Things were a bit downcast around Banners headquarters this weekend. A valiant effort against Butler came up just short, then Xavier ended up starting down the barrel of VCU if they win in the first round of the conference tournament. A 17-13 tends to fray the nerves and when that happens, well, this happens.
Joel: We may be in trouble in Brooklyn. We've got St. Joe's and then VCU if we win. I liked this a lot better when it was Charlotte and La Salle, but then St. Joe's went and won yesterday. My gut is that it's going to be a big ask for us to make it past that second round.
Brad: I'd almost rather lose and just have this over with. Of course, I hate St Joe with a passion. I'm looking forward to the tournament and just watching a game that doesn't make me want to yank my limited available hair out by the roots.
Joel: Who hurt you when you were younger? Man, you're negative. It's faint, but we still have a pulse. I want to see these guys play it out until the bitter end. St. Joe's we can take. We don't want to go to war with the Rams, but I think we can have them on a neutral court. Sure it's a long shot, but so was Robert Fulton's steam engine. It's time to buck up for one last run. I don't want Trav to go out like a punk. Get St. Joe's and then we'll throw it all at VCU. Nobody else in the conference scares me quite like they do. The summer is long enough as it is; let's not hurry into it.
Brad: Fulton didn't actually invent the steam engine, James Watt did. (Read Banners, learn history!) Here's the thing, the NIT is just a string of exhibition games, no one actually cares. No good comes of it, and we risk losing a player to an ACL injury or something like that. And for what benefit? A meaningless couple of wins?
Joel: I never said Fulton invented the steam engine. His design for a steam boat made that mode of transportation efficient enough to be widely available, despite what folks at the time thought of that idea. Reading comprehension clearly isn't your thing.
Here's the thing: if X is in the NIT, I care. This group of guys has come into a team that returned almost nothing from last year and - faced with that kind of uphill struggle - conceded exactly nothing all year. They have been outclassed and overmatched at times and crappy and self-destructive at others, but never once have they just thrown in the towel as a group. Even at the end of that spanking UC administered, Dee was out there on one leg making a go of it. That's what I've loved about this squad, and if they end up playing a first round game in the CBI against Arkansas Little Rock, I'm going to be planted in front of my computer listening to the radio feed (I'm assuming the CBI doesn't have a TV deal in place).
I think that's what this group is laying down for next year, too. We're reestablishing that culture that doesn't back down from anyone, plays with cohesion, and occasionally exceeds the sum of its parts. Trav is a big part of that in the middle, but Stenger and Philmore (mostly Philmore) will carry it into next year. Stainbrook and Cantino have been practicing with the team, so I don't doubt they'll encourage buy-in from the new players as well. When the six (or more) new or newly eligible players combine with the guys who come back after this year, I expect I'll see a time out of the mold of the old Xavier days - maybe not in style of play, but certainly in the manner in which they interact with one another and the world at large. I'll be proud to be a Xavier fan then, just like I am now. Whether my boys are sneaking in on an auto bid or heading out for their CIT game against the New Jersey Institute of Technology, I'm right there with them. If ESPN doesn't care enough to lead Sportscenter with it, that's their loss.
Brad: Their loss, right. "Next up in action from that tournament you all forgot was happening." Also, William Symington and the Charlotte Dundas were traversing the river Clyde five or six years before Fulton. Try to keep up.
Anyway, I don't want to be forced to care about games that don't actually matter. Not backing down from anyone is a useless exercise when it is the NIT. Come mid-April, no one has a clue who won, played in, or didn't quite make that thing. It's fine to keep watching them, I will to, but it's a pointless endeavor. This isn't valuable experience or a giant team building exercise; it's a string of chances for vital players to get injured.
Joel: Games that don't matter? Maybe we just shouldn't watch college sports at all then. I mean, it's not like these guys are playing for cold fusion or a cure for AIDS, nor are they even feeding their families or paying their bills. Let's just let the whole goofy exercise go and start a blog about the good work they're doing at Johns Hopkins then.
Even if we are just talking games that matter in the sporting sense, let's not pretend that one tenth of one percent of the people watching this year will remember Lionel Chalmers or BJ Raymond or who was in the Final Four five years ago. The games either matter simply because they're being contested or they don't matter at all. To me, it's a big deal every time the ball goes up. If you need the adulation of the masses on the line to care, may I kindly suggest Duke as your rooting interest.
Brad: Duke? Bite me. You know what I mean. The NIT is a consolation tournament for teams that failed to meet their goals. I think we had this argument some time ago when I suggested turning down an NIT bid. You really want to risk Semaj, Dee, or Philmore next year so we can win...what?
And that Johns Hopkins stuff? Absurd straw man. You're better than that.
Joel: Really? Maybe you should define for me and all the good people here which games matter and which don't. If we're really just worried about losing someone we are going to need next year, why do we let the guys play in the summer league, or practice at full speed (which cost us Redford one year and Semaj for a game this season)? And what are we going to say to Trav? "Thanks for all your effort, dude, but since Cheeks wanted to play point guard and Dez slept with that girl, your college career ends without a miracle in Brooklyn?" I don't care if nobody cares who did what in the NIT; the idea that we should just cut bait on it because it's not illustrious enough is ludicrous.
To suggest that this team has somehow underachieved is almost equally ridiculous. When this season began, I think most of us were braced for the potential of an 11-win season and a whole ton of growing pains. That we have locked down a winning season is laudable. If a tournament wants to invite us, we should go to that tournament. And that Johns Hopkins stuff? It's called hyperbole; completely in bounds. You should know that.
Brad: You're right, let's forget about four in four and rest some guys so we can really make a run in the NIT! We're number 65! Go team!
If we lose in Brooklyn the cameras will cut to Trav, Jeff, and Brad crying because they missed what they wanted. No one will be clapping and going "hey guys, big NIT draw on Monday, keep your heads up," because that wasn't the goal, that's never the goal. You know it and I know. If we don't make the NCAAs you'll be crestfallen, not excited to watch us play UAB next week.
And you practice at full speed to meet goals and get better for the chance to ultimately win something. That's the reason you do that. What goal is being met in the NIT?
Joel: Now who's making straw men?
By the same token, you don't just bag the season because you didn't make the NCAAs. If we lose in Brooklyn, we fix it and move on to Markinson. I think we'd all agree that the NCAA bid is still the goal; the point is that there is still something to play for if we don't make it there. These guys deserve better than a collective "meh" from the fan base if we end up in the NIT.
Brad: No way. We clap them off and we laud their effort. We write two really good farewell week articles and one for JRob too. They deserve to go down trying to meet their ultimate goal, fighting for something, not playing in a consolation game. You want them to go through the emotion of watching it all end and then do it again in a week? That's rough duty.
For those of you out there (Mom) who care, Joel and I have since patched things up.