This is the Most Important Game for the Bearcats in Shootout History, Period
By: Chester Bolt
It’s that week of the year when you start hearing those words from a Xavier fan that will make you cringe: “little brother”.
As a Cats fan, you still have the argument that Cincinnati dominates the series 49-34, more total wins, more NCAA tourney wins, the banners, the NBA players, etc. Really in any overall statistic you come up with, Cincinnati owns Xavier.
XU fans will come back with a snarky remark about attendance, to which you rebuttal with a simple question of who drew more fans when the game was moved to a neutral site for two seasons?
Then they throw you the cross-hook right to your face:
The harsh reality that us UC fans can’t really argue, and that’s the Musketeer domination of this rivalry in recent years. On paper, yes it really is domination, but for someone who has watched every minute of this rivalry, the word “domination” could be replaced with “determination.”
I’m not downplaying the importance of this game or taking away from the fact that a win means you get bragging rights. I’m just pointing out that saying Xavier is our Big Brother is pretty damn ignorant. Let’s recap.
Ah, the Lenny Brown shootout year. “Cincinnati is #1 in the country and #2 in their own city.” Hats off to a buzzer beating victory. You can’t take away from Xavier’s win. But let’s not forget the saying “one game doesn’t define a season. Cincinnati made an Elite Eight run as a number two seed, while Xavier got knocked out in the second round as a number 7.
I remember this as the Kevin Frey game, and the final matchup in the Gardens. It goes down to the buzzer and once again determination leads the Muskies to the two point victory. Cincinnati gets the last laugh, receiving a three seed and winning a tournament game, Xavier goes to NIT.
The determined Muskies pull it out by two again. Another game decided at the buzzer (doesn’t really sound like domination). Cincinnati has their hearts broken later in the year with K-Marts broken leg, but still receive a two seed and win a tourney game, while Xavier goes to the NIT…. Again.
No avoiding this one… The only close game in the last 20 years of the shootout where Xavier was hands down the better team (Notice I said close game, not 10 point plus win). X had David West and company, which may have been their best team ever.
Cincinnati had an 11 point lead and lost once again on the final possession. Cincinnati ended up being a four seed, while Xavier was a seven, however arguments can be made that Xavier was the better team. They made an elite eight run and the turning point of the season goes back to the Shootout. Still, let’s not forgot the fact that once again Xavier won by a lone possession.
The Huggins era is over. Jihad Muhammed’s three sends it into OT. Xavier again pulls it out on the last possession. Muskies win by two and make the NCAA tourney. Cincy is snubbed.
The next three shootouts are irrelevant. Even though Cincy pulled one out, Xavier was the better team all three years. Cronin inherited a tough situation and Cincinnati became irrelevant on the national scene. Xavier on the other hand was killing it under coach Sean Miller.
A double OT thriller. Lance Stephenson had a chance to win it, but settled for a three. It goes down to the final possession… Again… Xavier pulls out the close one.
Xavier whomped UC, but the game was EARLY in the season. The brawl happened and the teams changed. Cincy found their groove and lost in the Big East championship game, while Xavier struggled down the stretch receiving a 10 seed. Both teams ended up making it to the sweet sixteen, but Xavier playing Lehigh instead of Duke was a blessing. If the shootout was played in March, I doubt X would have “zipped em up”.
Cincy has the lead with 11 seconds left and Trevon Bluiett is bumped 25 feet from the basket. He knocks down both free throws and Xavier wins at the buzzer.
Notice the theme here? In every close game, Xavier perseveres.
Cincinnati’s wins during this time period.
Every single victory came by double digits
This write-up isn’t meant to take away from Xavier. They have pulled out all the close ones in the series over the last 20 years and that’s what a winner does.
But, I just identified eight of those games that went down to the final possession. Cincinnati takes care of business just twice and it’s a 12-8 series in the last 20 years. With that being said, Xavier is still the better team in the past 20. Yes, we had our Huggins year success’ while they were beating us and NIT bound, but they have diminished that bragging right by having post-season success of their own.
This is the most important game in Shootout history, period.
Xavier has never won four in a row in this series, ever! It’s on our home floor. Xavier has the advantage of being in a better conference, a better arena and being able to confidently boast that they’ve had a better team since Mick Cronin became our coach. A win makes it five for Xavier this decade. The time to change that is now. But Cats fans better hope it’s not close, because history shows Xavier dominates those finishes.