Xavier vs. Cincy Hoops: The Best Rivalry There Is?

This dude'll be there. Getty Images

David Lewis and Stacy Decker are editors of the Cincy-college-hoops-scene-and-more blog Crosstown Shootout. The Crosstown Shootout game can be seen at 8pm Saturday on ESPN2.

When the first basketball game between Cincinnati and Xavier was played in 1927, it was to celebrate the opening of XU's Schmidt Field house. That building still stands on Xavier's campus. It's old, beat up and has many scars from its 81 years. It's a lot like the Crosstown Shootout.

In years past there have been some on-court shoving matches, fights between fans outside after the game, coaches who refused to shake each other's hands and too many hard fouls to mention. The game is basically a prizefight.

Duke and North Carolina play each other two or three times a year, Kentucky/Louisville is always good and Philly's Big 5 contests are great in their own way (with bonus points for playing in the Palestra, holy ground in the college basketball world).

Everything, though, pales in comparison to the Crosstown Shootout.

If you hit all the traffic lights right, XU and Cincy are about eight minutes apart (sorry, UK and Louisville!). They play just once a year (sorry, Duke/UNC). Players that no one ever remembers are defined by these games.

Lenny Brown made a one-handed shot from the foul line to beat No. 1 Cincinnati in 1996. Kevin Frey hit a breakaway lay-up in the final seconds of the '99-'00 game to once again knock off the No. 1 Bearcats. Two years ago Mick Cronin and his thrown-together team of JuCo transfers stunned the Musketeers in one of the biggest upsets in series history.



This year is the 76th playing of the Crosstown Shootout. UC holds the all time series lead in the contest at 47-28, and during the 1960's and 1970's it would be unfair to even call this game a 'rivalry' due to the Bearcats winning 95% of the time. Recently, though, Xavier has used marquee victories over UC to develop its program: wins over No. 1 UC teams in 1996 and 1999 placed XU in the national limelight.

Xavier understands that most people in the city have allegiance with the University of Cincinnati. They are a very large academic institution, and many alumni live and work here. A general statement you hear: the courteous "I root for Xavier except when they are playing the Bearcats."

Since opening the Cintas Center in 2000 Xavier has further expanded its national profile and plays a very exciting and challenging 'high major' schedule year in and year out. This year, they've already matched up with Virginia Tech, Missouri and Memphis, with Virginia, Duke and Louisiana State on the horizon. Locally, though, they still have something to prove each year. Sports media locally do not seem to give enough credit to what has been accomplished by the program the past several seasons.

Similarly, Cincy has its own challenges. They drew 6,500 for a game against UAB this weekend in an arena that holds twice that. Interest is waning due to lack of success on their part the past two seasons and the rise to prominence of the Bearcat football program.

Like my man Dave said above, this is definitely the greatest rivalry in college basketball. This year, it's Xavier need to maintain their respect versus Cincinnati's desire to gain some more. Hope you're watching.