This was originally published in The Athletic.
The formula wasn’t revolutionary, but it was effective. Protect the ball, collect offensive boards, have the team’s best player be the best player on the court, force a poor perimeter-shooting opponent to play from behind against the program’s trademark suffocating defense.
Even as nearly every Cincinnati Bearcats fan spent the days leading up to the Crosstown Shootout running through the potential doomsday fallout of yet another loss to Xavier, this always felt like a game that UC was supposed to win. Mick Cronin, right now at least, has a better team than Travis Steele. If a simple formula was correctly applied, the Bearcats weren’t getting upset.
UC’s 62-47 Shootout win over Xavier might not have been a total blowout, but it wasn’t close either. It ended, at least temporarily, the chatter about XU’s recent domination in the series, and pacified a fan base that was going to blow its top had the Bearcats lost another Shootout, this time at home to a Musketeers team with a slapped-together roster and a rookie head coach. But amid the finality that accompanies every UC/Xavier game is a larger question that’s just now beginning to be asked.
Could this UC team actually be pretty good?
To read more, go to The Athletic.
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