Thursday, January 28, 1999

Sure it's too big, but that's why it's fun




BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Melvin Levett would like to ditch decorum. He wants to see painted faces in the stands and hear voices cranking up the volume. Should the University of Cincinnati defeat Xavier tonight, he wants the students to storm the floor.

        “This is THE game,” Levett said. “This is the game to say, "We beat you all.' For the people, I know there's a lot of money at stake. For us (the players), there's a lot of talking. If we win it, let's celebrate with the fans.”

        College basketball protocol normally forbids favored teams from excessive demonstrations following midseason games, but the Crosstown Shootout brings out the underdog in everyone. It has become the best game beyond Tobacco Road because it is usually competitive, often unpredictable and always imbued with a level of local interest that suggests the fate of Western Civilization hangs on every hoop.

        In actual fact, the Shootout is more decorative than decisive. The outcome determines neither UC nor Xavier's eligibility for the NCAA Tournament, nor does it secure their seeds. Beyond the ballyhoo, this game is a small part of a large process — what the New Hampshire primary is to presidential politics, what the People's Choice Awards are to the Oscars.

        Winning the Shootout doesn't mean more meal money for the players, and it won't get Xavier freshman Kevin Frey out of his 8:30 a.m. Spanish class Friday morning. (If it did, NCAA snoops would surely be sniffing around for other improper inducements). The most tangible benefit of winning the game is one year of unrestricted gloating rights. (Not that we should underestimate the value of that).

        “My freshman year, just walking over to the gym, people were driving along Victory Parkway yelling things about UC,” said Xavier forward James Posey. “It was really funny. Professors bring it up. You go to class and people are always telling you, "We've got to get this game.' If we win, we can only celebrate so long, but the fans might be partying the rest of the school year.”

No secrets leaked
        Disproportion, however silly, has its place in college basketball. The season ends with one team cutting down the nets, and everyone else convinced they might have done better under slightly different circumstances. Games such as The Shootout provide tangible goals and foster the notion that one can succeed without attaining ultimate success.

        To that end, there was a lavish pregame luncheon at the Hyatt Wednesday, featuring gourmet fare from Skyline Chili and evasive answers from the competing coaches. Asked which player on the other team they would most like to have, both UC's Bob Huggins and XU's Skip Prosser were reduced to schoolboy shrugs.

        “That's a good question,” Prosser said in preface to a non-answer.

        “You can't handle the truth,” former Bearcat Terry Nelson said, taunting the two coaches.

        More shrugs.

        Huggins, who has more opinions than Linda Tripp has chins, was remarkably reticent. Asked what he would tell his team if they trailed by 10 points at halftime, the bellowing Bearcat spoke in a whisper.

        “Please play a little harder,” he said.

UC edge up front
        The Bearcats are probably too deep up front and too diverse overall to lose the Shootout for a third straight season. If they can get the ball inside on a regular basis, The Shootout could be The Blowout.

        Xavier will counter with constant pressure, particularly when it is being dribbled by Steve Logan, UC's freshman point guard. Last season, this in-your-face formula produced 29 UC turnovers and a gleeful trophy presentation at The Gardens.

        Then both teams went back to the business of winning their conferences, and the trophy returned to the business of gathering dust.

        “It would be fudging the facts,” Xavier spokesman Tom Eiser said Wednesday, “to say it was polished.”

        Enquirer columnist Tim Sullivan welcomes your E-mail. Message him at tsullivan@enquirer.com

- 'Let's get ready to rrrrmmmmbbbbllll'
For UC and XU, this is personal
Sure it's too big, but that's why it's fun
Harrick's analysis: XU 'certainly underdog'
UC asks OK to delay tipoff
Xavier front line must bring its 'A' game
CROSSTOWN NOTEBOOK
Couples in Crosstown cross-fire
Rivals join hands for Crosstown Helpout



Other Sports Stories
Takes a lot of limo to get to Super Bowl
Free agency makes Super Bowl repeat tough feat
New Miami coach gets rousing welcome
Miami coach vows: 'We will win MAC'
Six days, three biggies for Miami
Bengals sign West Hi product
shootout logo
Xavier (15-4) at
Cincinnati (18-1)

• 9:30 tonight.
• UC's Shoemaker Center (13,176).
• TV: ESPN.
• Radio: WLW-AM (700); WKRC-AM (550).
• Line: UC by 13.
• Series: UC leads 43-22.

Today's coverage
'Let's get ready to rrrrmmmmbbbbllll'
For UC and XU, this is personal
Sure it's too big, but that's why it's fun
Tim Sullivan column
Harrick's analysis: XU 'certainly underdog'
UC asks OK to delay tipoff
Xavier front line must bring its 'A' game
Crosstown Notebook
Couples in Crosstown cross-fire
Rivals join hands for Crosstown Helpout

Previous coverage
Huggins keeps focus on court
Huggins era in review
Xavier seniors hold 2-1 edge
'Shootists' don't share fanaticism
Shootout Notebook
UC's Land fighting uphill battle
XU's McIntosh schools 'em
UC was option for XU's Frey
Another XU win would be divine
Shootout goes coast to coast
ESPN disregards Xavier and UC fans
Shootout Notebook
Shootout 'bigger than the calendar'
Crosstown highlights

Season's coverage
BEARCATS PAGE
XAVIER PAGE