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Xavier, Cincinnati renew rivalry in new format

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Xavier, Cincinnati renew rivalry in new format

CINCINNATI (AP) The city's storied basketball rivalry is back in a very different format.

When Xavier and Cincinnati played last season, their annual crosstown game ended with punches and punishments - four players from each team suspended. The small Catholic school and large public school, separated by only 2 1/2 miles, spent the rest of the season dealing with the black mark on their reputations and one of the city's marquee sporting events.

The overriding question: Should the rivalry end?

It'll be renewed on Wednesday night in a different setting. The game has been moved away from the campuses, bringing fans of both schools together in the stands at a downtown arena.

The mood is different, too. There's been no trash talking between Xavier (7-2) and No. 11 Cincinnati (10-0). Both teams are avoiding talk of the brawl as well, wishing they could move beyond it.

A good, clean game on Wednesday night would go a long way.

``It was a regrettable moment,'' Xavier coach Chris Mack said. ``We lived that a year ago. As an educator, someone who mentors players, the message has been that we need to learn from what happened a year ago. And I think our kids have.''

The two schools and basketball fans around the city have learned what it's like when a sporting event gets out of hand.

Xavier was unbeaten and ranked No. 8 when it beat the Bearcats 76-53 on the Musketeers' home court last season. With 9.4 seconds left, words were exchanged, the basketball was flung and fists started flying - the darkest moment in the rivalry's 79-game history.

Four players from each team were suspended for up to six games. Coaches and players gave emotional apologies. The schools talked about whether to skip the rivalry game for a year.

With its top two front-line players suspended, Cincinnati went to a three-guard offense and took off, reaching the NCAA tournament's round of 16. Xavier fell apart and didn't regroup until the closing weeks of the season, also reaching the round of 16. Both teams had to answer questions about the fight's lingering effects the rest of the way.

Eventually, they agreed to keep the rivalry going, but wanted to remove its nasty edge. The game was moved to a downtown arena for the next two seasons. The name was changed from the Crosstown Shootout to the Crosstown Classic. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center became a partner. Students and players from both schools toured the center together.

Five of the eight suspended players have moved on, including four who started last year. There's been no boasting, no turning the game into a referendum on which program is better - a notable break from the past.

``Everyone on their team is very talented and very good as well,'' Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick said. ``Their starters are as good as our starters and their bench can be as good as our bench. We don't know how it's going to be, but it will be a great matchup.''

Part of the rivalry's edge comes from proximity. The players face each other during summer league games in Cincinnati. Fans from both schools work side-by-side during the week. They relish their once-a-year bragging rights event.

``The animosity that people outside the region perceived is not the case,'' Mack said. ``And we have to make sure that's highlighted when we play on Wednesday night. It's going to be a hard-played game, it always is. But it's got to be one that's played the way it was played in the past, and it will be.''

The officials are likely to call it close, which could benefit the Bearcats, who have a much deeper bench.

The Bearcats also are more familiar with the downtown U.S. Bank Arena, where Cincinnati plays more regularly and has won it last 17 games. Xavier hasn't played at the arena since 2007-08. The schools played their rivalry there 10 times from 1976-87 before moving it on campus.

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin thinks the neutral site will be helpful to both teams.

``It readies your team for postseason because that's where the NCAA tournament is,'' Cronin said. ``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.''

For the coaches, it's a challenge to get their teams through a game that has so much buildup and tends to linger. That part hasn't changed.

``I think it's incredibly important to the community,'' Mack said. ``It's a tough game. It's one game. There are a lot of eyes on the game nationally, locally, you name it, heightened this year a little bit.

``But at the same time when Wednesday comes and goes, both teams have to be able to turn the page. Cincinnati did that a year ago - they went on an incredible run. We didn't.''

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Follow Joe Kay on Twitter:http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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Injuries to Marshall and Perine will open the door for Kapri Bibbs to make the Redskins

Injuries to Marshall and Perine will open the door for Kapri Bibbs to make the Redskins

Following the Redskins' Week 2 preseason win over the Jets on Thursday, Jay Gruden said both Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine were "OK" after the two running backs each left the game with injuries. Marshall's was labeled a lower-leg issue, while Perine's injury was called a twisted ankle.

Timetables for their recoveries were then reported on Friday, and while the two members of the backfield escaped anything too severe, they will each be sidelined for decent chunks of time.

