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How does the break week affect Xavier?

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It can feel like Xavier is a lot worse as the calendar turns to late December, but is that really the case? Our case study unearths the facts.

These guys did their part around the holidays.
These guys did their part around the holidays.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday we took a look at how Xavier teams with a profile similar to this year's have fared in terms of advancing to the NCAA tournament. That got Banners community member xudannyo pondering a related question "I have a feeling we always lose during/right after exam week. Got any data to back this up?" Starting with the 2003-2004 season we set out to find out if that gut feeling was right and what, if any, impact it had on the season going forward.

2003-2004: Xavier 78 - Louisiana-Lafayette 74
A week after a road loss to a Mississippi State team that they would end up beating to earn their way into the Sweet 16, Xavier took on a surprisingly game ULL squad. The Muskies were led by Romain Sato's 23 points on a grisly 5-18/3-12/10-12 shooting line. Anthony Myles pitched in 14 and 9 and Lionel Chalmers had 13. Dedrick Finn dished out 7 assists and had one steal (presumably not of a puppy). Considering that X was favored by 10.5, going down to the wire with ULL has to be considered a fairly flat performance. Christmas break record: 3-1

2004-2005: Mississippi State 80 - Xavier 74
The first year of the Sean Miller era was not one Xavier fans will look back on with fondness. The team generally couldn't defend for spit and had that problem this game, allowing MSU to post a 62% EFG%. Josh Duncan, Justin Doellman, Brian Thornton, Justin Cage, and Stanley Burrell each scored in double digits and Dedrick Finn and Will Caudle both contributed nine, but it wasn't enough to overcome the team's defensive shortcomings. This was the team's fourth loss in five games, and the only win was in OT. I think the team itself had more to do with this loss than finals week did. Christmas break record: 3-1

2005-2006: Creighton 61 - Xavier 59
Xavier held almost all of the Bluejays in check this game, but Anthony Tolliver went off for 26/10/0 on 8-12/2-4/8-9 shooting. Xavier also got crushed on the glass at both ends. Combine that with a team that scored 59 in 62 possessions and you have the recipe for a tough loss. Stanley Burrell was particularly culpable, shooting 6-17/1-8/0-0. Creighton was favored by a point and won by two; it's hard to see evidence of a finals week hangover here. Christmas break record: 2-1

2006-2007: Xavier 76 - Arizona State 58
This game didn't come after a true finals week off, as Xavier lost the Crosstown Shootout on Wednesday. Apparently that energized the Muskies, because they decimated ASU despite shooting 5-20 from behind the arc. Justin Doellman led the way with 17/6/2 and 3 steals and 3 blocks and Johnny Wolf dished out 5 assists and went 2-2 from three-point range. Xavier's TO% was a little high, but by and large this was a crisp demolition of a 16-point underdog. Christmas break record: 2-1

2007-2008: Tennessee 82 - Xavier 75
Xavier doesn't lose that many home games, but when they do those games are usually like this one. The teams were nip and tuck the whole way until a very good Tennessee squad in the midst of an 11-game win streak closed the game on a 10-2 run. Stanley Burrell had 18 and Derrick Brown went for 12 and 10, and the Muskies posted dominant rebounding percentages on each end. Ultimately, it was UT's swarming defense hounding Xavier into a 29.1% TO% that made the difference. In one sense, it wasn't surprising to see Xavier lose by seven when UT entered the game favored by 3.5, but that TO% against the team's season mark of 19.5% makes you wonder if the finals week rust played a bit of a role. Christmas break record: 2-1

2008-2009: Duke 82 - Xavier 64
There wasn't a true finals week game this year, with this one landing a week after Xavier won the Crosstown Shootout. This game was never close, with Duke blowing out to a 22-3 lead that they extended to 31 by halftime. The rout did give Sean Miller a chance to get off this gem of a line "At the first timeout, I tried to remain positive, but I told the kids that at this pace, they could score 190 and I really thought it was a possibility." So did everyone watching. I hoping all the guys aced every final, because that's all they got out of that week. Christmas break record: 1-2

2009-2010: Butler 69 - Xavier 68
This was the Clock Game. Xavier didn't play exceptionally great defense but played good offense against what would be one of the nation's better defenses at home. The ending of the game was marred by controversy (and water fountains were marred by Tu Holloway) when the home clock briefly stopped, Butler scored, and then someone realized there was a problem. After a 13 minute delay in which the officials used a stopwatch to take a guess, the Bulldogs were awarded the win. You can't expect an old barn to have top notch timekeeping, but this game swerved far into the realm of absurd. Christmas break record: 2-1

2010-2011: Xavier 83 - Wake 75
Wake was 271st in the nation when they came to the Cintas Center, and they played like it. Xavier didn't play particularly well, but this game was never really in doubt. The Musketeers led by double digits for almost all of the second half and the Demon Deacons spread covering run never really put the game in danger. Both Griffin McKenzie and Jay Canty saw the court before this one was out. Christmas break record: 2-2

2011-2012: Oral Roberts 64 - Xavier 42
This game was a loss directly because of the game before it. The Crosstown Blowout and the absurd fight that it concluded with left Xavier without their star studded backcourt and led to getting crushed at home by the 99th ranked team in the nation. There's not a lot to take from this game other than that Mick Cronin is a complete prat. Christmas break record: 1-4

2012-2013: UC 60 - Xavier 45
Xavier was dreadful in this game. Only Dee Davis really showed up with any fire and a stout defensive first half wasn't enough to keep an overmatched Musketeers squad in the game. .70 points per possession and allowing 20 offensive rebounds pretty much told the story. Prior to this contest Xavier had ten days off, and it showed. Christmas break record: 0-3

2013-2014: Xavier 64 - UC 47
Last year Xavier returned the favor. Taking only four days off this time, they came out and wiped the floor with UC. The game was played on a neutral court, but it turned decidedly in favor of Xavier before even 13 minutes were gone. The game was 16 at the half was never in doubt. Xavier looked excellent all game long and had almost certainly been woken up by struggling to beat Evansville earlier in the week. Christmas break record: 4-0

Conclusion:

So what to take from all of that? Xavier is 6-9 over Christmas break in recent years and 4-7 in what we would consider finals week or thereabout games. From the start of this study until the end, Xavier has gone 21-16 over Christmas break. That's 37 games, or three more than the Musketeers played all of last year and basically in line with a successful season. That same Christmas break winning percentage would have left Xavier with 19 wins, and no tournament bid, last year. It may not be dramatic, but the Musketeers are indeed worse over the break than they normally are. With that in mind, Auburn, FGCU, and Georgetown suddenly seems a little bit more daunting.