Six games in last year, we had beaten Michigan and USC away from home, but we also had wins against three teams outside of the KenPom top 150. This year we've pretty much only got Clemson as an impressive win, but we're 2-0 against a very good UNI team and haven't played a soul outside of the tip 130 in KenPom. How do you feel now as compared to how you did Thanksgiving weekend a year ago?
I feel fantastic about where XU is at this year. Last year we thought we had a solid team and found out around Thanksgiving that Xavier may be better than just solid. This year we know we have a good team, so its less about proving that we're good and more about getting a good seed and developing. In terms of seeding, RPI is still king and considering we are sitting at 1 its hard to complain. In terms of developing, I think its great to play in a few close games early and even better if you learn from those games without taking a loss, and thats exactly what XU did. I must admit that perhaps we will miss Farrnolds more than I originally thought. But to be 6-0 with 4 Kenpom top 100 wins and 6 top 150 wins (most in the nation) while we are missing 1 and maybe even 2 starters is a great feeling.
Last year we were halfway to ripping off an undefeated non-conference season, which is obviously pretty good. Ignoring for a moment one fairly big non-con game in late January, what do you consider a successful non-conference for Xavier this year? To me, anything with two or fewer losses is a pretty satisfactory conclusion so long as we don't lose to Eastern Washington.
The two worst non-EWU teams left on the schedule are NDSU (KenPom #90) and Wake Forest (KenPom #63). Spitting the bit against both of them would hurt, but if those were our two losses, the big wins overcome that. If we beat those two teams, any losses aren't going to look too bad on Selection Sunday. Mario may have given this team plenty of chances to fail with this schedule, but there aren't that many places they can hurt themselves in so doing.
Other than losing to EWU or dumping three of the remaining six non-con (not counting UC), I don't see how this can be considered anything other than success. I feel better about the team this year than I did last because by this point last year, I was fearful we were peaking early. Right now, we look like a team winning without playing its best basketball. This isn't in anyway to diminish what happened last year, but I feel like there is room for this team to get batter that maybe wasn't there last season.
I think you have to consider 10-2 a successful record heading into conference play. It puts us right where we need to be to get a top seed. Going 3-3 wouldnt feel great, but even 9-3 is a pretty decent record all things considered. The dominance of the top teams in the BEast so far this year diminishes the importance of these games for me a little bit, as we will have so many opportunities to get big wins in conference.
Man, the Big East looks solid this year. Aside from teams coached by retreads, dudes who sit on the scorer's table swinging their feet during games, and guys who have the job because of who their dad is, everyone is setting up for a really good conference season. Even Providence has played OSU and Virginia tough away from home.
The top four are all 6-0 and easily in the KenPom top 25. Aside from Nova, I think Creighton scares me the most. I've always been impressed with McDermott as a coach, but they are recruiting at a really high level now. I think he and Mack are alike in that they had done a really good job of winning with mostly three-star guys, but now they're really getting the chance to show off their systems with really high-level ballplayers.
Thompson has to be done now, right? He can only ride his dad's name and one Final Four appearance so far and losing to Arkansas St. should about do it. I have been impressed with Creighton, too. They have had a couple of rebuilding years, but Watson is an excellent table setter and they have surrounded him with a team that can go places. I also think Marquette is going to be big time this year, which could put us at 6 or 7 conference teams in the tournament. Kinda feels like we've hit the big time.