Perine will miss a week, according to Mike Garafolo. Marshall, meanwhile, is looking at a longer two-to-four week recovery, per Tom Pelissero. Those pieces of news hurt them in more ways than one.

Derrius Guice's torn ACL in Week 1 of the team's exhibition schedule meant that Marshall and Perine both had a big-time opportunity to step up and earn a spot on Washington's 53-man roster, spots that were harder to envision for them when Guice was healthy.

Overall, the two were slated to compete with Kapri Bibbs for what will likely be two spaces on the depth chart behind the absolutely safe Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley. Now, though, they'll be forced to sit until they're healed up, giving Bibbs more chances in practice and the two remaining August contests to earn Jay Gruden's trust.

Against New York, Bibbs struggled on the ground but led the offense with seven grabs, including a 29-yard gain off a screen play. That performance absolutely brought him closer in the race with Marshall, who scored vs. the Patriots a week earlier. Next, he'll need to prove he can run effectively between the tackles vs. the Broncos in Week 3, which will put some heat on Perine as well.

The 'Skins have 15 days left until they have to finalize their regular season roster. As things stand now amongst the running backs, Bibbs presently has a real shot at stealing a job from the two shelved RBs. But with the way this race has unfolded thus far, that can all change in a split second. 

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Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

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Associated Press

Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

Despite being a brand new franchise with a new roster and new facilities, the Capital City Go-Go will carry into their inaugural season a level of continuity. Both their general manager and head coach are familiar with what they are getting into and the people they will be working with.

GM Pops Mensah-Bonsu is no stranger to the D.C. community and the Wizards franchise. He made a name for himself starring at George Washington University, spent time with the Wizards as a player in their 2013 training camp and remained a frequent visitor to Wizards games as a scout for the Spurs in recent years.

"To be back in the community and the first general manager of the G-League team is special," Mensah-Bonsu said. "This is D.C.’s team. I want them to embrace us."

Head coach Jarell Christian played college ball in Virginia and goes back several years with Wizards coach Scott Brooks. Christian joined the Oklahoma City's G-League staff when Brooks was in his final year as head coach of the Thunder.

Christian began his coaching journey with an eye trained on how Brooks goes about his job.

"My introduction to pro basketball was under Coach Brooks and his philosophies. A lot of that stuff, I believe in wholeheartedly. That’s my foundation," Christian said. "I got a chance to know him through training camp and throughout that season. He and I developed a bond and a relationship that stood the test of time. To this day, we still talk often. It’s just another chance for me to reconnect with him and to continue to grow our relationship."

The Go-Go intend to make what they do as similar to the Wizards as possible. When guys like Devin Robinson, one of their two-way players, is called up he can step right in without a learning curve of the playbook or how they practice.

Having Christian in place will help that process in particular.

"There won’t be any issue or any slippage with guys going up and down to know what’s in store for them," Christian said. "A lot of the stuff that the Wizards will do, we will implement with the Go-Go. Just some offensive and defensive concepts. Some of the playcalls and the terminology will be the same."

"Whatever you see the Wizards doing, you will probably see the Capital City Go-Go doing, too," Mensah-Bonsu said.

The symmetry between the G-League and the NBA teams will also be helped by the fact they will share the same practice facility. Their proximity will come with many advantages from the Go-Go perspective.

"I think it’s going to help motivate these guys. We’re going to be practicing in the same place that the Wizards do and the Mystics do," Mensah-Bonsu said. "I think if these guys can see Dwight Howard and John Wall and Bradley Beal walking around every day, it will help motivate them to get to that next level."

"The exposure our players get with the Wizards [front office], the Wizards personnel, being able to watch them practice daily, watching their practice habits and what their routines may be, is really big," Christian said.

That element will also apply beyond the players. Christian, who is just 32 years old, will get to watch how an NBA coaching staff operates on a daily basis.

Christian has yet to take a tour of the new building in Ward 8, but he has seen blueprints. Among the amenities the Go-Go will enjoy that other G-League teams do not usually have is a dedicated dining area.

Many G-League teams do not go to that length.

"A lot of organizations do not provide food for their players on a daily basis, but we will. That’s the No. 1 thing in my opinion that’s gonna set us apart from our competitors," he said.

The Go-Go won't take the floor for their first game until November, but it seems like a good foundation is starting to take place.

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