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I love Coach Mack, but he’s wrong

Xavier’s exclusion from the tournament would hardly be “unprecedented.” In fact, it might be closer to the norm.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Xavier
Coach Mack ponders why internet guys have more time to research than he does.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Odds are if you were scrolling through Xavier Twitter yesterday you came across this quote:

It is a great quote from a coach who has seen all the hard work his team has done all year threatened to be swallowed up in one injury induced end of season meltdown. It’s also completely wrong. Based on Xavier’s final computer numbers, it would hardly be unprecedented for them to miss the field of 68.

Right now Xavier stands 43rd in the KenPom and 32nd in the RPI. One does not have to go far to find teams with similar resumes on the outside looking in. When you take into account the fact that those numbers won’t go up with a win on Wednesday, and the RPI may actually go down, and Xavier isn’t exactly loaded with top end wins, things are far more tenuous than Coach Mack would like to believe.


Last year St. Mary’s finished 34th in the KenPom and 38th in the RPI and didn’t get selected for an at large bid. That’s a team that lost a grand total of five times all year, three of them to teams in the top 60 of the KenPom rankings. Joining them in terms of teams that should frighten Xavier fans were St. Bonaventure, who had an RPI of 30, and Valpo, who was 49th in RPI but 36th in the KenPom rankings. All three of those teams profile similarly to the Musketeers this year.


How about the year previous, when Xavier snared a six seed and came tantalizingly close to the Elite Eight? Stanford, 39th in the KenPom rankings, missed out that year. Colorado State finished 29th in the RPI, but also missed out. Temple finished 34th in the RPI and didn’t go, Old Dominion was 45th in the RPI and didn’t snag an invite. Those teams clustered closer to 60th in terms of their KenPom ranking but they still sound something of an alarm.


This year SMU was the big victim. Their KenPom ranking was 31st, their RPI was 53rd, and they were ranked in the AP top 25. Despite all of that, they still didn’t get an at large bid. Southern Miss had an RPI of 33 and missed an at large bid, Florida St. and Utah were both in the top 40 of the KenPom and didn’t get their chance to go dancing. Both of those teams profiled better in both of the metrics being talked about here than NC State, who earned an at large bid. (And then beat Xavier in the play-in games).

Those are just examples from the last three years. Based on those, Xavier’s exclusion from the field based on their numbers now would hardly be “unprecedented.” In fact, the precedent has clearly been set that two or three teams each year will enter Selection Sunday with similar resumes and not make the NCAA tournament. With Xavier’s numbers likely to take a small hit even if they win on Wednesday (and a complete torpedoing if they lose), it’s clear that Coach Mack is right about one thing, the Musketeers can’t leave this decision as it stands now in the hands of the committee.

An update:

According to Mario Mercurio teams with an RPI under 40 and an SOS under 40 (X is 12th) are very likely to make the tournament. In fact, it would be "unprecedented" for a team with those numbers to not be selected.