Sunday, June 22, 2003

UC, XU could wind up in Big East if ACC raid is completed


College basketball insider

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Can Xavier and Cincinnati co-exist in the same conference? The answer might come soon enough if the Atlantic Coast Conference ever gets around to finalizing its expansion.

Sources say the crosstown rivals remain viable solutions for Big East expansion that will become necessary once the league loses four or five teams to the ACC. Two basketball schools and four football schools would need to be added. Cincinnati and Louisville are ideal football additions, while Xavier and Marquette are the best basketball-only options available to the Big East. Marquette is coming off a Final Four year, and Xavier has a Fox Sports Net television deal that rivals that of its current conference, the Atlantic 10.

Because Xavier and UC face each other annually in the Crosstown Shootout, neither school would mind joining the same conference, especially if it meant moving up on the conference food chain. At this point, no formal invitations have been made and none will be made until the ACC finishes its deal, which looks like it could drag on for a few more weeks after what has seemed like months of discussions based more on hype than any substantial deal-making.

"This can present an opportunity for the Atlantic 10 to improve itself," said XU athletic director Mike Bobinski. "Or an opportunity may present itself for one or more schools in the A-10 to make moves that are good for the institution."

If nothing happens by June 30, don't expect any changes to take place until the 2005-06 season because of the increased financial penalties for leaving a conference with less than a full year's notice.

BCA CLASSIC SET TO GO: Xavier will host the Black Coaches Association Classic at Cintas Center in November, which leaves the Musketeers with two nonconference games, home and either away or neutral, left to schedule.

The BCAC will feature eight teams - Ohio, UC Irvine, Illinois-Chicago, Mercer, Oakland, San Diego, Coppin State and XU - and runs the weekend of Nov. 15-17.

STAR CLASS: Van Coleman (www.hoopmasters.com) has ranked Cincinnati's 2003 recruiting class No. 3 in the nation, thanks to No. 1-ranked junior-college product Robert Whaley, along with Florida transfer James White, junior-college transfer Nick Williams and prep stars Mike Pilgrim and Asrangue Souleymane. That ranking, of course, would be contingent upon Whaley clearing two counts of felonious aggravated battery. His preliminary hearing is Thursday.

CBS Sportsline (www.Sportsline.com) also has ranked Whaley as the top junior-college transfer and Williams No. 5.

NELSON BACK: Saint Joseph's star Jameer Nelson took his name out of the NBA draft and will return for his senior year. Nelson needed a spectacular performance at the Chicago pre-draft camp to guarantee a first-round pick, and he didn't deliver.

By coming back to Saint Joseph's, he'll form one of the best backcourts in the nation with shooting guard Delonte West.

FRIENDLY FACE: The Toronto Raptors named Kevin O'Neill to replace Lenny Wilkens as head coach. O'Neill and UC coach Bob Huggins were friends when O'Neill coached at Marquette, and Huggins has been a guest coach at O'Neill's summer camps.

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E-mail ddow@enquirer.com




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