Xavier’s 2017-18 season was a huge success. Xavier’s 2017-18 season was a failure of the highest order. Such are the vagaries of college basketball. Depending on how you want to parse it, Xavier was either incredible, or an incredible letdown. A rousing success, or memorable only for heartache. On different days, maybe even in different hours, the season takes on vastly different lights.
The regular season was almost an unqualified success. Xavier lost early to an Arizona State team that couldn’t lose (and later couldn’t win), but crushed UC in the Shootout, and finished the non-conference slate at 12-1. In the Big East, the Musketeers lost only to Providence and Villanova. While a two game losing streak (two games!) shook people at the time, in retrospect it seems like barely a blip.
Same with the back to back overtime wins against Georgetown and Butler. Concerning at the time (Is Xavier fading?), they just look like wins on the KenPom recap right now. The Musketeers were excellent in the season. Trevon Bluiett put together a season for the ages, his faithful running mate JP Macura antagonized his way across the nation, but also became a psuedo point forward and put together his most complete season. Kerem Kanter was a revelation, Quentin Goodin kept developing, and Paul Scruggs roared onto the scene late. Sure, Xavier ended up losing in the Big East tournament, but that essentially just gave them some time to rest for the Big Dance.
And come Selection Sunday last year, there was no suspense. For the first time in program history, Xavier was a one seed. Their draw wasn’t easy by any stretch, but a realistic path to the Final Four was right in front of them. Xavier partisans who always draw X all the way to the end of the tournament could now do so with their heads as well as their hearts. In a tune up against Texas Southern, Xavier eschewed defense and threw up a season high 102 points to advance on to play Florida St. All the way until that point, it was a dream season. 34 games of almost unadulterated greatness.
If only that is what everyone remembered. Instead, Xavier lost to the Seminoles in a game when Trevon Blueitt took his second fewest shots in the year and set a career high in turnovers. JP Macura took up the banner and raged against the dying of the light, but fell afoul of the officials. With ten minutes to play, though, the Musketeers had a 12 point lead a chance to shake off their malaise, survive, and advance. Rather than that, though, an eerie repeat of the Wisconsin game played out. Shockingly, Xavier bowed out in the second round of the tournament. One of the best classes of seniors erased in 40 minutes that no one wants to remember and no one can forget.
And that’s how we enter 2018-19. Six players and a head coach are gone, the roster has changed drastically, but the expectations remain the same. Xavier is in the Big East elite now, and only another season of success coupled with a tournament run will sate Xavier Nation. It’s time for the start of a new era.