Both Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati basketball teams are coming off fairly successful seasons.
Xavier did not fair as well as most fans had hoped during this past regular season when it came to conference play. The Muskies finished sixth in the Big East with a conference record of just 9-9. However, XU wowed the selection committee by reaching the finals of the Big East Tournament, where they fell to Villanova. On the way to the title game, they knocked out Butler and Georgetown to earn themselves a six seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Cincinnati faired a little better in regular season conference play, going 13-5 and finishing tied for third in the American Athletic Conference. However, they did not do as much damage in their conference tournament as they would have hoped. The Bearcats lost their first game in the tournament to UConn after a first round bye. UC still reached the NCAA tournament as a nine seed.
So what can we expect for this season?
Both teams will be returning the majority of their players this year, only losing a few guys. Xavier will be bringing back three starters while Cincinnati will be returning all five. Both teams are also gaining some quality assets from recruiting and transfers.
I asked a few guys here at Elder High School which players they were most excited to see coming back for this season. Juniors Ryan Schenkel and Joe Reiter are both fans of the Xavier Musketeers. They agreed that the player they are most excited to watch is big man Jalen Reynolds. They both acknowledge the fact that Reynolds “dominates offensively and defensively,” as Reiter put it, but they also both noticed something else about him.
“Reynolds gets the crowd into it,” said Schenkel. Reiter added on that “it’s hard to find a guy that plays harder than him.” Clearly, Jalen Reynolds brings a great combination of energy and talent to the Musketeers.
Both guys also expect Xavier to finish higher in the Big East this season. They acknowledged that teams like Villanova, Georgetown, Butler and Providence will be good competition within the conference. However, these guys both have a lot of faith in the Muskies as they both said they expect them to finish in the top three.
Some lofty expectations have been set for Xavier when it comes to the NCAA tournament. Both guys expect the Musketeers to reach the sweet 16 at least. “They make it there almost every good year they have,” said Reiter. However, neither of them wants to see the season end there. “They can make it to the elite eight with a good draw,” said Schenkel. Reiter thinks that “if they can make it far enough to compete for a spot in the final four, anything can happen.”
Well what about the guys on the other side of town?
I asked the same questions to junior, Luke Greely who is a fan of the Cincinnati Bearcats.
He told me that he was excited to see the return of two very talented players, Gary Clark and Troy Caupain. Both guys are expected to once again play major roles for the team this season.
As far as conference play goes, Greely expects the Bearcats to “definitely be in the conversation for the championship.” He acknowledged teams like SMU and UConn as some of the other title contenders in the AAC, saying that they are “always tough.” UC definitely will need to beat these teams, in addition to the other teams in the conference like Temple and Memphis if they want to be crowned champions.
Finally, I asked Greely how far he thought that UC could go in the tournament this season, after getting knocked out by one of the best teams in the nation in the round of 32 last year. He thinks that the Bearcats can make it a little farther this season. Hopefully for Greely and all other UC fans these expectations can be met.
The two teams will square off on December 12th in the annual Crosstown Classic. The Musketeers just barely got passed the Bearcats last year, but UC leads the all time series 49-33. We should get to see another great contest at the Cintas Center this year as both teams look to add another awesome chapter to a great rivalry