Basketball is a game meant to enjoyed passionately. Unlike the summer-long 162 grind of baseball, basketball is taken 40 minutes at a time in roughly 35-40 chunks a year. You get no more than that, so each game can feel like it's very own beginning or end to something. Frequently, the narrative changes inside the 40 minutes allotted for play. This leads to heightened emotions, and that means the tow most extreme emotions, love and hate. In this series we'll have a look at things that Xavier fans spend their winters loving or hating.
When I first became a Xavier fan, we were the lovable underdogs. That was back in the years of the MCC, being happy to be near the tournament, and considerably lesser expectations all around. That was replaced with the A10. There, Xavier was something of the bully on the block during the regular season but still considered a "mid-major" (probably a fitting title until the last decade or so) by the nation at large. Joel and I were in college the first year the Musketeers made the Elite Eight, and being the shock team that no one could pronounce was an amazing feeling.
And then it wasn't. Eventually, it gets a little old to be overlooked, and that's what happened with Xavier. The Atlantic 10 failed to grab any marquee names in conference reshuffling, instead adding both Butler and VCU just after they hit their apogee. Xavier struggled along with that for a year, but the writing was one the wall. It was time to move onward and upward. That leads us to the Big East.
Playing in the Big East is, with the theoretical exception of DePaul, a nightly test. There is no more Fordham, no more Duquesne, no more Charlotte. While that means things like last year's 9-9 record, it also means that nine conference losses ends with a six seed. There are also burgeoning new rivalries to enjoy. Beating Butler is always enjoyable, Georgetown has produced some great games, and I'm sure at some point we'll be within ten or so of Villanova.
Most of all though, Xavier has finally shed the image of a school from down the conference rankings. The Big East carries with it name recognition and cachet. People can actually pronounce the school name now. After years of toil, Xavier is finally at the top where they belong. That means no more sneaking up on people, but it also means that recruits recognize the venues where the team plays and the benefits that the New York City stage provides. Xavier is unquestionably in a better position than they were before joining the Big East. Thanks to a step up in conference, the program continues to rise.