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Get Thee Behind Me, February

Coach Mack points the way through February

Guess who hates February? If you guessed the guy writing this, you are correct. Sorry, there's not a prize. February is like that. January brings about the new year, the beauty of winter, hope anew for all ventures personal and professional, and a general feeling of goodwill that carries over from Christmas. March carries with it the promise of Spring, green things beginning to show up, my birthday, and a solid month of fever-pitch basketball. Between the two is sandwiched February: approximately 400 days of 39-degree drizzle that single-handedly keeps Zoloft afloat.

February is the reason that Groundhog Day is the single most terrifying film ever released. It's no wonder Bill Murray spends half an hour trying to kill himself; he's trapped in the year's worst month without hope for escape. You may have noticed that this post has been pretty light on Muskies so far. Don't worry though; X got into the February mood early with their four-point loss on the road to CBI hopeful Charlotte. Needless to say, this did not help with the depressive symptoms that the month usually incites.

Courtesy of kenpom.com. You should visit.
Xavier is usually the one shining light that guides me through the month and safely on to March. After that early stumble against Charlotte, the boys in blue posted a monster month that took them from the "probably should focus on the conference's automatic bid" section of most bracketologies to lead-pipe lock status. With a sterling .857 winning percentage in the previous four Februaries, XU went one better this year, ending the month on a 7-0 tear for an .875 winning percentage.

After a win against St. Louis at home that seemed more force of habit than anything else, Xavier got a final win for the non-conference resume by beating Georgia at their place. With my mental well-being and the conference lead on the line, X traveled to Pittsburgh and revealed Duquesne as unworthy of the A-10 crown. The Dukes have gone into a tail-spin ever since and are now in position to play on the first day of the A-10 tournament.

X followed that game up by trouncing St. Joe's on the road and sleep walking past Fordham at home. Speculation ran rampant on the internet that Coach Mack was displeased - much of this was spawned by his obvious displeasure in the post-game presser - and that X would have some brutal practices ahead. I don't know what was done to the Muskie players, but they took it out on LaSalle in a big way. The month finally came to a close with Saturday's clinical dispatching of Dayton, and X appears almost as ready for March as I am.

I threw together some numbers to remind myself that, while I personally hate February, there are still plenty of reasons to love - or at least accept - the month as a Xavier fan:
-Xavier outscored opponents by 89 points in February.
-Tu had back to back games in which he averaged 19-10-12.5. While not quite as cool as actual back-to-back triple-doubles, that's still a pretty good stat line.
-Xavier still has the thinnest bench in the nation, getting 15.2% of their minutes from the reserves.
-Jeff Robinson scored more points February 22nd than he did all of last year.
I love this picture and will use it whenever I can
-Dante was 16 of 34 (.471) from behind the arc in February despite starting the month 0 of 4. The month also saw 4 of his 6 blocks on the year.
-Jay Canty scored 12 points in 13 minutes after missing all of January.
-Big Kenny started the month 1-7 from the line and then hit his next 15 FT attempts.

Finally, X enters March with a 13-1 conference record and a #23 ranking. Their final two conference opponents are Charlotte and St. Louis, who combine for a 7-21 mark in conference play. As Xavier holds a win in hand over Richmond, only Temple can challenge for the A-10 title. As X also has a win in hand over the Owls, Temple would have to win at UMass (7-7) and beat LaSalle (5-9) and hope Xavier dropped both of their games. If the A-10 tourney started based on the standings today, the Muskies would play Friday, March 11 at noon against the Dayton v. St. Bonaventure winner.