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How are Xavier’s non-conference games ageing?

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Sometimes games that seemed great in November don’t look like anything in March. Here’s a look at how Xavier’s resume is evolving even after the games are done.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Wisconsin
Paul Scruggs expresses alarm at how Wisconsin has completely fallen off the rails.
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Non-conference games are (generally) played in November and December. The Committee weighs them for a team’s selection in March. Sometimes things change in that time span; let’s get right to it.

NB: I’m not a huge fan of the RPI for rating how good a team is, but the NCAA still uses it to evaluate what a team has done. Because of that, all the below tier rankings are going to be according to where a team lands in the RPI per warrennolan.com. For more about the tiers the NCAA uses, click here.

at Wisconsin, November 16 (W)

After a couple of warmup games, Xavier hit the road for what was supposed to be the first big game of the year and one of the crown jewels of the non-conference schedule. X took care of business in Wisconsin. Since then, the Badgers have gone 7-9 and lost to frickin’ Rutgers, sliding them well every meaningful ranking scale and firmly onto the wrong side of the bubble.

We thought it was: a solid Tier 1 game.
It now looks like: a tenuous Tier 2 game; Wisconsin may well suck their way to Tier 3 by Selection Sunday.

neutral Arizona State, November 23 (L)

This one actually felt like a missed opportunity at the time, as Arizona State beat a Kansas State team that everyone thought was going to be better before playing X. The ASU kept winning, becoming the final remaining unbeaten team and briefly topping the polls. Conference play has not been kind to the Sun Devils, as star guard Tra Holder went from shooting like Steph Curry to shooting like Quentin Goodin.

We thought it was: maybe a Tier 2 game; ASU wasn’t billed as any great shakes.
It now looks like: a solid Tier 1 game; even a 2-4 mark in conference play has ASU at 28th in the RPI and 27th in the KenPom. Hopefully they can arrest their slide a bit.

Baylor, November 28 (W)

The gauntlet didn’t stop for Xavier, as their very next game was against a Baylor team that had whipped X last year. X beat Baylor by 7, the same margin by which Baylor lost to Wichita State their next time out. The Bears are only 12-6 on the year, but their only loss outside KenPom’s top 25 is at #110 Iowa State.

We thought it was: a marquee win, right on the edge of Tier 1 and Tier 2, depending on how the season broke.
It now looks like: I think this will still end up being a Tier 2 win, though Baylor is in Tier 3 right now. They’re still 40th in the KenPom and took TCU to OT and lost at WVU by 3; their fortunes should turn a bit.

Cincinnati, December 2 (W)

Ah, the ol’ Shootout. Xavier came in already tested, while UC had played a bunch of JV teams. We remember how it turned out. UC lost the next time out to Florida, but then righted the ship to plow through the 308th toughest non-conference schedule in the nation without further hiccups. Every UC game is win-win for Xavier fans, as it either helps Xavier’s resume or gives a chance for delicious schadenfreude.

We thought it was: a good Tier 2 or possibly Tier 1 win, thanks to this being Mick Cronin’s Best Offensive Team Ever.
It now looks like: about the same. UC’s weak non-conference schedule and soft conference narrows their margin for error (you guys remember being a mid-major), but as long as they keep winning, it doesn’t matter as much.

Colorado, December 9 (W)

I almost didn’t put this one in there, but it’s part of the Revenge Tour, so... okay. It’s hard to win at Colorado, but Xavier played this one at Cintas and made it look easy. The Buffaloes have played the 32nd toughest schedule in the nation, but they have gone only 4-5 since losing to Xavier, so SOS has two meanings for them holy cow that just came right off the cuff, I’m such a good writer.

We thought it was: a game that could sneak into Tier 2 if Colorado hit their potential.
It now looks like: Colorado won’t hit their potential.

East Tennessee State, December 16 (W)

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even have this one on the radar at the start of the year or even the start of the game. ETSU was 126th in the KenPom on game day and had a chance to give themselves a huge resume win. Instead they spit the bit on a 22-point second half lead and lost it by scoring once in the final 3 minutes. They’ve gone 8-0 since, albeit not against the most challenging schedule in the world, and are up to 84th in the RPI.

We thought it was: a nothing game.
It now looks like: it might actually sneak into Tier 2. Cheer for these guys.

**

The beauty of Xavier’s tournament resume - even when scored by the RPI - is that it’s not dependent on the non-conference schedule. The Muskies already have 6 Tier 1 or 2 games under their belt in conference play, and they have 8 more on the way.

The other beauty of it is that Xavier’s tournament resume is that the non-conference was structured to bolster their tournament credentials. Cheer for the above teams (I understand if you can’t for UC because it makes you feel gross) the rest of the year and hope the ol’ resume continues to evolve for the better.