Update 9:59pm: Xavier Director of Basketball Admin Mario Mercurio confirms that Xavier has turned down CBI and CIT invites and officially concluded their season. He told us that they had "opted to respectfully decline CIT and CBI invitations. We felt that our team had written its final chapter and it was time to close the book."
Xavier did not earn a bid to the NIT. It's a sorry end to a season for the Xavier program, but the team that took the floor this year began the season behind the eight ball. After losing three starters to graduation, the Muskies saw Mark Lyons leave for greener pastures and Dezmine Wells get expelled for becoming too friendly with a female RA. As a final blow, incoming freshmen Myles Davis and Jalen Reynolds were both ruled ineligible at the eleventh hour. Saddled with that talent exodus, Xavier set out.
We'll break this down six ways from Sunday in the next couple of weeks. We'll tell you who was good, who was bad, and what the returning guys need to do to improve. We'll wave goodbye to the seniors, preview the next season and the impending move to the Big East, and then bunker down for a long summer of talking about the past and covering recruiting. That's all still in front of us.
This, on the other hand, is all coming from the belly. Think back to where you were in late October, coming to the realization that Travis Taylor - and remember what you thought of him then - and his 4.5 PPG average were the team's top returning scoring. Recall that he was also the top rebounder coming back. A guy who didn't garner 15 minutes a game last year was going to be the cornerstone of this year's attack. Incoming freshman Semaj Christon was still a question mark, and James Farr was known to be a project.
That's where we started. We each looked out over the schedule and thought about the season. The optimistic among us may have seen 17 or even 19 wins; only the willfully delusional thought about 20 wins and a return to the tournament. Most of us were thinking low to mid teens and a long year of ugly basketball.
We've been spoiled here as Xavier fans. Spoiled into thinking that we belong in the NCAA tournament by right, spoiled into thinking that we can go out an win 20 games by virtue of our track record. What we saw this year is that talent, not pedigree, wins games. There was a talent deficit on this team, and everyone - Coach Mack, the administration, the players themselves, and whoever your favorite scapegoat is - played a part in that. There will be plenty of time over the summer to assign blame.
What is also clear is that this group of players, limited though they were both individually and as a whole, battled their hearts out. Against Butler to send an early message that we weren't dead yet, down 15 to UC with Dee running the point on one leg, against GW with Brad Redford raining threes in front of an adoring crowd, and on Senior Night with Travis Taylor making sure that every missed basket was his. They frustrated me at times, but I loved following and covering this group of guys. I wanted better for them to go out practicing at 8:30 on a Sunday night, waiting for a call that never came.