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Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin took a moment late in Sunday's game and was enjoying the atmosphere of his team's hard-fought regular-season finale. "I'm busy coaching, but I will admit it," Cronin said, "during that last under-four (minute) timeout, I stopped and looked around and thought, 'This is a great game.'" And it ended with No. 10 Cincinnati outlasting No. 11 Wichita State 62-61 on Sunday to win the regular-season title in the American Athletic Conference.
Mick Cronin and UC Bearcats after winning American Athletic Conference regular-season championship.

Xavier, Cincinnati never so primed to make March Madness success together

Conference tourney first step to XU-UC final?

CINCINNATI – How's this sound: Xavier vs. UC for the national championship April 2 in San Antonio?

The Ultimate Crosstown Shootout.

Why not?

The Queen City rivals have never been so primed to make March Madness success together.

That's not to say they’re rooting for each other, but Xavier coach Chris Mack even gave his counterpart Mick Cronin and the Bearcats a shout-out Sunday after UC beat Wichita State to win their regular-season conference championship.

Congratulations to @CoachCroninUC and his crew. Heck of a year for the #513.

— Chris Mack (@CoachChrisMack) March 4, 2018

Both teams are 27-4 and riding high after winning their conference titles over the weekend and earning the No. 1 seeds in their conference tourneys this week.

This could be the first step to that XU-UC final.

Both teams get byes into the quarterfinals with Xavier opening Big East Conference play Thursday against the Georgetown/St. John’s winner in New York and UC taking on the UConn/SMU winner Friday in the American Athletic Conference tourney in Orlando.

If they win out,  the Musketeers are positioned to grab their first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament on next Sunday, based on their current No. 3 rating in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index, The RPI is a key part of the NCAA Selection Committee's formula for choosing and seeding tournament teams.

The Bearcats are projected as a No. 2 seed now based on their No. 7 rating this week.  

In addition, both teams are ranked in the top 10 in the polls, with Xavier at No. 2 (its highest ranking ever) in the USA Today coaches poll and No. 3  in the Associated Press writers poll. UC is No. 8 in both polls.

Xavier and UC haven't been in the AP Top 10 together since 1958.

Two teams from the same city have never met in the NCAA finals. The closest rivals to reach the finals were UC and Ohio State in 1961 and '62. UC won both years.

UC, of course, has a storied basketball history, including those two straight NCAA championships,  three straight finals (1961-62-63), five straight Final Fours (1959-63), another Final Four in 1992 and one of the greatest players of all time, Oscar Robertson.

In 2000, UC was ranked No. 1 going into March Madness only to lose the National Player of the Year Kenyon Martin to a broken leg in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Tournament. The stunned Bearcats lost that game and were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round.

Xavier is still looking for its first Final Four, but it has joined the college basketball elite with three Elite Eights and seven Sweet Sixteens since 2004 and its first Big East regular-season championship this year.

Here are the Big East and AAC tournaments schedules:

Madison Square Garden, New York

First Round, Wednesday, March 7
No. 8 Georgetown vs. No. 9 St. John's, 7 p.m., FS1
No. 7 Marquette vs. No. 10 DePaul, 9:30 p.m., FS1

Quarterfinals, Thursday, March 8
No. 1 Xavier vs. No. 8/9 seed winner, Noon, FS1
No. 4 Creighton vs. No. 5 Providence, 2:30 p.m., FS1
No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 7/10 seed winner, 7 p.m., FS1
No. 3 Seton Hall vs. No. 6 Butler, 9:30 p.m., FS1

Semifinals, Friday, March 9
Semifinal 1, 6:30 p.m., FS1
Semifinal 2, 9 p.m., FS1

Championship, Saturday, March 10
Championship game, 6:30 p.m., Fox

Amway Center, Orlando, Florida

First Round, Thursday, March 8
No. 8 UConn vs. No. 9  SMU, Noon, ESPNU
No. 5 Memphis vs. No. 12 South Florida, 2 p.m., ESPNU
No. 7 Temple vs. No. 10 Tulane, 7 p.m., ESPNU
No. 6 Central Florida vs. No. 11 East Carolina, 9 p.m., ESPNU

Quarterfinals Friday, March 9
No. 1 Cincinnati vs. No. 8/9 seed winner, Noon, ESPN2
No. 4 Tulsa vs. No. 5/12 seed winner, 2 p.m., ESPN2
No. 2 Wichita State vs. No. 7/10 seed winner, 7 p.m., ESPNU
No. 3 Houston vs. No. 6/11 seed winner, 9 p.m., ESPNU

Semifinals, Saturday, March 10
Semifinal 1, 1 p.m., CBS
Semifinal 2, 3:30 p.m., CBS

Championship, Sunday, March 11
Championship game, 3:30 p.m., CBS