Xavier, Cincinnati make Queen City king of college basketball

Both teams ranked in Top 5 this week

CINCINNATI – FOX Sports broadcasters Tim Brando and Jim Jackson got caught up in the college basketball excitement here when they arrived to call Xavier's game against Seton Hall Wednesday night.

They agree the Queen City is the king of hoops after the new polls came out Monday, on the heels of the NCAA tournament bracket preview Sunday.

Xavier and Cincinnati moved up one spot this week and now rank No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, in both the Associated Press (writers) and USA Today (coaches) college basketball polls.

It was already a lofty week for the local teams after the NCAA Selection Committee rated Xavier a No. 1 seed and UC a No. 2 in its tournament bracket preview on Sunday.

Brando and Jackson said the high rankings are well deserved.

"I think it’s great for Cincinnati because they’ve always embraced basketball here," Brando said.  "There’s great tradition and history here going back to the late 50’s and the Big O era and the early 60’s and (UC's) back-to-back titles.

"If you’ve been around along as I have and you remember the days when Tony Yates was coming back to coach at Cincinnati, and the difficulty they went through for a time as a program, it says a lot.  And, for Xavier, to now be on the stage of the Big East and in a power conference — because the Big East is that. It’s a power league."

Jackson praised the coaches, Xavier's Chris Mack and UC's Mick Cronin, for the continued success of their programs.

"Both programs have fought to get to this point," said Jackson. "They’re recruited the right kind of guys. They’ve matured where upperclassmen are leading them. I think it speaks volumes of what the coaches have been able to do. The players have worked extremely hard and it’s deserved.

"We still have a long way to go but  I think this speaks great volumes for basketball in the Cincinnati area."

 

This week's polls gave Xavier its highest ranking ever and UC its highest ranking since the end of the 2001-02 season. It's the highest the Musketeers and Bearcats have ever been ranked at the same time.

In addition, Xavier (23-3), UC (23-2) and Ohio State (22-5) are ranked 1-2-3 in Andy Katz's Power 36 ratings this week.

There's a lot of basketball excitement on both campuses with less than four weeks until Selection Sunday.

At Xavier, it's helping recruit new students,  said two who take calls in the admission office.

"Sometimes you’ll say,  How do you even know about Xavier?' And they’ll say, 'You guys are number four," said Alexandra Hamilton.  "They know that this is a really big part of the school and they want to be a part of it."

"I think what draws people to Xavier is that the school spirit," said Mikaela Walsh. "People want to come in and represent us and we’re definitely excited about that."

"I  think it can really be a good thing in the coming years — expanding the student population and expanding diversity and inclusion," said Allison Schroeder. "It can be great for Xavier in general in all kind of aspects."

At UC, student body president Bashir Emlemdi called it "awesome."

"We have to go through school and everything, but now we celebrate basketball and have another reason to be proud to be Bearcats," Emlemdi said.

"There’s kind of like a sense of standing a little bit taller," said Grace Maxwell, "maybe holding our heads a little bit higher, very excited."

"I hope they do good in the tournament.  I hope they make a run," said Emil Howard.  "As long as it’s bringing us positive energy, we need all the positive energy that we can get."

Both teams will put their ranking on the line against Top 25 opponents at home this weekend.

Xavier will be underdogs to Villanova (23-2) on Saturday. The Wildcats are No. 2 in USA Today and No. 3 in AP.

UC  hosts Wichita State (19-5) on Sunday. The Shockers are 18th in USA Today and 19th in AP.

Xavier has won eight straight since losing at Villanova  89-65 on Jan. 10.

UC has won 16 straight (tied for longest win streak in D-1) since back-to-back losses to Xavier 89-76 on Dec. 2 and Florida 66-60 on Dec. 9 

Ohio State is No. 8 in AP and No. 9 in USA Today while Kentucky dropped out of the Top 25.

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