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Crosstown Shootout preview, matchups, keys to the game

If you need any help getting up for this one, so help us, you’re in the wrong place. This, though, is the information you need to know.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Do you need an introduction for this one? Xavier is coming off a home win against a tough Baylor team. UC has blown through one of the weakest schedules in the nation. Xavier has won three of the last four, seven of the last 10, and 14 of the last 21. In the annual battle for the city, the Muskies have the recent upper hand. All decent people involved hate UC. Here's what they're like this year:

Team fingerprint

I could probably cut and paste this from every other time we've previewed this game. UC wants to turn it into a rock fight, and their greatest weapon in that regard is their defense. They're in the top 50 in steal rate, block rate, turnover rate, and opponent's free throw rate and in the top 25 in offensive rebound percentage, opponent's EFG%, and opponent's 2P%. This defense chokes the life out of games.

The offense is pretty solid as well. They're about national average in terms of ball security and pretty bad at making free throws. Beyond that, they're hitting 40% of their shots from beyond the arc and 54% inside it, both of which are solidly above average. They don't lift from deep more often that the average team. Most tellingly, they're 5th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. They love to go get it on the glass.

Players:

Starters

Starting matchups
Justin Jenifer Point Guard Quentin Goodin
Senior Class Sophomore
5'10", 175 Measurements 6'4", 190
8.3/1.1/2.7 Game line 6.6/1.6/6.1
0.439/0.458/0.733 Shooting line 0.436/0/0.923
Jenifer shoots well from beyond the arc, and is extremely judicious in his distribution. His 9.3% TO rate is elite for a point guard. He's also giving up six inches to the man across from him.
Jarron Cumberland Shooting Guard J.P. Macura
Sophomore Class Senior
6'5", 215 Measurements 6'5", 203
11/4.4/2.4 Game line 14.6/5.1/3.3
0.429/0.375/0.579 Shooting line 0.593/0.381/0.828
Cumberland is a solid, if unspectactular, shooter, attacks the glass, and defends well. His ball security is a bit suspect, but he's an excellent shooting guard overall.
Jacob Evans Small Forward Trevon Bluiett
Junior Class Senior
6'6", 210 Measurements 6'6", 202
11.7/3.4/4.3 Game line 19.7/6.1/3.3
0.5/0.448/0.684 Shooting line 0.537/0.465/0.882
Evans is shooting outside of his mind right now. Add to that a 29.1% assist rate and a 7.3% block rate, and you have a guy profiling as a star right now. He's a definite concern for X if he can get free.
Gary Clark Power Forward Kaiser Gates
Senior Class Junior
6'8", 230 Measurements 6'6", 215
13.7/8.1/2 Game line 11.3/4.6/1
0.534/0.308/0.882 Shooting line 0.444/0.447/0.714
Clark is 15th in the nation in offensive efficiency and he still attacks the glass and opponents shots relentlessly. This year at the line he's shooting 18% better than his career mark.
Kyle Washington Center Tyrique Jones
Senior Class Sophomore
6'9", 230 Measurements 6'9", 237
10.4/5.6/0.4 Game line 9.6/6.9/0.7
0.583/0.667/0.789 Shooting line 0.667/0/0.577
Washington is a lesser version of Gary Clark. That may be overly simplistic, but they both approach the game very much the same way, Clark just does it marginally better. These two are the reason the Bearcats dominate the glass.

Reserves

Only six teams in the nation get more minutes from their bench. This can speak to either a deep reserve crew, or weak starters. For Cincinnati, it’s the former. Foul trouble isn’t really a concern for any start save possibly Washington, so these guys play on their own merits.

First off the bench is heralded transfer guard Cane Broome. Broome is shooting 44% from deep this year, but he’s chucking the ball around with abandon. When the ball leaves his hands, something is sure to happen, but it’s anyone’s guess whether it will be a positive. 6-5 freshman Keith Williams also serves to spell the guards. Williams is effective off the bounce, horrendous as a spot up shooter. Trevor Moore stands the same height as Williams, but is markedly different in that he shoots 44% behind the arc with the third most attempts on the team. Moore rebounds well enough that he sees most of his time as a swing three.

Sophomore forward Tre Scott is the fourth man off the bench and still comes close to 15 minutes per game. He’s a 6-9 banger who plays in exactly the manner that phrase brings to mind. He also turns the ball over a third of the times he touches it. Nysier Brooks is a 6-11 pure center who mostly serves to grab offensive rebounds and keep Kyle Washington from fouling out. Crucially, he turns the ball over a quarter of the times he touches it.

That’s all for the bench players who will get double digit minutes, but Mamadou Diarra behind them merits special attention. He’s a 6-9 freshman who is a brutal 5-15 from the floor but has the highest shots percentage (33.5%) on the team by nearly 10%. He’s a voracious rebounder who, in a small sample size, is actually better than Gary Clark, and he blocks 15% of opponents shots when he is on the floor. If he plays, keep an eye on him, it will be entertaining.

Three questions

-How do Cincinnati's numbers translate? I banged home 10 goals in my last soccer game, but it was against my five-year-old in the back yard. Similarly, UC has superficially impressive numbers, but they haven't been doing it against guys like X runs out there. It remains to be seen how a step up in talent will impact what the Bearcats do.

-Who can get quick buckets? Both teams really like short offensive possessions and both teams like to drag things out on defense. In a game that becomes a battle in the half court, transition baskets are worth their weight in gold. If a team can start piling those up, they'll have a heck of an advantage.

-Who plays center? Sean O'Mara has silky skills, but there's a question of whether or not he can defend and/or hold his own on the glass. Tyrique Jones is mean as a junkyard dog, but his game is pretty straightforward. Maybe that helps in a rock fight, or maybe you want the guy who can dance through the mine field. Coach Mack is going to have to figure it out on the fly.

Three keys

-Stay even on the glass. UC has been eating boards all year. Xavier, it must be pointed out, has not. If the Bearcats keep getting stickbacks and X doesn't, it's going to be a long day for the home team. Xavier has to grab enough of their own misses to stay alive and end defensive possessions at the first attempt.

-Lean on Q. Xavier's advantage is at point guard; I'd be willing to bet a nad on it. Justin Jenifer is off to a good start, but he's 5'10" and hasn't played big minutes to this point in his career. Cane Broome is a combo guard who turns the ball over too much. Q grew up in the fire last year after Ed went down, and now he's got grown man game. He's a 6'4" bull of a man who has the game wired right now. X needs to put him in the driver's seat and let him work.

-Execute. X makes free throws and protects the ball better than they ever have under Coach Mack. They shoot from inside the arc better than anyone in the nation. UC will try to jam that all up because that's what they do. If Xavier can do what they do despite that, they'll win. It's that simple.