Cincinnati and Xavier meet in Crosstown Classic for first time since fateful brawl

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UPDATED 10:06 a.m., 19 December 2012

At the exact moment when the right fist of Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates connected with the jaw of Xavier’s Kenny Frease and sent him crumpling to the ground last Dec. 10, there was ignited perhaps the ugliest on-court moment in the history of college basketball.

During the seconds in which that chaos ensued—a bloodied Frease riling up the crowd at center court as the dust settled—it was difficult to process in that instant all of what would eventually be said about what took place.

The postgame press conference only exacerbated the problem.

School officials allowed guards Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway to answer questions by themselves in front of a media that was digging for answers. Still high on adrenaline, it appeared, Holloway called his team a collection of “gangsters” and said the Musketeers “zipped [Cincinnati] up” at the end of the blowout victory.

And now, just over one year later, Xavier and Cincinnati meet for the first time since that indelible blemish left its mark on the crosstown rivalry.

The name has changed, and so have many other things in 374 days.

For Xavier, Holloway, Frease and Lyons—three key players in the brawl–are all gone. Holloway and Frease have graduated and Lyons is playing out his last year of eligibility at Arizona.

For Cincinnati, the man who threw the vicious right-handed punch that floored Frease, Yancy Gates, has graduated. Then-freshman Octavious Ellis, suspended in the wake of the brawl, was kicked off the team for his role in a nightclub brawl earlier this year.

The tables have turned in the polls, as well. Last season, No. 8 Xavier beat Cincinnati, 76-53. This year, coach Mick Cronin and his No. 11 Bearcats look to keep their undefeated record intact against an unranked Xavier team.

But, perhaps most importantly, are the measures that were spurred by the brawl itself.

The 2012 game will be played at a neutral court, U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, moving the location away from either campus. The focus for Cronin, though, wasn’t on the impact the neutral site will have on the rivalry, but the impact it will have on his team’s preparedness down the stretch.

“It readies your team for postseason because that’s where the NCAA tournament is,” Cronin said, as reported by the AP. “They’re played at big arenas, downtown arenas at neutral sites. I think it’s great for the city that we’re playing down at U.S. Bank Arena, but at the same time I think it’ll be advantageous for both of us come March to have a game like this at a neutral site.”

And the passing time has allowed both teams to reflect on what happened.

“It was a regrettable moment,” Xavier coach Chris Mack told the AP. “We lived that a year ago. As an educator, someone who mentors players, the message has been that we need to learn from what happened a year ago. And I think our kids have.”

Mack even dismissed some of the national perception of the game.

“The animosity that people outside the region perceived is not the case,” Mack told the AP. “And we have to make sure that’s highlighted when we play on Wednesday night. It’s going to be a hard-played game, it always is. But it’s got to be one that’s played the way it was played in the past, and it will be.”

Away from the background leading up to it and focusing on the game itself, the contrast Wednesday night will be between the teams’ backcourts.

For Cincinnati, it’s about experience. Upperclassman duo Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright combine to average over 34 points and five assists per game. Added to that is JaQuon Parker and the Bearcats will have the offensive focus in the backcourt Wednesday night.

By comparison, Xavier has been paced by the play of freshman guard Semaj Christon, averaging 15.4 points and 5.4 assists per game. Not only has Christon been a surprise standout for the Musketeers, but he has been one of the most impressive freshman at the mid-major level and in the country.

“Everyone on their team is very talented and very good as well,” Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick said, as reported by the AP. “Their starters are as good as our starters and their bench can be as good as our bench. We don’t know how it’s going to be, but it will be a great matchup.”

For a collection of other major moments in the Crosstown Shootout/Classic rivalry, click here.

A previous version of this story erroneously referred to Xavier-Cincinnati as the “Crosstown Shootout”. The name has been changed to the “Crosstown Classic” for the 2012 edition of the game.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Reports: Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley mulling UConn, Pitt options

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Even before Rhode Island’s NCAA tournament came to an end Saturday in the Round of 32 against Duke, speculation was running wild about the future of Rams coach Dan Hurley.

Stay or go. If it’s go, where to?

There was no clarity, but maybe some progress Monday.

Both Connecticut and Pittsburgh, the prime candidates to pry Hurley away from Rhode Island, spoke with the coach, but no decision had yet been reached, according to multiple reports.

Hurley was set to meet with Rams athletic director Thorr Bjorn on Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. Heart Connecticut Media’s Jeff Jacobs reported that UConn was “closing in on an agreement” with Hurley but that Pitt was continuing its pursuit.

