The Crosstown Classic is one of the biggest rivalry games in college basketball. Two schools that are fewer than 20 minutes apart from one another, the Cincinnati Bearcats and Xavier Musketeers have battled each year since 1946 to take the honors of who reigns supreme in hoops in "The Queen City."
The Bearcats hold the all-time series lead, 49-31. They've also got the best of Xavier lately, dominating them this season, 60-45, and winning two of the last three of this game.
However, Xavier does have some counterpoints to UC. The Musketeers have won nine of the last 15, have made seven consecutive NCAA Tournaments and also have the newer arena of the two.
That is what this article is about in this rivalry—Fifth Third Arena (Cincinnati) vs. the Cintas Center (Xavier). These are two college basketball venues that ranked amongst the top 60 last season in average attendance, and even on a night like Wednesday, January 30th, when both teams are hosting conference foes in town, they still draw fans into the stadiums.
They also drew the eye of one media member who couldn't resist the opportunity to attend two Division I basketball games in one night and check out the difference between these two venues.
This first category can almost be called a tie, but in the end, I give it to Xavier.
The Cintas Center opened in 2000 and is a 10,250-seat arena. Xavier packs the house nearly every night (as the next slide will focus on), and as you can see from the picture above, there really isn't a bad seat in the house.
The nice thing about many of the newer arenas is that they are constructed more vertically than horizontally. Therefore, even if you can't afford to spend top dollar on a lower level seat, you can still go to the game and get a decent view of the action.
Fifth Third Arena doesn't have this, and that's the main reason it loses.
While my seats as a member of the media were certainly good, I took a good look around at the other seats. A common complaint about Fifth Third is the below average view that some of the seats provide. If you ever attend a game there, you could certainly see why this would be.
Fifth Third Arena was opened in 1989, and you can clearly tell the seats are built horizontally, going away from the court and all the action, as opposed to vertically. Once you hit the beginning of the second deck, the view points start getting a little difficult, and this 13,000-plus arena has plenty of nosebleed seats where it would probably be comparable to watching ants play a game of basketball.
Both are nice arenas overall, both possessing nice bar/VIP areas to overlook the action on one end of the court. However, anytime you can have an arena where there is practically no bad view in the house like Xavier has, it's going to be difficult to beat.
A view of Fifth Third Arena from the floor.
The night I attended both games, Cincinnati actually outdrew Xavier, bringing in 11,024 people.
However, attendance in this sense is about more than just a total number of heads, but rather about filling the capacity of the stadium, something Xavier did that the Bearcats didn't.
The Cintas Center was packed for the game against Dayton. Granted, Xavier-Dayton is a big rivalry game, whereas Cincinnati-Rutgers isn't. Yet, there hasn't been a sellout at Fifth Third Arena yet this season, and they have hosted a few marquee opponents, including New Mexico, Notre Dame and Marquette.
If we go back to last year as well, Xavier averaged more attendance than Cincinnati. Xavier brought 10,155 people into a place that seats 10,250. That ranked 39th in the nation. Cincinnati was 59th according to the NCAA, averaging only 8,069 in a stadium that seats 13,176. That's an average of over 5,000 empty seats compared to the fewer than 100 empty seats the Cintas Center has.
Quite the differential, and it's one that you can certainly feel if you're at the game.
This is a combination of two things, noise level and overall energy of the crowd. In this regard, the Cintas Center blows Fifth Third Arena out of the water.
While at the Cincinnati game, I thought the noise level was decent. As soon as I walked into the Cintas Center, roughly 20 minutes before tip, I could already tell I had walked into a completely different beast.
The entire time I was at the Xavier game, it was loud. The fans were into the game the entire time, which brings us to the energy in the building.
Again, Fifth Third Arena was decent in terms of energy. I thought the pregame and tip-off were a little weak—nobody except for the student section was on their feet—but it seemed as if the fans got more into it as the game went along. However, the noise and energy were never great.
From the opening tip to the end at the Cintas Center, a thrilling game on the court felt that much bigger because of the atmosphere the fans created.
Whether it was the place going dark for the Xavier player intros while the video board played a montage of Musketeers players working out, practicing and highlights on the court, or "Enter Sandman" by Metallica playing before the tip with the student section on their feet and jumping, or the playing of DMX's "X Gon' Give It To Ya" at various intermissions, there was always an energy from the crowd.
It also helped Xavier that they had a lot of interesting things happen during media timeouts. The Bearcats would just trot their cheerleaders onto the court. The Musketeers were constantly doing things that mainly involved giving things to the crowd, including a t-shirt mini-gun. I guess somebody had to upgrade from the t-shirt cannon sooner or later.
You can get a feel for the atmosphere in the Cintas Center yourself with the video. I still don't think the max volume on speakers does it justice either.
A shot of Xavier's student section.
This final category I will again have to give to Xavier.
The Cincinnati student section was actually good. This isn't a knock against them, but the Musketeers' student section was just a step above.
The Cincinnati students were on their feet the entire time, making a decent amount of noise. It's just hard to top what Xavier does.
The Musketeers' student section was rocking all game and well before the tip. When I walked in to take my seat along press row, I walked by the student section. There, I was greeted with lots of yelling, cheers and requests for fist-bumps and high-fives. They were an excited bunch to say the least.
There was never a dull moment in the Xavier student section. They really care about their team and go all out in attempting to give their guys home-court advantage. Sorry Cincy, but even one of your best attributes is still topped by the "X."
Unlike the game played this season between these two rivals, Xavier wins this bout.
The Cintas Center is a newer arena, has the new arena feel, and has an atmosphere that is hard to match. Fifth Third Arena is a solid place to check out a game if you can get quality seats. Yet, the Cintas Center is a place every die-hard college basketball fan must check out at some point.
*You can follow Josh on Twitter under the name @JGleas. Next arena review will come this weekend, as Josh heads to Newman Arena on Friday to watch an Ivy League battle between Cornell and Harvard in Ithaca, New York.*