Last week a look at the bubble made it seem as if Xavier was safe, dodging the injury related trouble and skating through on the strength of a brutal schedule and some solid if unspectacular wins. Then Marquette happened. The Musketeers were good to go so long as the wheels didn’t come flying off at the most inopportune of times. Watching the Golden Eagles run out to a 21-2 lead and Xavier finish with a grand total of 61 points, it wasn’t hard to envision rubber coming off the road and pieces beginning to fly everywhere.
The Musketeers are now solidly locked in at a seven seed. They are getting some consideration for the Sumner and Bluiett injuries, but that’s going to continue to fade as they come down the stretch. There are now four regular season games left in the Big East. One of them (Butler) is a chance for a good win and one (DePaul) is a chance for a horrendous loss. Ken Pomeroy has Xavier going 3-1 in those games, with both Seton Hall away and Butler at home as essential toss up games. Where Xavier lands comes the second weekend of March will rely a great deal on what they do in the next two weeks.
If the Musketeers rip off four straight, they are right back to being in fine shape. At the moment, this seems highly unlikely. A team that put up 61 points in 67 possessions against Marquette isn’t going to start pouring in buckets against Butler or Seton Hall. Winning these four straight is also basically the only way that Xavier earns the three seed in the Big East tournament and gets a shot at the sixth ranked team. That’s the difference between possibly seeing St. John’s and likely getting Marquette.
Even here, Xavier is probably still ok. Losing to Butler isn’t doing any real damage to the resume and losing to the Hall or Marquette and beating Butler is a fine limitation of damage. Losing to DePaul is, as always, a complete disaster and may be grounds for automatic forfeiture. Early returns on a Twitter poll suggest that this is what a lot of you think (or hope) will happen. Again, though, does this look like a team that is beating Seton Hall right now?
Trouble. Here is the cut off line between acceptable and Xavier falling unequivocally on to the bubble. Thus, this is the place where Trevon Bluiett simply needs to heal in time to avoid. Xavier’s last two losses were acceptable in the L column right until both of them turned into routs. To drop seven or eight spots down the KenPom rankings at this time of year betrays taking two pretty good hidings by aggressively mediocre teams. Xavier cannot overcome that if they lose two of their last four. If that happens, a win in the Big East tournament becomes a necessity for Musketeers fans to pass a peaceful Selection Sunday.
Only beating DePaul at this point becomes a saving grace only in that it would give the Musketeers some momentum heading into a Big East tournament in which they needed a win to survive, not just feel comfortable. Going 1-3 would drop the Musketeers sufficiently to the point where they could end up playing Butler or Creighton in their first game. That’s a chance for a good win and also a chance for a season ending loss.
However horrifying this is to contemplate, Xavier’s play in the last three games has made it a consideration. Trevon Bluiett is in a walking boot. That’s not usually an indicator of a guy about to come out and drop 25. Without him, even beating DePaul looks like more of an ask for an offense without any focal point and suffering from serious anemia. Yes, this is absolutely the worst case scenario, but it is now a possible one. If this happens, Xavier needs to win out in the tournament to go dancing.