Hurley has led the Rams to the NCAA tournament the last two years and signed a seven-year contract with Rhode Island worth approximately $1 million per year last off-season. UConn was paying Kevin Ollie, who led the team to the 2014 NCAA title before being fired after this season, an average of $3 million per season while Kevin Stallings reportedly was due a buyout of nearly $10 million when he was fired by Pitt this season.

What Hurley will have to weigh beyond the financial circumstances will be his ability to win at either UConn or Pitt, should he decide to move on from Rhode Island.

Ollie – well, really Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright – showed you can win a national title out of the AAC at UConn. The league adding Wichita State only strengthens that point. Pitt, meanwhile, may be a tougher job now than it was when Jamie Dixon had it rolling since their move from the Big East to the ACC.

CBT Podcast: Recapping the first weekend of the 2018 NCAA Tournament

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Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic joined Rob Dauster for an epic, two-hour podcast on the first weekend of the tournament. It was so good that we had to split the podcast into two parts. On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the South and West Regions, from Sister Jean to UMBC to Nevada’s comebacks to Kentucky’s chances at a Final Four.

On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the East and Midwest Regions, from Villanova and Duke steamrolling to Michigan State collapsing to Syracuse and Clemson and Texas Tech and Purdue. It’s all in there.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Eight viral heroes from first weekend of March Madness

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One of my favorite parts of the NCAA tournament is seeing who comes out of nowhere to turn into a viral celebrity during this month of madness.

By my estimation, we had eight true candidates for the award of March Madness Viral Celebrity of the Year. Here they are:


He was more fired up for Houston’s success in the tournament than any Houston fan in the history of basketball in the city of Houston.


Jordan Poole is spelled a lot like Jordan Peele, which inevitably led to people tweeting at Peele instead of Poole. Peele’s thank you tweet was a highlight of the first weekend.


Having to answer questions from a bunch of reporters after suffering the most humiliating moment of your life is not an easy thing to do. Having to answer ridiculous and stupid questions could be intolerable, which is why I loved Ty Jerome’s response to a stupid question he was asked:


I loved seeing Robert Williams’ teammate do a panotmine windmill in the background while Williams was throwing down a windmill in real time on Providence:


Nevada head coach Eric Musselman has led his team to the Sweet 16, cussed on live television and gone shirtless to celebrate with his team, but the star of the Musselman family is his daughter Mariah:


He really does have great hair:

2. @UMBCAthletics

This dude lived the dream of every twitter user out there. When your shot is there, you have to take it.


Mic drop:

VIDEO: Eric Musselman celebrates Nevada win without a shirt

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Nevada head coach Eric Musselman went shirtless to celebrate his team’s come-from-behind win over No. 2 seed Cincinnati on Sunday.

I guess this is better than dropping F-bombs live on national TV. Maybe that’s why they had Steve Lappas talking over him …

Penny Hardaway to be named next Memphis head coach

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The worst-kept secret in college basketball no longer appears to be a secret: Penny Hardaway is going to be the next coaching at the University of Memphis.

ESPN is reporting that a deal has been agreed upon. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal is reporting that Penny was waiting for his season to end with East High School before he made anything official. NBC Sports can confirm that an announcement is expected to be made early this week, likely as soon as Tuesday, to introduce the former Memphis and NBA star as Tubby Smith’s replacement.

The truth, however, is that we all knew this was what would be happening the second that Memphis formally fired Tubby Smith. Hell, we knew it a month before that decision was made final. This was always how it was going to play out.

What’s interesting to me is now the discussion of whether or not Penny will be able to handle being a Division I head coach, because it’s been hit or miss with basketball programs hiring legends of their past. Chris Mullin and St. John’s hasn’t exactly gone to plan but Fred Hoiberg was quite successful at Iowa State. Kevin Ollie won a title with UConn then fell off a cliff. Patrick Ewing’s start wasn’t great, but he was better than expected.

Where does Penny fall on this scale?

Well, let me just drop this section of a column from Geoff Calkins in here:

Hardaway isn’t a guy who woke up one morning and decided he’d like to be a Division I head coach. He’s not a former player who got bored with retirement and decided he’d like to do something other than play golf.

Hardaway started coaching at middle school. Middle school! Because an old friend needed some help.

Then he built one of the best AAU programs in the country. Then he spent years coaching a high school team.

Does that sound like someone who doesn’t want to roll up his sleeves and do the work? Does that sound like someone who is just in it for the glory and the glitz?

The truth is, if it weren’t for Hardaway’s iconic stature, he might be characterized as a grinder, as a guy who worked his way up from the lowest levels of basketball on the strength of his relationship with the kids.

I think that this is going to work out for both Penny and Memphis, especially if Penny hires a staff that can help him with the intricacies of running a college basketball program.