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Could the Xavier Musketeers have had a perfect season in this year's Atlantic 10?

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The Musketeers are fighting through a Big East season that is fraught with more danger than the team and its fans grew accustomed to facing in conference play. If X had stayed in a lower conference, would they be looking at history right now? Here's what the numbers tell us.

The A10 has become something of a stepping stone.
The A10 has become something of a stepping stone.
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Big East, as I'm sure you've noted, is awesome. You get to play conference games against top ten opponents, you don't have to play hardly any games against garbage teams, and you're pretty much always on TV. In the Atlantic 10, Xavier was constantly fighting off bottom feeders and their attacks on the Muskies' computer numbers. I swear there were games played in high school gyms where the only video was being streamed through a camcorder owned by one of the players' dads. Things are different now. Things are better.

There is, as one of our Twitter followers pointed out, a certain level of stress that goes with that. There were a lot more games in the bag at halftime in the A10 than there are in the Big East; X was just that much better than most of the competition. With that in mind and an undefeated non-conference record in the rearview from this year, I got to thinking: could this Xavier team go undefeated in the A10?

The first thing to do is see how Xavier stacks up against each team. I ran everyone in the A10 through the KenPom Predictor at gamepredict.us/kenpom to determine what the rough chances of a Xavier win at Cintas or on the road would be. Here's what it spat out:

Team KenPom Rank Home Away
VCU 29 77% 48%
Dayton 36 79% 51%
Saint Joe's 54 83% 58%
GW 68 86% 63%
URI 76 87% 65%
St. Bonnie 88 88% 68%
Richmond 98 90% 71%
Davidson 115 91% 75%
Duquesne 139 93% 80%
Fordham 188 96% 86%
UMass 196 96% 87%
George Mason 203 97% 88%
Saint Lou 229 97% 91%
La Salle 293 98% 95%

As you can see, the Pomeroy numbers like Xavier home or away against anyone in the league except for coin tosses at VCU and Dayton. I'll take those odds. Next we have to build Xavier a schedule. According to the A10's current scheduling practices, everyone in the league plays everyone else once, plus home and home with five opponents. We're going to put Xavier in for Davidson to (a) make the math work and (b) replace a fairly middle of the road team so as not to stack the deck.

The least favorable possible schedule would have Xavier playing two games against each of the five best opponents, then road games against each of the next four top teams. They would round out the schedule with home games against the bottom feeders, where the location of the game has the least impact on the likely outcome. The schedule makers would pretty it all up, but it would basically boil down to this:

Home games: Chance of L: Road games: Chance of L:
VCU 23% VCU 52%
Dayton 21% Dayton 49%
Saint Joe's 17% Saint Joe's 42%
GW 14% GW 37%
URI 13% URI 35%
UMass 4% St. Bonnie 32%
George Mason 3% Richmond 29%
Saint Lou 3% Duquesne 20%
La Salle 2% Fordham 14%
Chance of going undefeated: 0.65%

I'm sorry if the formatting doesn't come out exactly perfect, but the takeaway is the same: Xavier's odds of going undefeated would be pretty slim in this scenario, easily less that one in a hundred. The A10 isn't filled with tough teams, but it's still pretty stout at the top, and that would likely be enough to make the difference. The dream doesn't die there, though...

The most favorable possible schedule would be basically a mirror image of the above. Home and home against the five worst teams in the league, away games against the next four to get those road trips out of the way, and then bringing each of the top four teams in the league into Cintas. Here's how that would look:

Home games: Chance of L: Road games: Chance of L:
Fordham 4% Fordham 14%
UMass 4% UMass 13%
George Mason 3% George Mason 12%
Saint Lou 3% Saint Lou 9%
La Salle 2% La Salle 5%
VCU 23% URI 35%
Dayton 21% St. Bonnie 32%
Saint Joe's 17% Richmond 29%
GW 14% Duquesne 20%
Chance of going undefeated: 5.27%

That schedule gives Xavier an amazing 5.27% chance of an undefeated run through regular season play. I know that doesn't sound like great odds (because it still isn't) but in the context of league play in a likely multi-bid it's pretty impressive. Assuming Xavier got a schedule between the least and most favorable shown here, I would have given them maybe a 1 in 30 shot at running the table. Only 28 teams in college basketball history have put together undefeated regular seasons. If the Musketeers had put this team in the Atlantic 10, they just might have become the 29th.