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The Difference Between Xavier and Mid-major

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In non-Xavier basketball news today, Duquesne fired head coach Ron Everhart. While that's not incredibly interesting on the surface of it, it does cast in relief how lucky Xavier is to have Coach Mack in the fold and an administration that is willing to commit to the basketball program at Xavier. Duquesne explained in an email, the text of which can be found here. Read it if you're curious, but I just want to highlight a couple of things that jumped out at me while I read it.

It is clear that we will not be capable of moving to the next level of excellence with Ron at the helm. By next level, I mean annual contention for the top of the A10 conference, regular appearances in the NIT and periodic appearances in the NCAA tournaments.

That's their goal for the program. They're searching for a leader who can get them to the point at which they can regularly appear in the NIT and sometimes even make it to the NCAA tournament. Can you imagine if Mike Bobinski came out and announced those as the goals for the Xavier basketball program? It would be absurd.

We reached the conclusion that this kind of performance was impossible under his leadership due to uneven recruiting, large turnovers among his student athletes and coaching staff, an overall average win-loss record and a losing record in the A10, poor performance in close games, the predictable collapse of our teams late in the season, and a general disorganization and lack of communication that is clear to those close to the program.

That's what a team without a good coach looks like. I know it's frustrating when your team has a lot of talent and high hopes and ends the season with a loss, but don't conflate that with the idea that the program has stagnated or that Coach Mack can't coach. You can't win a national championship without getting to the Sweet Sixteen, and Xavier does that as often as any team in the nation. That's not hyperbole; that's a friggin' fact.

The bottom line is that, in terms of advancing in the national tournament, Xavier is an elite program. There have been a couple of hiccups along the way in the Mack Era, but the team continues to win when it matters. Coach Mack came in three years ago and hasn't had a normal season yet. His first year, the recruiting class was gutted when all of Miller's commits followed him to Arizona. Mack's second year, injuries and unforeseen academic issues made Xavier run about 3.5 players deep. This year, there was a brawl that derailed the squad's momentum.

Despite that, Mack piloted this team to the Sweet 16 twice in his first three year as head coach. Nobody else has ever done that at Xavier. I didn't mean for this to turn into an extemporaneous defense of Coach Mack, but he has more than his share of critics in the Xavier community. I don't think the man is infallible; some of his strategic decisions confuse me, and it's not hard to point to recruiting misses he's made. But please, don't kid yourself that he is somehow letting down the program. Take a look at the basketball landscape at large and show me the school outside of the BCS conferences that has had the same amount of success that Xavier has in the past five years. I'll give you a hint; you can't.