The last time that Cincinnati beat Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout, gas cost $2.45 a gallon, milk was almost a dollar a gallon cheaper, and Travis Steele was taking on his first Shootout. Four days later Kyky Tandy dunked on a seven footer. By the time of tipoff takes place this Saturday, that dark day will have been more than four years ago.
It was a dark day, too. Xavier lost 62-47 and were never really in the game. Quentin Goodin led the Musketeers with 12 points but 1-7 behind the arc. The team as a whole was 5-25 from deep, Kyle Castlin had an offensive efficiency of 11, Keonte Kennedy played 12 minutes and came an assist away from a double digit trillion, and only Ryan Welage really played well.
Read the article above and you’ll see a microcosm of the next four years. “We basically made no attempt to get Tyrique touches after he got the first bucket of the game and let a pair of 23% three point shooters try their luck from deep most of the day.” “The substitution pattern and the willingness to just let bad shooters jack threes stand out just as much.” “Travis Steele isn’t necessarily a bad coach, but he is a very new one.” “We did, but did you expect it to suck to the point of not making the tournament? Because as it stands now, this team isn’t going to the NCAAs.”
And on, and on. That team did not go to the NCAA tournament, but it did get much better as the season went. Eventually the Musketeers came within a terrible Brian O’Connell call (some things never change) of making the NCAA tournament. That season ended with a loss to nationally invited champion Texas.
2018-19 wasn’t a banner year for the Musketeers. They lost the Shootout, the missed the tournament, and their new coach never quite sorted things. He never quite would. Amazingly though, that was the last time the Bearcats beat the Musketeers in the best rivalry game in college basketball. Travis Steele won’t go into the Xavier Hall of Fame, but he beat UC in 2019 and 2020, and then hammered them in 2021.
Since that moment UC has been 44th, 116th, and 101st in the KenPom coming into the Shootout. This year they will be in the upper 70s. Xavier hasn’t done well in the last four seasons overall, Cincinnati has fallen apart.
Now, Sean Miller is back for Xavier. Wes Miller has won four games against teams in the top 100 of the KenPom. Xavier lost that grim day four years ago. They come into this one fully prepared to make it four straight over their historical rival.