ATB: Crosstown Brawl EditionPosted by rtmsf on December 12th, 2011
On Saturday afternoon, one of the ugliest incidents in recent college basketball memory occurred near the end of the 2011 Crosstown Shootout rivalry game between Cincinnati and Xavier. From the trash talk before the game to the first round of suspensions that were handed down Sunday, it has been a crazy 24-plus hours already. With much of the broader sports nation focused on the holiday season and the NFL this weekend, we thought it would be worth a brief rundown of how we got here for those who may have missed it.
As our now world-famous correspondent Fake Gimel (@fakegimel) noted in his game recap, the Crosstown Shootout rivalry is naturally filled with quite a bit of emotion and in this year’s edition, those emotions bubbled over. In addition to the pre-existing animosity between the schools just from being local rivals, Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick added some bulletin board material when he suggested on a local radio station that Xavier’s All-America candidate Tu Holloway would not start for the Bearcats. Of course, such a statement is an absurd suggestion, but when you are in a rivalry sometimes something as idiotic as that fans the flames. Despite the pregame hype and the taunts of Xavier students as the Musketeers took command of the game, it was a spirited but relatively clean game aside from a halftime incident where XU’s Mark Lyons was confronted by Cincinnati’s Octavius Ellis before officials broke it up.
While we cannot comment on what was being said on the court between the players on both sides leading up to the altercation, reports indicate that things escalated when Holloway began to chatter at the Cincinnati bench in the waning seconds of the game. A few Bearcats responded and then things went downhill. Quickly.
Our first view is the general television view that many of you had.
While that looks bad enough, this view from the student section makes it look even worse.
Bearcats Blog does a frame-by-frame review of the incident that’s worth a look too.
With the outcome all but official, the game was called over with 9.4 seconds remaining on the clock. Immediately after the game the response from both fans and media was largely one of outrage primarily aimed at Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj for their vicious attacks on Xavier’s Kenny Frease. Many people pointed out that if the incident had happened off of the basketball court both Gates and Mbodj would have been handcuffed and taken into custody along with several other members of both teams. Luckily no fans came out onto the court to get involved, and order was quickly restored. Then came the press conferences, which made things even more interesting…
One of the two most notable moments came when Xavier’s Holloway and Lyons answered questions at the podium. Holloway, who reportedly told the media sitting courtside that Xavier had put Cincinnati in a “body bag,” reiterated a similar sentiment by talking about how the Musketeer locker room was full of “gangstas” although not the “thug” kind. Lyons added that they “weren’t going to sit there and get our face beat in,” that they were going to “zip ’em up.”
Mick Cronin was much more apologetic in his comments and gave about as good of a press conference as you can give in that situation, which won him a lot of points with many media members and fans, but as Bomani Jones points out in his cutting review of the fight, his cliches and platitudes about basketball players at his school to get an education ring somewhat hollow.
On Sunday the suspensions came down from both schools, in consultation with their respective conferences. Cincinnati’s players took the brunt of the suspensions, with Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis all out for six games, and Ge’Lawn Guyn removed for one game. Xavier will sit Dezmine Wells for four games, Landen Amos for four, Mark Lyons for two and Tu Holloway for one. Almost universally the reaction was one of indignant shock that a full-fledged brawl between the two teams will result in punishments well short of commensurate with their actions. Cincinnati’s next six games are as follows: @ Wright State, Radford, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Chicago State, Oklahoma, @ Pittsburgh. Even without those players in the lineup, UC should win five of those games. For Xavier, its next four games are: Oral Roberts, Long Beach State (Diamond Head Classic), Auburn or Hawaii (DHC), Kansas State or Clemson (DHC most likely matchups). Again, XU will be a heavy favorite in all of those games. If the purpose of school administrators at both UC and XU was to make a showing of toughness while minimizing the suspensions’ relative impact on their teams’ fortunes, well, consider it mission accomplished.
What They’re Saying.
Everyone has an opinion on the brawl and the subsequent suspensions. Here are a few of the most relevant.
- Here’s a statement from NCAA president Mark Emmert.
- Pat Forde calls Xavier and Cincinnati’s suspensions the Crosstown Copout.
- ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf considers the issue of race in dissecting something like this.
- We don’t believe that winning the press conference is a particularly noble pursuit.
- Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer wonders if the Crosstown Shootout should even continue.
- Dick Weiss believes that the schools should institute a one-year cooling-off period before they play again.
The immediate impact is unlikely to be felt on either team’s win/loss record. Unless Cincinnati lays an egg at Wright State this coming week, it is likely to go 5-1 in the stretch when Gates, Mbodj and Ellis will be out of commission. Xavier will have Holloway back in action for the Diamond Head Classic, so the impact of his loss is also unlikely to affect XU’s record (Lyons and Wells are needed, but XU should be able to get past ORU and Long Beach State without them). Where Holloway could feel an impact, however, is in his standing for the NPOY award at the end of the season. He’s having an outstanding senior year with 18/4/5 APG, leading his team to an early undefeated record and in the top-10 of the major polls, but when it comes time to vote for him in March, everyone will remember his immature ‘gangsta’ comments. As Andy Katz alluded to on Sunday, it destroyed his reputation as a player fans and media around the country will want to root for.
The long-term impact is hard to predict because nobody knows how these teams will respond going forward. If, for example, Cincinnati continues to swoon this season and Mick Cronin finds himself on the outside looking in for the NCAA Tournament again, does his administration cut him loose as a combined result of this incident and the team’s performance? What about Xavier, a team that traditionally everyone pulls for in March? Do they lose that good-guy image and start hearing boos from neutral observers around the country? What about recruiting or the future viability of the Crosstown Shootout itself? These and many other questions will have to sort themselves out in the coming weeks and months.