The Big East has been a clear step up from the Atlantic 10 Conference in myriad ways, but the biggest of those has to be the strength of the conference schedule. Right now the Big East ranks as the fourth best conference in the nation according to KenPom. Just ahead are the ACC and the Big 10, with the Big 12 leading the way by some margin. Trailing are the SEC and the Pac 12. The Atlantic 10 lingers on down in eighth.
So what does this mean for Xavier? In the Atlantic 10 there always loomed the chance of losing to Charlotte, Duquesne, St. Bonaventure, or Fordham. A sub 200 loss could very well torpedo the chances of a team on the at large bubble and dramatically injure the seeding of a team that was a lock for the tournament. To add to that, the chances of recovering from such a loss by beating a high ranked team were slim. Temple was generally good, but not great, Saint Louis and St. Joe's were occasionally good, and beyond that it was a crapshoot.
That's not the case anymore. Villanova leads a conference that provides plenty of opportunities for good wins, and only a couple of potential bad losses. If Xavier navigates Auburn and FGCU, here is what awaits:
The color coding should make this very clear. Losses to those top five teams won't be a good thing, but they shouldn't really cripple Xavier unless they start to pile up. The teams seen in yellow also aren't a reason to throw in the towel, but a couple of those will do some damage. DePaul earns the lone red. A loss to them is going to be bad, no matter what language it is couched in. (It's worth noting that both Auburn and FGCU would probably fall into that red category).
In Xavier's last season in the A10, when the conference was undoubtedly at it's best, three teams would have fallen in the green, five in the yellow, and seven potential disasters awaiting in the red. It's not difficult to see how that schedule is a minefield of issues. The year before, perhaps more representative, has two teams in the green, six in the yellow, and five in the red. Factor in at least one tournament game against a terrible team and you have another tight rope to walk if you don't take care of business in every single game.
Essentially, this means that Xavier's margin of error this year is wider than it has been in the past. As we mentioned earlier in the week, Xavier is in good position for a bid already. With only two truly bad losses on the conference schedule, and plenty of chances to rack up good wins, the potential for solidifying that position looks better than it ever has before.