Last year, I was so pumped up and excited to watch this game. I would get the opportunity to see fellow Memphian (TN) Octavious Ellis, a former Whitehaven High standout, on television.
At the time, he was a freshman for the Cincinnati Bearcats. There were a number of times the camera would focus on the Bearcat bench and I would try my best to spot him.
Unfortunately, I did spot him as the team took the floor heading to the locker room at halftime. He and a Xavier Musketeers player were arguing. I caught a glimpse of him a second time throwing a punch during the brawl.
You can watch the confrontation and the end-of-game brawl below:
Now over one year later, the two teams will meet tonight. Things will be quite different, as Daniel Martin of NBCSports.com reports.
For Xavier, Tu Holloway, Kenny Frease and Mark 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 Wildcats.
For Cincinnati, the man who threw the vicious right-handed punch that floored Frease, Yancy Gates, has graduated. 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 rankings, 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.
The game is being held at a neutral site, U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. I think this is a good idea for obvious reasons. However, Cronin thinks the neutral site is great in preparation for tournament action.
“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.”
Last season, these two teams took the phrase “leave it on the floor” to another level. In the spirit of college basketball, hopefully the players will be able to control their emotions and just “play ball”.