Getty Images

Four takeaways from No. 21 Xavier’s win over No. 11 Cincinnati

1 Comment

The latest edition of the Crosstown Shootout was played Saturday afternoon, and the “first punch” was the most decisive as No. 21 Xavier jumped No. 11 Cincinnati from the start and went on to win by the final score of 89-76. Trevon Bluiett, who scored 40 points in last season’s meeting, led the way with 28 and Kerem Kanter added 17 off the bench for the Musketeers. While some Xavier turnovers led to Cincinnati making a run in the second half, the Bearcats were unable to truly threaten the Musketeers down the stretch.

Here are four takeaways from Xavier handing Cincinnati its first loss of the season.

1. Xavier turned the tables after getting dominated on the glass in last season’s meeting.

Given what happened in Cincinnati’s 86-78 win, with Mick Cronin’s team controlling the rebounding department, it wasn’t difficult to figure out what Xavier’s point of emphasis would be going into the rematch. And the Musketeer big men stepped up to the challenge, as Kaiser Gates grabbed ten rebounds while also scoring ten points and Kanter chipped in with 17 points off the bench. Outside of Gates the effort on the glass was a collective one, with Tyrique Jones, Naji Marshall and Sean O’Mara grabbing four rebounds apiece and Quentin Goodin (ten points, eight assists) finishing with five.

In last season’s meeting Cincinnati finished with an offensive rebounding percentage of 47.4 percent, while Xavier managed to grab just 28.1 percent of its misses. Those second chance opportunities made a difference then, and that was the case Saturday afternoon as well. This time around the Bearcats managed to corral just 22.0 percent of its misses, while Xavier finished with an offensive rebounding percentage of 41.9 percent.

2. Cincinnati will need more from Kyle Washington moving forward.

Washington entered Saturday’s game averaging 10.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, and while those numbers are lower than what the fifth-year senior produced in 2016-17 (12.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg) he’s still been a consistent contributor for the Bearcats. That was not the case Saturday, as Washington played just 15 minutes and went scoreless (0-for-4 FG) with just two rebounds. Gary Clark and Tre Scott held their own on the boards, grabbing seven rebounds apiece.

That being said, given the number of contributors in the paint for Xavier this was a game where Cincinnati needed more from Washington. He’s certainly capable of better performances, so it would come as no surprise if he were to bounce back from Saturday’s outing in short order.

3. Cincinnati is too talented to settle offensively as it did for much of the first half.

While Xavier’s excellent execution was a big reason why the Musketeers were able to jump out to a big lead, Cincinnati’s offensive issues did not help matters for the visitors. Far too often in the first half the Bearcats settled for challenged shots, on a couple occasions passing up open catch and shoot opportunities to dribble into a tougher shot. Cincinnati was better in this regard in the second half, with Jacob Evans III scoring 22 of his 23 points in the final 20 minutes and Jarron Cumberland (15 points) getting going as well.

If not for the production of Clark (ten first-half points) and Cane Broome (12 first-half points, 16 for the game) in the first half, the outcome could have been much worse for Cincinnati. While Wyoming should be a contender in the Mountain West, Saturday’s game at Xavier was Cincinnati’s first major test of the season. One lesson the Bearcats should take out of this defeat is that they’ve got too much offensive talent to not be “greedy” on offense.

4. Trevon Bluiett looked like his old self after two quiet outings.

After scoring at least 20 points in each of Xavier’s first five games, Bluiett scored a total of 21 points in games against Arizona State and Baylor. Bluiett’s been dealing with a lower back issue dating back to last week’s Las Vegas Invitational, but he looked to have that spring in his step against Cincinnati. Bluiett had it all working in the first half, hitting open jumpers and getting to the basket off the bounce as well.

Bluiett shot 7-for-14 from the field (5-for-10 3PT) and 9-for-11 from the foul line in what was an efficient performance reminiscent of his first five outings this season. When the back isn’t an issue Bluiett is one of the toughest offensive matchups in the country, because of his ability to find and make shots from anywhere on the court.

Trae Jefferson to transfer out of Texas Southern

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Texas Southern guard and NCAA tournament darling Trae Jefferson announced on Saturday that he’s leaving the school.

The 5-foot-7 Jefferson was sensational at times during his sophomore season with the Tigers as he put up 23.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, helping lead Texas Southern to a victory in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s First Four in Dayton over North Carolina Central. One of the most entertaining talents in college basketball, Jefferson is leaving Texas Southern in-part because former head coach Mike Davis took the job at Detroit this offseason.

