Just under a year ago, the Xavier basketball season literally rested in Isaiah Philmore's hands. An up-and-down season had led Xavier to the first round of the Atlantic Ten tournament, where they faced Saint Joseph's. Only an automatic bid would guarantee the Muskies entry to the NCAA tournament. Even a run to the conference tournament final would have left them on the bubble at best. On what would be the final play of the game, and indeed the season, Xavier was down one and needing to travel the length of the court in 1.4 seconds.
The parabola of the long inbounds pass brought it into sudden conflict with the backboard on the other end. Chaos ensued as the unlikely carom planted the ball into Philmore's hands. I can't say for certain what his thought process was when that ball was suddenly deposited into his grasp. Perhaps he was surprised. Certainly he was aware that time was short. His shot attempt was superficially routine - one he has made a million times in his life - but the ball's tantalizing flirtation with the rim only underscored the finality of its trip to the floor, having never passed through the net. No one needed to guess what was going through Philmore's mind when the horn rang; his slumped form told the story.
Fast forward 364 days and Xavier will once again be up against it in a conference tournament in New York. With Matt Stainbrook out through injury, Jalen Reynolds prone to persistent foul trouble, and James Farr's season currently lost at sea, the wheel of fate has brought Isaiah Philmore back to front and center. Marquette's dynamic scoring big man Davante Gardner will need stopping, and Philmore is suddenly the mad for the job.
This isn't a shot a redemption for Xavier's senior forward, because no redemption is needed. People miss basketball shots, even routine ones, and sometimes that happens at the worst possible moment. A year later, and for 40 minutes instead of 1.4 seconds, it's beginning to look like all eyes will once again be on Philmore as Xavier battles to write their name into the field of 64.