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This week is a huge opportunity for Xavier

The Muskies hit conference play with an uphill battle in front of them. They have a chance to make some serious headway at home this week.

NCAA Basketball: Seton Hall at Providence
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that Xavier is behind the eight ball in terms of chasing down an at-large bid. In the below tweet, Andy Mac lays out the case for Xavier needing 7 more wins to get an at-large bid:

A 10-8 performance in conference would leave Xavier at 18-13 heading into the Big East tournament, probably lingering somewhere in the 60s in most reputable metrics. I don’t know that that would get it done. Back in December, I laid out the road to an at-large bid and paved it with a 12-win conference performance. Click through to read that little masterpiece.

The below spreadsheet lays out where we are six games into conference play. It’s basically self-explanatory, but the last four columns are what I projected we needed from the game, it’s actual result, how many wins X has, and how many wins Xavier needs at that point to be keeping pace with my projection. If a result has a 23 in it, it’s one of the games in the group of 6 that Xavier needs 4 wins from. To wit:

KP win% Hope Result Total W Par
Sun Dec 29 at DePaul W W 1 1
Wed Jan 2 Seton Hall W L 1 2
Sun Jan 6 at Marquette L L 1 2
Wed Jan 9 Georgetown W W 2 3
Sun Jan 13 Butler 2/3 W 3 3 2/3
Fri Jan 18 at Villanova L L 3 3 2/3
Wed Jan 23 Providence 61% W 4 2/3
Sat Jan 26 Marquette 42% L 4 2/3
Thu Jan 31 at Georgetown 41% W 5 2/3
Sun Feb 3 at Creighton 28% 2/3 6 1/3
Sat Feb 9 DePaul 69% W 7 1/3
Wed Feb 13 Creighton 52% W 8 1/3
Sat Feb 16 at Providence 36% 2/3 9
Wed Feb 20 at Seton Hall 29% 2/3 9 2/3
Sun Feb 24 Villanova 41% L 9 2/3
Thu Feb 28 at St. John's 26% 2/3 10 1/3
Tue Mar 5 at Butler 23% 2/3 11
Sat Mar 9 St. John's 50% W 12

Right now, Xavier is 1-0 in the wild card games, but they’ve fallen behind pace thanks to the home loss to Seton Hall. That’s what makes this week so important.

To continue to mount their improbable assault on the bubble, the Muskies need to win a game I punted. Marquette at home represents just such an opportunity this Saturday. Xavier defended well against the Golden Eagles at their place but couldn’t get a shot to fall and fell victim to the game of Sacar Anim’s life.

Of course, no Big East game is a tap in, and Providence looms in the mid-week fixture. I think X needs to go 9-3 down the stretch in the conference, so there isn’t much of a margin for any stumbles. If they execute this week, you can’t talk me out of there being life left in the season.

For what it’s worth, Bart Torvik’s Teamcast tool sees a 19-win regular season having Xavier on the wrong side of the bubble with a bid chance of about 27%. If they get that 20th win, it jumps to 61% and a trip to Dayton. The team has taken huge strides forward since the beginning of the year. I’m not betting against them having it in them. One game at a time.