On Saturday night at US Bank Arena, one of college basketball’s best rivalries will take place as Sean Kilpatrick and the Cincinnati Bearcats take on Samaj Christon and the Xavier Musketeers.
Xavier will be considered the home team of this neutral site game. Xavier will also be considered the underdog; and understandably so. The Musketeers opened the season with five straight wins, including a win over Tennessee, then they went to The Bahamas to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament and lost all three games in that tournament. They fell in a rematch with Tennessee, they lost to a tough Iowa team, and lost to a mediocre USC team. Since coming home from The Bahamas, Chris Mack’s squad has put together two close wins over Bowling Green and Evansville.
Even when the Musketeers play “easy” teams, meaning teams that aren’t in power conferences, they have struggled to get a win, and they will, perhaps, be playing against the toughest team yet, their crosstown rivals, the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bearcats will enter Saturday’s game with a 7-1 record with their lone loss being to a pretty solid New Mexico team. UC has had a pretty easy schedule thus far, with the exception of an early-season game against North Carolina State. Except in the New Mexico game, the ‘Cats haven’t looked bad all season, if you take that game away from their schedule, then they’ve not played in a close game yet, they’ve won every game in blowout fashion.
The Bearcats are lead by senior guard Sean Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick is averaging 19.6 points per game and has posted 20 points in all but two games thus far. If Cincy needs a guy to take over the game, they’ll give the ball to Sean. Perhaps the best all-around player on the Bearcats’ roster is senior forward Justin Jackson. Jackson is averaging 10.6 points per game and is their leading rebounder, averaging 6.6 boards per game. It’s easy to look at stats and see who the best players are, but something you can’t really tell from the stat sheets is how good their defense is. The most points the ‘Cats have surrendered this year is 67 to Kennesaw State.
So it’s pretty obvious by now that the Xavier Musketeers will have their hands full, so they will need guys to step up to the challenge and give it all they’ve got. In order for the Muskies to get a win, Samaj Christon will have to have a great game. Christon is X’s leading scorer, he averages 16.2 points per game. Their next leading scorer is their junior center Matt Stainbrook, he’s one of the best big men in the Big East, he averages 10 points per game and almost nine rebound per game, he’s a great all-around player and measures in at 6 foot 10, 263 pounds, so he usually has the size advantage. The Musketeers will need more than Samaj and Stainbrook to win though, they’ll need guys like Isaiah Philmore, Myles Davis, James Farr, and Dee Davis to step up and cut down on mistakes.
Xavier definitely has the talent to beat Cincinnati, but the Bearcats have a good amount of experience and just seem to be the better team overall. I think this game will be pretty good, and I’m sure everyone in the Cincinnati area will be watching the Crosstown
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