By Nicki Jhabvala
No. 10 Xavier (8-0) at Cincinnati (6-1)
8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Don't let Cincinnati's lack of a ranking fool you. Aside from this matchup being one of the best in college basketball, the Bearcats (6-1) boast an up-and-coming trio with 6-foot-1 Deonta Vaughn, 6-7 Mike Williams and 6-9 froshy Yancy Gates. Xavier may have the edge in the polls, but will it be able to handle Cincinnati on the Bearcats' turf?
Can Xavier mend its backcourt play?
For a team that was snubbed a preseason ranking, Xavier is quickly moving up -- and defying many expectations along the way. But the Musketeers are still beleaguered by a backcourt that's shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc and averaging 16.4 turnovers a game. While big men Derrick Brown and C.J. Anderson are getting it done on the boards (they're averaging 4.9 and 5.1 rpg, respectively), turning in a complete game will be key to a Xavier victory.
Where will this season's Crosstown Shootout stack up?
Cincinnati leads the series 47-28, but Xavier won the last one on its home court. To add thrills to the already contentious matchup, consider this: both coaches have split records against other (Cincy's Mick Cronin is 1-1 against XU, Sean Miller is 2-2 against the Bearcats), the teams have each taken two of their last four meetings, and this season, they have a combined 14-1 record and .933 winning percentage. Remember this date, because the 2008 Crosstown Shootout will be one to savor.
Players to watch:
Derrick Brown: The 6-foot-8 junior is the Musketeers' second-leading rebounder and scorer (13.3 ppg). He shot 7-for-7 from the floor against Ohio last week. And had three treys. And five assists.
C.J. Anderson: Coming off a career-high 22 points with seven rebounds against the Bobcats, Anderson leads all Musketeers on the boards.
Terrell Holloway: The freshman guard returned from an injury in Xavier's win over Ohio, and he did so in fashion. As the team's quickest ball-handler and top free-throw shooter, Holloway is a vital piece of the Musketeers' offense.
Deonta Vaughn: The junior leads the team in scoring (13.7), assists (4.6) and steals (1.3).
Mike Williams: Williams, a senior, is coming off a career-high, 17-point performance in a win over UAB. His two-year layover hasn't seemed to hurt his ability to score (team second-best 9.9 ppg), rebound (5.3) or knock down free throws (85 percent from the line).
Yancy Gates: He's 6-foot-9 and leads the team in rebounding (5.3). And he's a freshman. ‘Nuff said.