Let's start with the facts as they stand. Xavier is ranked #10 in the nation. Xavier is 10-0 right now. Xavier is currently ninth in the Pomeroy rankings. Xavier is 5th in the Massey Rankings. All of those numbers are extremely impressive and based on a smallish sample at the start of the year. The question that comes to mind then, is whether Xavier has ever been this good before. We had a look at whether the 7-0 start was a harbinger of success before, but this is an entirely different question.
First off, our scope can only go back to 2002. That's when Ken Pomeroy came online with his rankings. Massey archives cover back as far as 2004, but that will be sufficient for the purposes of this. Xavier did manage their highest ever ranking of #7 in the 1997 but, frankly speaking, they didn't deserve that and they ended the season out of the polls and lost in a terrible 6/11 matchup to the Washington Huskies and Todd Macollough. (God bless Rip Hamilton). That leaves only a few times when Xavier teams may have been as good as the national consensus has this team right now.
I loved this team, you loved this team, everyone except the refs in the Duke game loved this team. The secret is though, that they weren't very good to begin with. The team ended the year on a 16-2 tear and went screaming up the Pomeroy rankings before ending 15th. The Massey rankings had the team at 20th after their loss in the Elite Eight at the hands of Duke. Almost incomprehensibly, the AP poll featured Xavier exactly no times that year, and that includes the final poll. Yes, a team in the Elite Eight ended the year unranked. What that means for our purposes today is that the 2004 team was good, maybe even great, but not as good as our squad right now. Moving on.
In 2008 BJ Raymond made one of the great shots in Xavier history. That team peaked at eighth in the AP poll when it was 25-4 near the end of the year. That was also their peak in the Massey rankings, when they were 10th. KenPom had the team at 14th at that point before landing them at 18th at the last. Even the run to the regional final didn't move the team back up to their computer peak of the 25-4 mark, so those numbers were the highest that the squad achieved. Unlike the 2004 squad, this one didn't have a chance in the Elite Eight and got destroyed by an excellent UCLA squad. This was definitely a great team, but even they didn't peak as high as this year's squad.
#7 in the nation before losing to Duke, this squad was also quite good. This group was sixth in the nation in the Massey rankings before that loss but never managed to get above 18th in KenPom's estimation. According to Massey, this is the team that was closest to this year's squad. They were beautifully deep, but lost to Pittsburgh in the Sweet Sixteen.
Peaked at 15th in the Massey rankings and 14th in KenPom. One of the things this article is showing is that Xavier has really had some excellent teams down through the years that were left behind by the national media. Of course, this team didn't hit the AP poll until the game against Kansas State in which Jordan Crawford hit that shot and even then they peaked at 24th.
Ignoring the whole Brawl issue, this team was riding high coming off a massive Shootout win. They were eighth in the AP poll, ninth in the Massey, and 18th in the KenPom. Oh, what could have been. After that, they lost three straight and plunged down the polls before very nearly making the Elite Eight again.
So those are the contestants. There are more than I thought there would be, but even with that factored in, none match up with this year's squad. I'm not prepared to say that this is the best Xavier team on record, if only because I'm afraid to, but the computers have no such qualms. According to both of the major not human systems, this is the best Musketeers squad that has ever been assembled. Do you agree?