The things that we love inevitably end badly. Alfred Lord Tennyson said it was better to have loved and lost to have never loved at all, and in doing so he hit on the main quandary facing Xavier fans this March. Team 94 was a thing of beauty in its pomp, a nearly unstoppable machine that carried Xavier basketball to heights it had never hit before. Team 94 also did one other thing mostly unheard of in the long tradition of the Musketeers, it crashed out of the tournament having failed to reach anything near the heights it should have. That leaves the lasting question; how will you remember Team 94?
On the positive side of the ledger comes a regular season that fans can be forgiven for thinking was a dream. Xavier didn't look like world beaters when they struggled with Miami (Ohio) to start the season, but they pounded a tournament bound Michigan team in Michigan and then wiped the floor with Alabama on Thanksgiving. That wasn't just a blip in the normal service of a rotten holiday tournament, either. The Musketeers followed that up by winning the AdvoCare Invitational and destroying Dayton 90-61 in the process. The next real test on the calendar was the Crosstown Shootout, and Xavier won that too, with Edmond Sumner serving emphatic notice over Octavius Ellis that there was a new bully on the block.
Xavier didn't lose in that run in to conference play. Not until Edmond's terrifying fall against Villanova did the Musketeers finally drop a game. In conference play and the conference tournament the team would lose a grand total of five times. In that span came two routs of Butler, a first Big East win over Nova, and a second place finish in the conference. Team 94 also was ranked in the AP poll from that first Thanksgiving win through the end of the season. More than that, the team cracked the top 10 just before Christmas and made the program's first foray into the top five on January 18th. The Musketeers were never ranked lower than tenth in 2016. There were hurdles along the way, but they hardly impacted the consistent brilliance of the best team in Xavier history.
Unfortunately, the season didn't have the fairy tale ending that should have accompanied such a sustained run of excellence. Isaiah Whitehead and Seton Hall beat Xavier (and then Villanova) in the Big East tournament. That wasn't a major issue with a possible run to the Final Four looming. That ended with Bronson Koenig in the corner and Remy Abell standing with his arms up, still aghast. In that manner, Team 94 ends worse than last year's iteration did. Of all of the Xavier teams that made the Sweet 16, this one will not. Fans still speak reverently about the The Run or BJ Raymond's three pointer. This Xavier team, the best ever in Ken Pomeroy's rankings, won't be remembered like that. This particular run ended after barely getting out of the blocks.
So how will you remember Team 94? Will it be the excellence from November until early March? Edmond Sumner dunking on Ellis and then snake dribbling into a three against Wake Forest? Will it be the demolition of both in-state rivals and a 14-4 run through the Big East? Or will all that pale in the face of the Wisconsin game and a Final Four run aborted? When you look back in ten years, how will you see Team 94?