Thursday, February 23, 2006

'Shootout' a season-changer

The annual Crosstown Shootout has often been a season-changer, of sorts, for both UC and Xavier.

Remember when XU was 10-9 going into the 2003 'Shootout'? The Musketeers beat UC to begin a historic season-ending run that didn't end until the Elite Eight.

This season, XU's fortunes have gone an entirely different direction.

Sean Miller's club was 13-2 after beating the Bearcats, on the verge of the Top 25 and what seemed to be a certain NCAA Tournament berth.

Since then, senior center Brian Thornton has suffered a season-ending injury, senior guard Dedrick Finn has been kicked off the team and XU is eyeing the NIT - if they're lucky.

Meanwhile, UC, the Crosstown Shootout losers and a team with a full deck stacked against them from the beginning of the season, are close to locking up a tourney bid and making head coach Andy Kennedy a candidate for Big East Coach of the Year.

A victory over No. 2-ranked Villanova tonight would put a cap on a remarkable regular season for the Bearcats.

It bears mentioning, that I began touting Kennedy for Coach of the Year honors early in the season. If he wins it, I'll guzzle a nice cold cup of I Told You So. Still a longshot, however.

There are a lot of very good teams and coaches in the Big East who are having outstanding seasons.

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