Cincy Takes on Xavier

Carrying a national ranking into its annual crosstown rivalry game with Cincinnati has been a good thing for Xavier. Then again, being the underdog in this matchup has had its advantages.

The No. 17 Musketeers look to remain perfect when facing the Bearcats while ranked in the AP poll and avoid their first home loss in nearly a year as the teams meet Wednesday at Cintas Center.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Xavier -19 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 52% of bets for this game have been placed on Xavier -19 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Xavier (7-1) has been ranked five times heading into this crosstown game and won each matchup, including twice in the past 10 years when Cincinnati has been unranked. Though they trail the overall series 47-27, the Musketeers have won seven of the past 11 meetings with the school that's just three miles down the road.

Since 1996, the Bearcats have lost four times to an unranked Xavier team when they've been ranked - twice as the nation's No. 1 team. Though neither team was ranked when they met last season on Dec. 13, Cincinnati's 67-57 win was certainly considered an upset. The Bearcats went on to finish 11-19 - their worst record in 23 years - while Xavier was 25-9.

The teams have met at least once per season since 1945-46.

Cincinnati has lost its last two trips to Cintas Center, where the Musketeers have won 13 in a row since a loss to Bucknell on Dec. 20, 2006. Their five home wins this season have been by an average of 31.8 points.

A win against Cincinnati will give Xavier its best start since the 1996-97 team won its first 10 games.

Coach Sean Miller's team has been one of the nation's most balanced early this season. Six players average between 11.0 and 13.5 points, and each of those six has led the team in scoring in at least one game.

"On any particular night, we have different players who are capable of having a big night," Miller said. "It's not always six players in double figures. It's the ability of a lot of players to have a big game."

The latest Musketeer to come up big was senior guard Drew Lavender. The preseason Atlantic-10 first-team selection scored 28 points and had a career-best 10 assists - his first ever double-double - in leading Xavier to a 79-66 win over previously unbeaten Creighton on Dec. 5.

"He was the first option," said B.J. Raymond, who added 15 points. "It shows you how good he is. It's hard to find a point guard who can score, who can run the team, take on the press. Basically, he does all the work."

Xavier is the best team in the Atlantic 10 in field-goal percentage (49.7) and 3-point percentage (40.8). Raymond, Lavender and senior Stanley Burrell each shoot at least 41.7 percent from beyond the arc.

Cincinnati (4-4) is coming off its first losing season in 19 years, and is off to a mediocre start in 2007-08. Its four wins have come against mid-major programs with a combined record of 10-23.

The Bearcats opened the season with six straight home games, winning the most recent one on Nov. 26, before losing twice on the road in their only games since.

In their most recent defeat, 62-52 at Illinois State on Saturday, Cincinnati shot 36.7 percent for the game and scored only 18 points in the first half.

Point guard Deonta Vaughn led the team in scoring as a freshman last season and is doing the same as a sophomore, averaging 15.0 points to go along with 5.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds. He had 24 points to spark Cincinnati's win over Xavier last season.

While the Musketeers are one of the best shooting teams in their conference, the Bearcats are one of the worst in the Big East. They rank 15th in both field-goal percentage (41.8) and 3-point percentage (30.8). They are last in points per game (65.8).

by Staff Writers - Email Us

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