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Some brief thoughts on the schedule

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I had a moment on my hands to look at the Muskies' schedule with the KenPom rankings on it. Here are a couple of impressions that came out of that.

This man will factor into Xavier's season.
This man will factor into Xavier's season.
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Pomeroy numbers regarding this year's schedule are out and the calendar is about to flip to November, we've got a pretty solid idea of what Xavier is going to be facing down this season. Thanks to the way Pomeroy's formula accounts for carryover from last year, some teams appear tougher now than they're likely to in a couple of months (looking at you, Creighton), but the number at least gives a starting point for the average fan who hasn't followed Missouri recruiting all summer.

This is, as intimated by the title, not going to be an exhaustive look at the schedule. I'm just going to highlight a few stretches that I think will be important to the season and let the discussion grow from there. We'll start by ignoring the first four games; those should all be wins to get the season rolling (sorry, angry folks on Murray State message boards).

Most important non-conference stretch:
12/6 Alabama (58 KenPom), 12/9 IUPUI (324), 12/13 @Missouri (98)
I almost added the 12/20 @Auburn game because I think they're going to end up being a quality opponent, but they are 137th in the preseason KenPom. The committee wants to see wins over good teams and wins on the road, and Xavier has the opportunity to tick both of those boxes in the week running up to finals. That Missouri game is the team's first true road game and - with only two games between then and the conference opener on New Year's Eve - will likely dictate how we feel about the team through the holidays.

Chance to make hay in conference:
12/31 Georgetown, 1/3 @DePaul, 1/7 Seton Hall
The Georgetown NYE game is going to be massive both as a spectacle and a competition, and Seton Hall at home is a distinctly winnable game. Sandwiched between those two is @DePaul, the @Fordham of the Big East schedule. Xavier started the conference season with three straight home wins last year, which stood them in good stead when tough games started falling the wrong way later in the season. Grabbing these three games - including one over Georgetown - heading into away games with Butler and Villanova would put Xavier in good position to be near the top of the table at the end of the year.

Toughest conference stretch:
2/7 Providence, 2/10 @Marquette, 2/14 St. John's
Realistically speaking, Xavier is probably going to finish somewhere between second and fifth in the conference. Georgetown, Providence, and St. John's are probably also in that same boat, and Marquette is ready to jump in if someone stumbles. Even though two of these three games are at home, they're going to come at a time where time is running out for someone. KenPom sees each of these as one-possession games, and I'd be inclined to agree. If that's not enough, the Crosstown Shootout looms on February 18th. Coach Mack and the team have their work cut out for them as this stretch will be instrumental in setting the Big East tournament bracket.

I was going to do an easiest conference stretch, but there really isn't one. DePaul is abject; beyond that, every team in the conference is good enough to defend its home court and steal one at your place if you let your guard down. Xavier came into the Big East wanting a conference schedule full of big games; it looks like they've gotten it.

This is one man's brief take on Xavier's schedule; what do you see when you scan it? Where is Xavier going to have the most trouble, and where do they need to make sure they handle their business?