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Xavier begins the season 55th in the KenPom rankings

Xavier has had to replace a lot of pieces from last year, and Pomeroy sees them as having a bit of a hill to climb.

NCAA Basketball: Providence at Xavier
Probably just go ahead and repeat as Big East champions.
Cincinnati Enquirer-USA TODAY NETWORK

Ken Pomeroy’s annual rankings have once again set the basketball world abuzz, and Xavier is in them at #55. Pomeroy has Xavier projected for a 16-13 record, including an 8-10 mark in a very competitive Big East. That win total doesn’t include the two games Xavier will play in Maui against as-yet unknown opponents or the at least one game they’ll get in the Big East tournament, so the projection isn’t quite the step back it appears to be.

This isn’t exactly a feather in Xavier’s cap, but it’s not the first time the Pomeroy rankings haven’t fancied them at the start of the year. They started out as 57th in the 2013-2014 season and 67th in 2014-2015. Both of those teams made the NCAA tournament and the 2014-2015 team - led by strong veterans in Dee Davis and Matt Stainbrook and bolstered by the freshman class that included Tre and JP - made a Sweet 16 run.

Obviously, this team is different, with Travis Steele making his head coaching debut and the senior leadership on the roster provided entirely by transfers.

All 10 Big East teams are well inside the top 100 of KenPom, with Villanova unsurprisingly leading the way at 5th and DePaul (also unsurprisingly) bringing up the rear in 77th. The non-conference schedule is loaded with land mines, with top 20 matchups against Wisconsin and Auburn coming after two warmup games. Xavier has four games against top 50 competition (pending the Maui matchups, which might boost that number to as many as six), only one of which will come within the friendly confines of the Cintas Center.

This is going to be a testing season for rookie head coach Travis Steele and a team he reassembled on the fly in the spring and summer. For Xavier to make the tournament this year, they’re going to have to outperform their KenPom projection.