So one might think the state of North Carolina is taking the College Basketball scene by storm as they have UNC, Duke, NC State, NC Central, and UNC Greensboro in the NCAA Tournament this year, but people are over looking a city in Ohio where College Basketball has become a hotbed. That city is Cincinnati. I have lived in this city for two years so I am watching my third season of college basketball in the Queen City and came in not knowing what to expect. I am from D.C. and went to college in North Carolina, two environments where the sport thrives, so I know my college basketball. What is going on here in Cincinnati is just simply incredible. The city has two programs in Xavier University and University of Cincinnati where they have been absolute powerhouses this year including both being in the top five in the AP Rankings at one point. Xavier is ranked the highest it’s been in school history (3) and also got their first ever one seed while UC is ranked 6 in the nation and have a two seed. These two schools also have a rivalry between them as they play each other at least once per season which is dubbed the Crosstown Shootout. While it is not at the same level nor anywhere near the hype of a type of rivalry like UNC-Duke, the hatred is there and bragging rights are on the line for the next 364 days. The city seems to shutdown just to watch that game. College Basketball is huge here. But with that, let’s look at the teams:
University of Cincinnati
While this team won’t hurt too much when putting points on the board, don’t underestimate these guys, they are really freaking good. Led by Mick Cronin, this team relies on it’s defense as they only allow 57.2 points per game which is second in the nation, while also nabbing 39.1 rebounds per game (tied for 20th in the nation). On offense, Gary Clark is their best player, but they have got some other guys who can do damage in Jarron Cumberland, Cane Broome, and Jacob Evans. However, beating these guys is no easy task as they could literally ride their defense to victory. While, their offense is not overwhelming, it’s not too shabby either.
While University of Cincinnati might be a defensive brickhouse, Xavier is an offensive juggernaut putting up 84.3 points per game which is 11th in the country and they average 16.6 assists per game (21st in the nation). So they clearly move the ball around a lot and it seems like they share a lot too. That must be why they are so good offensively. Chris Mack is the head coach and is honestly very good at his job. The team is led by Trevon Blueitt on the court as he may be one of the most underrated players in College Basketball, but he is also backed up by J.P. Macura, Naji Marshall, Kerem Kanter, and Quentin Goodin who are all capable of being dangerous especially when Blueitt is on the bench. Goodin drives this offense as well as he puts up 4.9 assists per game. Although the defensive numbers suggest they are poor as they average 74.5 points allowed per game (235th in the nation), they actually aren’t bad with a pretty solid zone defense and they nab 38.4 rebounds per game (42nd in the nation). Plus they play in a tougher conference. Xavier is well balanced, deep, and just really talented with an explosive offense and solid defense. People seem to underestimate them (I know I did earlier in the season), but this team could bring a championship to the city. Honestly, this is one of the most balanced and deep teams I’ve ever seen.
Be on the watch out with these two schools in this tournament as lot’s of analysts think that both these squads are favorites to make the Final Four. If the stars do align here, there is a possibility that both these schools could face off in the Final Four which would cause this city to go into a frenzy. Both fanbases should be excited for this tournament and both should be excited for what could possibly happen, but for now, the rest of the country needs to take notice of both these schools as they are both very talented. Oh, and the rivalry might be given that national recognition the city wants and deserves.
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