and turnover-savvy Bearcat squad, one bad pass or panicked step in the wrong direction could be the determining factor in a win or a loss in a close game in the final minutes.

That in mind, it's tough to see XU overcome a lot of the obstacles to dictate the style of play on both sides of the ball. Prediction: UC 71-XU 65

Tip-off is at 7 p.m. on ESPN 2.

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