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This year or last year? The tyranny of March

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Can you judge a college basketball season by more than just the final month?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

There’s nothing for a Xavier fan quite like an Elite Eight run. I can distinctly remember all of them: Lionel Chalmers, Anthony Myles, and getting Duked came before BJ Raymond burying a three pointer, West Virginia, and Bob Huggins in one beautiful screaming moment, and finally this year’s team of under turned overachievers jumping on the back of a still injured Trevon Bluiett and driving Sean Miller’s Buick within a game of the Final Four. That final step is coming, but until then, the three runs will be immortalized to Xavier fans.

But that overshadows one very important fact, last year’s Xavier team was better than this year’s iteration.

That seems in stark contrast to what we just saw. After all, this year’s team made it to the Elite Eight and, while they were routed there, no one can say they didn’t get the most out of the talent they had on hand by the end. The same can’t be said for last year. With a lot of the same pieces, plus Myles Davis, Jalen Reynolds, and James Farr, the Musketeers lost to Wisconsin in the second round. A Sweet 16 celebration with that team would have been slightly muted if only for the fact those guys could have gone much farther. Instead, they didn’t make the second weekend.

So which of those years was better?

The argument for this year is self-evident. None of us who watched Trevon Bluiett shoulder the team in the first half against Arizona or Sean O’Mara play the four games of his life are likely to forget it. The Elite Eight brings exposure to the school, money to the conference, and recognition to the program for what it has accomplished.

But this year was hardly all sunshine. After starting seventh in the nation, the team plunged out of the AP poll and went through a six game losing streak that by all rights should have ended their season. Myles left under bizarre circumstances, the team lost the Shootout, and far from challenging for the Big East crown, they finished seventh and played on the first day at MSG against DePaul. That paragraph is not one that any program wants to have associated with it, but it defined Xavier’s season. It was fun for three weeks here at the end, but from late January on, it was something along the lines of torture. On the whole, this was not a fun season for Xavier fans.

Last season stands as something as a polar opposite Xavier was unranked to start the year, but peaked as high as fifth in the polls, the highest any Musketeers squad has ever ascended. That team beat UC behind Edmond Sumner’s thundering dunk, scored the first win over Villanova in Big East history, and absolutely destroyed Dayton to win their Thanksgiving tournament. Any college basketball talk show that took itself seriously was forced to mention the Musketeers right along with Duke, UK, and the rest of the blue bloods. If there was a season that announced Xavier as a national power this was it.

And that leads to what is coming in next season, a top 10 recruiting class. Players get recruited all year long, not just in March, and they follow teams all year long, not just in March. The guys that will suit up for X next year aren’t doing it just because of the tournament, they are doing it because Xavier is elite. The 2016 team didn’t finish elite though, they got knocked out by Bronson Koenig and their own offensive failures. The team that many Xavier fans thought would break the glass ceiling and make the Final Four instead won two fewer tournament games than a team that had to play Tim Stainbrook for nine minutes in a conference game.

And that’s the tyranny of March. Xavier fans will look back on this month with nothing but great memories of an overachieving group that made a great run. That’s totally fair, and it’s how this team should be remembered. But last year’s team shouldn’t be remembered as a failure because they didn’t make a similar run. If anything, the fact that losing in the second round was such a disappointment should say a lot about what that team meant. So, Xavier Nation, which matters more, the season as a whole, or one great March?

Poll

Do you judge a season based on all of it, or just March?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    I take it as a whole
    (103 votes)
  • 36%
    Only March matters
    (60 votes)
163 votes total Vote Now