As college basketball fans we are geared to look at everything through the prism of March. The regular season, far from being the meaningless slog that all but four college football teams play, serves to set up the grandest tournament in sports. Want a good seed, close to home, with good matchups? Win games in November and December. Because we look at everything in terms of March, the questions about how the season's start effect it's end start to come early.
This year, Xavier is 7-0 and absolutely rolling. High level wins over Michigan, USC, and Dayton have come by an average margin of 18.3 points. The offense is 20th in the nation, the defense is 16th. Only two players on the roster sport an adjusted offensive efficiency under 100 and one of those, Larry Austin Jr., is developing into an elite defender. If you like Ken Pomeroy's method of rating teams in every category and then assigning a color to show how good they are, you'll like that Xavier has not a single number that is any hue of red.
It's always dangerous to try to extrapolate the future from the past, but that's exactly what is about to happen. Two Xavier teams since 2002 have started 7-0. The 2011-12 squad was actually up to 8-0 after a blowout win over UC before that entire debacle went national. The team recovered to land in the Sweet 16 and very nearly edge Baylor. The 2009-10 team rolled out to 9-0 before losing to Duke. That team also made the Sweet 16 and was narrowly edged by Pitt.
So what does that tell us? Well, not a lot. For starters, bad Xavier teams don't start 7-0 but the great don't always either. Neither of the Elite Eight groups made 7-0, instead starting 4-3 in 03-04 and 6-1 in the 07-08 run. Still, it's clear that ripping off seven straight to start the year is indicative of a good team. No Xavier team to start that will since KenPom started doing his thing has failed to reach the Sweet 16.
What about teams that tear off seven straight at any point during the year? That happened in 2002 (19th in KP) with a team that lost to Oklahoma (a Final Four squad) in the second round. In 2003 (22nd) it was the same second round loss, this time to a highly ranked Maryland squad. The 2004 (15th) Elite Eight team won seven straight on two separate occasions during the year to overcome that 4-3 start. It wasn't until 2007 (35th) that a Xavier team got that hot again and that team only lost to OSU and the officials in the tournament. The 2008 team (18th) also tore off seven straight once during their Elite Eight run. The 2009 team we covered above, and Jordan Crawford's boys (17th) did it the next year before losing the epic to K-State. The 2001 and 2014 teams also had a seven game win streak but we're knocked out in the first round.
From that, we get this: Teams that win seven straight at any point during the year tend to be good enough to make a deep tournament run unless they hit very serious opposition. Two Xavier teams that did it were eliminated by Final Four teams before the Elite Eight, and two more made it to the Elite Eight on their own. Only teams that feasted on a weak A10 schedule to go on their run were eliminated early and, at least in the case of the 2011 team that lost to Marquette, a matchup nightmare was to blame.
So, don't go printing tickets to the nearest Elite Eight site just yet, but Xavier teams that go on seven game winning streaks at any point during the year tend to be very, very good. Maybe this isn't news to you and maybe you kind of assumed that but, when every dribble of the ball leads us closer to March, it's always good to know where you stand.