With conference play approaching quickly, Xavier has left themselves some work to do. Good wins over Butler and Purdue have been cancelled out by terrible losses to Pacific and Wofford, and a missed opportunity against Cincinnati. Recently, the drama in late February and early March has come from seeing what seed the Musketeers would get when it came time to dance. This year, the big question is whether Xavier will be playing in the tournament that matters, or one of the handful that doesn't.
Renowned bracketologist Joe Lunardi released his top 100 teams on the S curve last night. For those of you that missed our related retweet, Xavier came in at number 71 (two ahead of La Salle and five ahead of UMass, and down nine from a month ago). While that number doesn't seem so bad with a 68 team field, it's important to note that a lot of automatic qualifiers are not in the top 100 teams in the nation. To have a reasonable chance at the NCAA field, a team needs to land in the top 49 (49th being the typical last in) here. Teams 50-60 have the very slightest of chances of sneaking in, but are more likely bound for the NIT.
That shows the amount of work Xavier still has to do to even have a shot. It's not all bad news though. Tennessee, Saturday's opponent, sits at #41, Butler, a team X has already beaten and gets again, is #20, VCU is #19, Temple is #34, and Memphis checks in at #42. All those teams currently project to make the field and all present excellent chances for the Musketeers to increase their chances of sneaking in as well. Other teams that could provide some help are Dayton at #55, Saint Louis at #62, St. Joe's at #63, and Charlotte at #66. In short, there are abundant opportunities still on the table.
What is absolutely vital from now on is that Xavier avoids any more bad losses. Dropping a game to the second tier of teams listed above wouldn't help, but wouldn't spell disaster. Winning all those and grabbing a couple wins out of the upper tier would bump Xavier way up the curve. This one is going to come all the way down to the wire.