Cincinnati at Xavier Preview: Crosstown Shootout Edition

On Saturday night inside Xavier's Cintas Center, Wes Miller and his Cincinnati Bearcats (7-0) will meet the Xavier Musketeers (4-5) in the 91st edition of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout. 

The Bearcats will look to end a 4 game losing streak to the Muskies and bounce back from last season's 80-77 loss inside Fifth Third Arena.

While both teams have been on different trajectories to start the season, if there's anything this rivalry has taught us over the years, it is that you can throw the records out the window because they don't mean anything when these two are on the same court. 

What you need to know:

- UC is off to its best start since 2017-18, and a win would mark its first at 8-0 since 2012-13, its final Big East campaign. UC's seven-game win streak is also its longest since 2018-19.

- Cincinnati has scored 85-plus points in six-straight games for the first time since 1959-60 (Oscar Robertson's senior year)

- Cincinnati is 14th nationally in scoring offense (87.3 ppg)

- Xavier has won 9 straight on their home court. The last time UC won at Xavier was Steve Logan's senior year during the 2001-2002 season.

- UC leads the all time series 51-39, despite Xavier winning 12 of the last 16 match ups.

- Sean Miller holds a 151-62 record in his seventh season leading Xavier, which is good for third place on Xavier's all-time wins list. Miller is 4-2 vs. UC.

- Xavier enters the game on a 3 game losing streak after their most recent loss to Delaware, 87-80. UC is coming off a 99-62 win over FGCU, in which Vik Lakhin posted 19 points, 9 rebounds, and a career high 6 assists.

- Cincinnati enters 27th in the Kenpom rankings, Xavier is 52nd

- Xavier is 77th in adjusted offense (points scored per 100 possessions), 33rd in adjusted defense

- Cincinnati is 31st in adjusted offense and 33rd in adjusted defense.

Players to know:

- 6'3 Sr G Quincy Olivari (16.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.2 apg)

Olivari is coming off a 34 point performance against Delaware and leads X in scoring through the first 9 games. He has been their most consistent deep threat at 42% and is tied for fourth in the Big East  in 3-point field goals at 2.67 per game.

Olivari made 5 three's against Delaware so running him off the line and not allowing him to get going from outside should be a primary focus defensively.

- 6'6 So G Desmond Claude (16.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.3 apg)

Claude's whole game is built on him using his size and strength and getting to the rim. He has scored in double figures in every game this season, despite having a rough start from outside (25%). 

Claude leads the team in free throw attempts (47) but has only converted at a 70% clip. Hedging ball screens and not allowing him to get momentum going to the rim will have to be a focus. Claude only shot two free throws in the loss to Delaware but shot 12 free throws in the losses to Houston and Oakland.

Xavier averages 12.9 turnovers per game with Claude leading the team in that category with 20 total.

- 6'7 Sr F Gytis Nemeiksa (8.3 ppg, 5 rpg)

Nemeiksa does the majority of his work around the rim (49% FG) but has shown the ability to step out and knock down a perimeter shot as well if left open. The Lithuanian big man has knocked down 8-of-18 attempts from the three-point line so far. 

- 6'0 Sr G Dayvion McKnight (7.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 5.1 apg)

McKnight is a guy that is going to do a little bit of everything. The Western Kentucky transfer leads the Big East Conference in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.29 and is fifth in the Big East in assists per game.

While not known for being a shooter (66.7 FT% , 15% 3FG) he did have 11 games last season at Western Kentucky where he posted 20 or more points. 

- 6'10 Sr F Abou Ousmane ( 7.8 ppg, 5 rpg)

Ousmane is the primary rim protector for the Muskies but has struggled to stay on the floor recently with foul trouble. A transfer from North Texas, Ousmane has had 5 games this season where he either finished with 4 fouls or fouled out. Three of those games have occurred during Xavier's current three game losing streak. 

Being aggressive against Ousmane will likely be a key for CIncinnati bigs Vik Lakhin and Aziz Bandaogo.

- 6'0 Fr Trey Green (6.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 2.9 apg)

Most Cincinnati fans remember Green from his recruitment to Cincinnati prior to landing Jizzle James.

Green was arguably one of the best shooters in the 2023 class but has struggled to get things going to start his collegiate career. Green was 3-for-6 from deep in the loss to Oakland but is shooting just 25.6 % on the year and 31% from the field.

- 6'7 Fr F Dailyn Swain (6.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg)

Swain has a lot of long term potential and has been one of Xavier's best free throw shooters through 9 games. The Columbus native is a former four-star top 100 recruit and has shown to be a solid perimeter defender

Final Thoughts:

Cincinnati enters this year's shootout with the better team and roster. I don't think there's much debate there. The Bearcats have an advantage in size, experience, athleticism, and overall talent on paper. They have shown to be a team that can overcome adversity with all of the different weapons they have offensively. Simas Lukosius could be a game time decision but scored 27 points in the Big East tournament against Xavier last season.

They will need all hands on deck Saturday as Xavier has jumped out to big leads early the past few years that were simply too much to overcome late in the game. In last year's game, X started the game on a 13-1 run and led 41-24 at the half. For Cincinnati to win, they have to avoid a slow start.  

UC has the experience advantage with John Newman, Vik Lakhin, Dan Skillings, and Ody Oguama all experiencing this rivalry during their UC careers. CJ Fredrick is a Cincinnati native, so also has a deep understanding of the meaning of this game. 

Two keys to victory: Limit turnovers and win the rebounding battle

Tip off is at 6:30 pm and will be broadcast on FS1.

Prediction: Cincinnati 78 Xavier 70

Wes Miller Crosstown Shootout Preview:


For More on the shootout, check out our RiverfrontU Crosstown Shootout Preview Podcast:

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