While Detroit is going to be the favorite to land Jefferson, because of his connection to Davis, it’ll be interesting to see what his transfer market looks like. Jefferson also made it clear on his Twitter page that he would like to be closer to his hometown of Milwaukee so that he can be closer to his ailing grandfather.

Given NCAA transfer rules, Jefferson would likely have to sit out next season before getting two more years of eligibility. But he could be applying for a waiver if he’s trying to be closer to home to deal with his family situation.

Nevada’s Josh Hall transfers to Missouri State

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nevada lost a talented player from last season’s team as rising junior Josh Hall opted to transfer to Missouri State on Friday night.

The 6-foot-7 Hall is a former top-150 recruit who played a key part in the Wolf Pack’s postseason run as he elevated his play to average 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Hall also made the game-winning bucket to lift Nevada past No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round.

Although Hall picked up his play late in the year, he was coming off the bench most of his sophomore campaign as he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.

Since Nevada took in some talented transfers, while players like Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins opted not to turn pro, it left head coach Eric Musselman with too many scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. It looks like some of those issues are now going away as Hall is leaving for Missouri State and graduate transfer guard Ehab Amin opted to decommit from the school.

Nevada is expected to be a preseason top-10 team next season with all of the talent they have returning to the roster, along with the addition of some new pieces like McDonald’s All-American big man Jordan Brown.

Hall will likely have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules as he still has two years of eligibility remaining.

Chris Webber accepts Jim Harbaugh’s invitation to be honorary Michigan football captain

AP
2 Comments

The frosty relationship between Chris Webber and the University of Michigan could be thawing — thanks to an invitation from football head coach Jim Harbaugh.

On Friday, Harbaugh called in to WTKA’s “The M Zone” as show host Jamie Morris had Webber on the show. Harbaugh offered Webber the opportunity to be an honorary captain for the Michigan football team next season, to which Webber replied that he would love the opportunity.

Webber, a former member of the “Fab Five” who helped the Wolverines to two consecutive NCAA tournament title-game appearances in 1992 and 1993, has not associated directly with the school, or with other members of the Fab Five, for many years.

The NCAA mandated that Webber and Michigan not associate with one another for 10 years after the Ed Martin booster scandal. Webber has always been reluctant to participate in anything Michigan or Fab Five related. When the famous Fab Five documentary was made a few years ago, Webber was the only member of the quintet not to participate in the making of the film. Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson all have a solid relationship with the University of Michigan at this point.

Webber later criticized the film during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, as King and Rose fired back with responses to reignite the feud. In the past, Rose has also been vocal in his belief that Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan, as the group is hoping to move forward.

Although Webber still isn’t mending fences with the other Fab Five members, or the basketball program, returning to Michigan in some kind of official capacity is a big deal considering his past with the school.

Harbaugh and Webber haven’t decided on a game for next season yet as that will be something to watch for over the next several months.

Akoy Agau returning to Louisville as graduate transfer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Louisville received a boost to its frontcourt rotation on Friday as former big man Akoy Agau will return to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau originally committed and enrolled at Louisville for a season and a half to begin his college hoops career before transferring to Georgetown. After leaving the Hoyas to play at SMU last season, Agau received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after battling injury for much of his career.

Agau gives Louisville an experienced forward who should earn some solid minutes next season. With the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season, Agau averaged 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 16.1 minutes per contest.

While this isn’t the biggest splash for the Cardinals, they have plenty of scholarships to use for next season as new head coach Chris Mack tries to find a stable rotation. Getting a graduate transfer like Agau, who should be familiar with the school and the conference at the very least, is a nice step for a one-year placeholder.

NCAA President Mark Emmert got a $500,000 raise in 2016

Tim Bradbury/Getty Images
1 Comment

NCAA president Mark Emmert, the man in charge of a non-profit association that doesn’t have enough money to pay its laborers, received a $500,000 raise for the 2016 calendar year, bringing his total income to more than $2.4 million, according to an NCAA tax return that was obtained by USA Today.

That number actually pales in comparison to the salaries that are received by the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences.

But there’s not enough money to pay the players.

Nope.

Everyone is broke.

Carry on with your day, and pray for the well-being of NCAA administrators like Mark Emmert, whose salary is in no way whatsoever inflated by amateurism, which allows the schools and the NCAA to bank all of the advertising revenue that college basketball and football brings in and bars the players themselves from accessing that money.