There will be cause for optimism to come, but we aren’t there yet. After Xavier lost to Villanova some member of Xavier Nation said he was counting people jumping off the bandwagon after “just two conference road losses.” While that’s a minimalist way of looking at things, it hardly encapsulates what has happened to Xavier since Big East play has started. When the calendar changed, the Musketeers came apart and they haven’t put it back together yet.
After non-conference play, Xavier was 12-1, but wobbling a bit. What should have been an easy win against ETSU the Musketeers managed to turn into a crucible at home. A huge lead against a bad Marshall team vanished and ended with just a four point gap. However, X ended non-conference play ended with Xavier putting together a decent road game against UNI where both the offense and defense looked good. Then came conference.
Since conference play has started, Xavier’s offense has been hot garbage. Only St. John’s, who is yet to win in the Big East, and Georgetown, who is bad, are worse. Xavier is worst in the conference with a horrendous 27.3% behind the arc. A full season of that would be good for 349th in the nation. That’s how bad the Musketeers have been from deep. Inside the arc, Xavier is down 5% since conference play started and is at 52.9%, which would be 77th nationally as opposed the fourth nationally the Musketeers were when conference play started. In short, they’ve gone from being an excellent shooting team to an absolutely terrible one over the last five games.
But wait, there’s more! Xavier’s offensive efficiency in conference play is 104.9, which would be 144th in the nation. Their conference field goal efficiency of 49% would be 238th in the nation. The free throw percentage that was such a strength? Down to 73.2%, good for 105th in the nation. That all paints the picture of a bad offense. Worse than DePaul’s, roughly on level with noted powers Colgate, Southern Utah, and North Florida.
Defensively the Musketeers have been better, but hardly good. Their defensive efficiency is 109.5. (For comparison, overall this season Xavier’s is a still decent 98). 109.5 would be good for 283rd in the nation, right there with James Madison. That is horrifically bad for a major conference team. This comes partly because Xavier is only forcing turnovers at a 14.8% rate, which would be 341st in the nation for the whole season. X is also blocking shots at only a 7.1% rate, good for 263rd in the nation. Finally, they are getting shot to death. The 53.9% EFG they are allowing would be good for 278th for the season nationally. Again, these numbers are those of a very bad team, not a major conference competitor.
The reason these numbers matter is because Xavier’s non-conference schedule was not incredibly difficult. There were good games in there, UC, Baylor, and Arizona State come to mind, but on the whole it was only the 110th toughest non-con in the nation. In conference, obviously, that number has gone up significantly and left Xavier facing the 27th toughest schedule overall. Since the change, though, the Musketeers have shown no signs of adjusting. Instead, they seem to have become downright bad.