On Thursday night we were all reasonably certain that Xavier had clinched their bid to the NCAA tournament. The win over Butler filled in the one hole in the resume, namely a good win with Edmond Sumner injured. Still stranger things have happened. Last year, the committee put in an undeserving Syracuse squad while St. Mary’s watched from the sidelines. Obviously, the farther away from the cut line a team is, the more insulated it is from nonsensical human errors. So, is Xavier really in as a lock, or are they within reach of the absurd?
That, like so many of these things this time of year, depends on who you ask. Joe Lunardi, probably the godfather of the bracketology movement, has Xavier as the last team missing Dayton. That leaves the Musketeers as an 11 seed facing St. Mary’s. Behind them Lunardi has Syracuse, Wake, K-State, and USC. None of those teams play anymore and therefor none of them are going jump over X. Rhode Island, who still does have games remaining, is listed as Lunardi’s first team out. Also lurking back there is potential mid-major olive branch Illinois St.
Fellow ESPNer Eamonn Brennan said of X “Tough loss? Sure. A problem? We doubt it. This is where the committee's eye test should play a role, combining Thursday's successful result with the human ability to acknowledge the first 39 minutes and 54 seconds of Friday's almost equally impressive performance. Xavier's resume is tournament-worthy and has been for a while.” It’s fair to say that ESPN thinks Xavier is in, but there’s precious little separating them from the Dayton-bound teams.
If Chris Dobbertean of SB Nation is more your speed, Xavier looks a bit better. Dobbertean had Xavier as one of his last teams missing Dayton until this morning, when he eliminated that category altogether as he felt those teams were locked in place. What Dobbertean points out is that that there are bid thieves lurking in the Atlantic 10. Dayton is in anyway, but they lost in the conference tournament. If Davidson or Richmond grabs that auto-bid, someone is getting bumped by VCU or Rhode Island (or maybe both). At least in the mind of SB Nation’s bracketologist, X sits about seven teams away from that cut line.
Things are much the same at Sports Illustrated, where they Musketeers are safe unless things really get crazy. What could cause that? Alabama beating UK, Rhode Island and VCU meeting in the Atlantic 10 final, or that ridiculous Illinois State bid. SI currently has Xavier well above the cut line as a 10 seed facing Maryland (with UK lurking in the next round). If you prefer your bracket news from a magazine that still puts girls in bikinis and tries to pretend it is art, X looks good.
Finally, we have CBS. The home of the tournament has Providence, Xavier, and Marquette all as 10 seeds but doesn’t have Xavier too terribly far off the Dayton line. In their scenarios, MTSU, Vandy, Rhode Island, or Nevada winning could put Xavier closer to the 11 line than the 10. Is that safe? Likely so, but it is in within that margin of the sublimely dense denying the Musketeers a bid.
What it all boils down to is that Xavier is safe, but not too safe. There is always that chance of something like the Syracuse bid last year happening and knocking a more deserving team out. If that happens it isn’t like to be the Musketeers, but part of the consequence of that late season swoon is a little bit of remaining trepidation come Sunday.