Nothing quite like five straight wins heading into conference to cure what ails you. I did not see this coming after that abomination in the Bahamas. Pre-season rankings had as south of the middle of the pack in the Big East. On the eve of conference play, where do you rate us now?
Probably not a lot different, really. Top 5 if things break well is certainly a possibility now. Of course, you probably could have said that at the start of the season. Are there any conference teams that you would say I really fell off before conference play started?
Marquette, maybe. I think we're a little better than I thought and some other teams are a little worse. Nothing dramatic, but I think you can make a top 3 case for us now. Villanova and Creighton are better than we are, but I think we can dance with Georgetown and Marquette. If it breaks our way, I think we can take third in an incredibly tough conference. Look at tonight [ed. note: now last night]: shot like garbage, locked them up on defense and crushed the boards. We can win a lot of ways.
Prior to tonight KenPom had us fifth. We played Wake (83rd) and won handily. Villanove, whom Ken had first, got waxed by the deplorable Syracuse but the other teams above else held serve. There's no shame in losing to Syracuse, so that doesn't hurt the Wildcats in my opinion. I'll grant that we are close to Marquette, but I'm not so sure that the Hoyas aren't just the next step above us. Butler has also won 10 games, but I'm not seeing a good win anywhere in there.
Let's break it into tiers.
Top tier: Creighton and Villanova. These two teams are a cut above right now because I feel like they have a better than coin-toss chance of beating us at home.
Middle tier: Georgetown, Marquette, St. John's, and just barely Butler. These are teams that I would give us the edge at home but them the edge at their own place. I was going to put Butler in the next tier down, but they never turn it over, play good defense, and keep the tempo low. That's a good recipe.
Bottom tier: Providence - who is going to struggle at times to score the basketball without Dunn - Seton Hall, and DePaul. These are teams that I believe we should beat twice.
If things break our way, we go better than .500 against the middle tier, maybe pinch one against the big boys, and mop up against the bottom tier. That's not a bad outlook to have heading into our first Big East season. Am I missing something, or is it not foolish to be this optimistic?
First off, we are discussing Creighton in the Big East. I love that we're in a major conference now (and good for the Jays, too) but we may need to look into renaming this thing. I know one of those mid-majors is named the American something something, but maybe like Big Continental would be better.
Secondly, St. John's is something of a mystery to me. Right now, I don't know what to make of them. They take great care of the ball, but they just cannot score the thing that well right now. Providence still has Bryce Cotton, so don't sleep on them.
St. John's has no bad losses, but their best win is... Bucknell? Georgia Tech? Not impressive at this point, though they have punched with some decent teams. Providence isn't super deep, but Cotton does scare me a bit.
Can't change the Big East name; that's brand recognition.
I'm looking forward to seeing X playing at MSG. If we could avoid the first round of games (which involve the bottom four teams), that would be nice. Being in the top four would be ideal just to hopefully avoid the tougher quarterfinal matchups. There's a lot of road to cover between now and then, but playing three in three days would be a lot better than four in four.
I obviously wasn't being serious with the name change. St John's is blocking an insane amount of shots this year. They swat fully a quarter of their opponents attempts. Even more remarkable, that's not tops in the nation.
Coach Mack now has 100 wins and a 10 win non conference season, I fear it won't be long until a big name comes knocking. Does he give you more of a feeling of being a Xavier guy than Matta or Miller did? I'd very much love him to stay.
Earth to Meekus, I clearly knew you were kidding...
Anyway, I think he is. Matta was clearly a mercenary; we got him from Butler and he always had his sights set on bigger things. Miller felt like a Xavier guy; I was surprised and hurt when he bounced. Mack is definitely a Xavier dude; if we have a chance to keep anyone, it's him.
Consider also the two kinds of coaches who stick around for a long time. There are the dudes who sit at some small school like St. Francis (PA) or something, intertwine themselves with the school and the community, and become small-school institutions. Then there is the other end of the spectrum, which is a power-conference coach who gets to the top and stays there by virtue of being successful and not having anywhere to go.
In the middle of those is the A-10. If you're successful at that level, you either slip back into mediocrity or keep moving up while you have momentum. Nobody hangs around and keeps winning there. One of the myriad benefits of being in the Big East may well be the opportunity to have sustained stability and success in the head coach position.
So why does John Calipari keep having to move? Oh right, he's a massive cheater who constantly leaves in disgrace. That's how he fits in to your spectrum.
I do think we have a chance to keep Mack and now, more than ever, I think that's a good thing. The way this team has come back after the Bahamas has been impressive. It would have been really easy to roll over, especially after BG and Evansville took us to the wire.
Joel (after a discourteously long delay)
Sorry, baby boy fell asleep in my lap and my phone was stuck in my pocket. Even more than it follows prestige, talent follows money. With this team rolling and a top ten recruiting class coming in, Coach Mack seems to be talented. With that Big East money in the vault, he shouldn't be going anywhere. Basically all that's left to do is go ahead and roll to the Final Four.