Cincinnati, Xavier having a different kind of year
by Paul Daugherty, USA TODAY Sports
There was never going to be a rematch. Fight Club II was not playing at US Bank Arena Wednesday night. The hype arrived, in prime time on ESPN, and maybe some folks held their collective breath. No need. More than 14,000 people showed up and a basketball game broke out.
Depending on which side of the gym you were on — Red over here, Blue over there, like a two-party political convention, basically — you enjoyed yourself a lot, or a lot more. Regardless, you didn’t leave shaking your head, unless it was in admiration of the suffocating press Cincinnati laid on the Musketeers in the second half.
The first Crosstown Classic was everything it should have been. Everything we knew it had to be. We couldn’t take another game like last year’s game.
“Off the charts” was Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin’s appraisal of the atmosphere. Cronin argued that if the newly named “Classic” is the city’s game, then why not play it downtown all the time? “It’s about celebrating our universities and our city,” said the Bearcats coach. “Let’s do it.”
Let’s do it every year, the way they did it Wednesday night. Together and classy, the schools donating $50,000 to the Freedom Center, the presidents and athletic directors posing together pregame, for a picture with the big, cardboard check. Let’s do it the way the players did, playing furiously, but with a respect that suggested mutual admiration.
Several times, Cincinnati players helped Xavier guys up off the floor, and vice versa. Bravo.
I don’t want to go all Kumbaya here; the underlying disdain is part of what makes this the best city rivalry in the country, even if that disdain is largely a creation of students and message-board weirdos, not players and coaches.
Don’t give me Temple-Villanova. Really don’t offer up North Carolina and Duke. They’re not even in the same town. This game is a stitch in Cincinnati’s local fabric, second only to Opening Day when it comes to sporting pride and identity. It’s important to do it with class.
Wednesday was class.
It helped that the game was nicely short on villains, for maybe the first … [For more on What a difference a year makes for Cincinnati, Xavier, click here.]