After the UC Bearcats (8-1) downed the NKU Norse (8-2) 78-65 on Tuesday night in 5/3 all sights have been set on the game. The one the 513 circles their calendars for each year. The promotional basketballs are sold at Skyline, the coaches are asked repeatedly about what will be the difference maker this year, local media hypes it, school kids wear their team’s colors the day before, twitter trolls are out in full force, students are camping out protecting the Big O, and that big, ugly ass blue blog thing is out eating unexpecting children in your neighborhood. The cold front has just moved into the tri-state and relatives who are reppin the wrong mascot get the cold shoulder. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s all the same old stuff just with new faces all of the hype.
New faces in the Shootout. This year’s Shootout will look a little different from a couple of different angles.
First, from the UC side, the Bearcats only return two starters. Justin Jenifer and Jarron Cumberland. Of course, 9 games into the season we know that Cumberland is option #1 on the offensive end and Cronin’s go to when the team needs a bucket. The problem thus far for Cumberland has been his consistency. Cronin has criticized him for “turning it on and off” whenever he wants. He’ll need to have a strong game come Saturday. The other starters we’ll see for the Bearcats is Keith Williams, Tre Scott, and Nysier Brooks. The three of them combined for 26 minutes of playing time and 4 points in last year’s Crosstown Shootout. Experience isn’t on the side of the Bearcats this year. Williams has played strong in the past couple of games for the Bearcats and Scott is coming off of a career game on Tuesday scoring 22 and grabbing 10 rebounds as he had himself a night.
Secondly, Xavier. Their Voldemort looking leader on the bench flew the coup for a team that was one inch away form the complete death penalty. Makes total sense. Being Xavier they couldn’t pull a “national” name like UConn did with Dan Hurley so they went the 100th next best choice in promoting from within and landing on Travis Steele a 10 year vet on the bench.
Finally, the boys across town have some new faces too. The guy to watch is Naji Marshall. The Bearcats have to find him and not let him become the unexpected hero of the game. He has the potential. You’ll recognize some familiar faces on the Musketeers as well. Juniors Quentin Goodin and Tyrique Jones will be there to anchor the team. I’d expect Goodin to command a lot of attention from the Bearcats defense. He’ll be ready to torch us. I’d have to admit the whole team is really lacking that “most punchable face guy” like they’ve had in the recent past with JP Showshisbutt. OH WAIT! You’ve probably seen this floating around twitter. Let me introduce you to the next most punchable face in college basketball.
I’m not even going to comment.
Same old rivalry. With so many new faces and players entering the rivalry or taking on a new role in it my hope is that the intensity and natural disdain for each other isn’t lost. We don’t need another Punchout but the heated press conferences and chirping makes rivalries great and bragging rights that much more coveted.
Breakout player of the game. Each year in a rivalry game like this you’re looking for rising star, a dark horse hero if you will. My bet on this year’s unexpected hero has to be either LoJo or Nsoseme. Johnson is a human ball of energy off of the bench and can play some awesome Bearcats defense. Nsoseme had a strong game last year in the Shootout with 4 blocks in 8 minutes. I look for him to build on that this year’s installment.
Keys to the game. For the Bearcats to win this one, here is what they’ll need to do:
- Show up early. The Bearcats have a tendency to sleepwalk into big games. Be ready at tip. This includes that Bearcats brand of defense.
- Single digit turnovers. Ideally 7 or less. UNLV tested the Bearcats ability to protect the ball. The Bearcats have to better on Saturday.
- Make shots. Usually an oblivious key to any game but the Bearcats have to make the open ones.
- Rebound. Limit Xavier’s second change opportunities and create them on the other end.
Go Bearcats and see you Saturday in section 207.