We all remember The Brawl last year, when the Crosstown Shootout between Xavier and Cincinnati ended in chaos after Xavier’s Dez Wells pushed a Bearcat to the ground and Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates punched Xavier’s Kenny Frease in the face. The teams will meet again tonight at 7 p.m., but the schools have been busy trying to erase all memory of the fight for this year’s matchup.
The universities are just three miles apart and the proximity breeds crosstown contempt. But the two schools are hoping that this year’s game will focus on basketball rather than sucker-punches and ranting coaches. So instead of the once aptly-named Crosstown Shootout, this year’s match is headlined as the Crosstown Classic. The game has always taken place on the campuses of the two colleges, but this year has a new look and will be moved to the U.S. Bank Arena in downtown Cincinnati. The home-court advantage has been eliminated in hopes of quieting down some of the typical rivalry-raucousness and the schools will split tickets evenly.
This new look also applies to the rosters. Ge’Lawn Guyn and Cheikh Mbodj are the only players disciplined by Cincinnati who will play in this year’s game (Mbodji is a starter). Yancy Gates is gone, as is Kenny Frease. Dez Wells is now at Maryland. Xavier’s Tu Holloway is gone, as is Mark Lyons, who transferred to Arizona.
While both schools will try to be on their best behavior, a rivalry is a rivalry and for the second year in a row, one team is undefeated. Cincinnati (10-0) is ranked No. 11 in both the AP and Coaches Polls. In 2011, Xavier brought the undefeated record to the game and blew the Bearcats out by 23 before the game was called. Xavier is 7-2 with a starting group featuring two sophomores and a freshman.
“It’s a bunch of good kids that are trying to get an education and chase their dream of playing basketball,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin told Sporting News. “That’s what needs to be seen on Wednesday night. We don’t need to get caught up in a rivalry. We play hard every game. It’s not like we can go play harder.”
The venue change and name change don’t translate into any actual change, but with many of the participants of last year’s fight off the rosters and two organizations looking to keep the game about basketball, maybe the newly-minted Crosstown Classic will be a classic for a reason other than sucker-punches and bench-clearing brawls.