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Pre-Duel Pleasantries: Cincinnati

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We found an actually cool UC fan

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Tulane Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

We have plenty of awesome coverage going right now to get everyone ready for the Crosstown Shootout. To further that, we talked to Phil Neuffer of Down the Drive about the game and chili. Let’s see what the other side had to say.

1.) Another year and another Crosstown Shootout! How are things going in Clifton this year?

Honestly, things couldn’t be going much better. At 17-2 and 7-0 in American Athletic Conference play, Cincinnati is far and away the best team in its conference and sprinting toward a top five seed in the NCAA Tournament. There’s a real chance the Bearcats won’t lose again in the regular season, with this game (obviously) and a road trip against SMU standing out as the biggest potential roadblocks.

You can expect a similar experience to what you are used to from this year’s Bearcats, who rank No. 5 in adjusted defensive efficiency and No. 20 overall according to KenPom. So, yes, there is still the defense over everything strategy at play. Troy Caupain and Gary Clark are still the top players on the team, with Caupain really heating up recently. However, the development of Jacob Evans and emergence of newcomers Kyle Washington, Jarron Cumberland and Tre Scott have made this a deeper and more talented roster.

2.) What is your favorite memory of this rivalry?

As you know (sigh) Xavier has been leading this rivalry recently so fond memories are few and far between for me since I won’t try to take claim for games that happened when I was learning how to read or before I was even born. However, I did very much enjoy UC’s 66-46 win in 2011 which kept UC undefeated and was powered by a heck of a game from Yancy Gates (22 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks).

3.) As of Monday night, someone updated the UC basketball wikipedia page to say 2017 NCAA champions.....is that like, actually possible this year? Nova, UCLA, Baylor, Kansas, there's a lot of good teams.

I want to say yes. I really, really do but I think UC is just outside that upper echelon. With that written, this team is winning close games, something it struggled with to an epic degree last year and taking care of business against teams it should. I think this team’s ceiling is the Elite Eight but I think the Sweet 16 is the more likely poissibility, which would be nice to see after the last few seasons of early exits.

4.) Skyline or Goldstar?

According to Down the Drive’s Clayton Trutor aka the Miss Cleo of College Football, “Gold Star. Tastes fresher, better texture, blends with the spaghetti better, goes down better because it isn't as sweet. Buns on the gold star coneys are better. A Coney Crate is the Perfect way to top off an evening on the town with the fellas.” (authors note: This is a completely wrong answer)

5.) If you could replace Mick Cronin with any basketball coach, who would be your pick?

As long as Coach K gets that tripping thing under control its got to be him. I don’t know if he would be able to turn UC into the Duke of the Midwest overnight, but you have to take the best in the game. Brad Stevens would also be someone I’d like if he was willing to come back to the college ranks. With that said I am firmly in the #StickWithMick camp.

6.) Score prediction?

This is never going to be a game that runs the score up into the 80s or even the 70s. The way UC plays just doesn’t lend itself to such affairs. I expect another grinder but I think UC’s depth and size will push it past Xavier by a score of 67-62.

There you have it. Thanks for the insight into Clifton this year Phil, if we could agree on the outcome and on the chili.