It’s not really sinking in for me that we aren’t going to the tournament this year. Back on January 29th we ran one of these where we all agreed the at large was gone. My opinion never changed on that, but I guess I had let a little hope sneak in. That’s gone. Xavier is a top 25 team right now, but the resume just isn’t there.
Yeah, it’s gone. Nobody with a resume like this has ever gotten in. But...
After the DePaul game, we were 199th in AdjD on KenPom. After last night, we were 105th. That’s an incredible turnaround. It’s amazing to me that there were people on Twitter last night going after the team and the coaching and tagging them in it. Dudes just had their hearts ripped out, maybe give them a minute?
Aside from that, what they did was commendable. They were dead and buried. To bring this season back to where it got to and to do it on the less fun end of the court besides shows that (a) Travis Steele knows what he’s doing and (b) these are some kind of guys.
[after a long pause]
I’ll keep going though. I remember when last 10 or last 12 was an actual criterion for the Selection Committee. If that were the case, Xavier
might still have a shout, because they have been excellent during that stretch. It isn’t, though.
I think that’s appropriate. The NCAA tournament has long been about picking the best resumes, not the best teams, and I think that’s how it should be. Predictive metrics can tell us a lot about how good a team is, but the results are all that matter to get into the field. I’m grieved for this team, but I’m fine with the Committee being consistent.
What I’m not looking forward to is feeling awful again on Sunday night. I know we aren’t going and I don’t we don’t deserve to. That’s not going to keep me from, at about 530pm, hoping against hope. It’s a completely useless exercise that future me isn’t going to be able to keep himself from doing.
I have no doubt that, on current form, Xavier is one of the best 25 teams in the country and would provide a much better game than teams that will get kn ahead of them. Unfortunately, being scalding hot over the most recent sample size of games is not what gets teams in, their entire body of work is. The way we are playing now, we would have hammered the likes of SDSU, Mizzou, and DePaul, but we did not at the time those games were played and that has to matter to keep the whole regular season relevant. College Basketball is the best American sports product because all the games matter. Unfortunately, that fact is what is probably going to keep X out of the tournament this year.
All that being said, we still got screwed.
On Friday, Naji and Q combined with to have an offensive rating of 105 (cumulative). The other four big guys were all over 120. To their credit, neither had a usage over 20%. Back in that same conversation where we killed the at large, we talked about how the talent gap leaves this team so little margin for error. It got us one last time last night. When our top end guys can’t get it done, we lose.
The 0-13 from three is what hurts from them. I actually thought Q played really well apart from that. 8 assists and 2 turnovers in 42 minutes is really good, and could have been even more impressive if a couple of the other guys shots were falling.
A lot of takes were flying last night about Naji, but I think that last play would have been a fitting cap for his night had Brian O’Connell been even remotely interested in doing his job correctly. He had struggled to get a shot to go down all night, kept scrapping on defense, and made a winning play as the clock expired. If the whistle goes the right way, he is the hero and I think it is a bit unfair on him to mention his struggles without mentioning the fact that he had rightfully atoned for them.
Here’s a fun exercise; finish this sentence: “Q doesn’t have it today, we should put in _________.” For the last three years, the only names that can go in that blank are Ed Sumner (hopping on one foot), Paul Scruggs (not a PG), Mal Bernard (less of a PG than Paul), and Elias Harden (even less of a PG still). I know he hasn’t been perfect, but we have ridden that dude like Seabiscuit for two and a half seasons.
On that, LAJ averaged 17.4/6.2/5.9 this year. 20th in the nation in assist rate. He never did learn to shoot, but I’m happy he landed somewhere.
Here’s what I hate: I know Xavier isn’t going to make it, but I’m also going to watch the selection show, just in case. It would be cool if I could process the disappointment and get ready for the NIT, but I can’t. Bleh.
While I am by no means jazzed about the NIT, I am excited to see this team play again. These guys have become fun to watch, and I am not going to turn my nose up at any chance to do that, even if I really wish it was in the big dance.
I think the NIT stings more because of how well they’ve been playing lately. They’re definitely worthy of an at-large the way they’re playing, even if they aren’t on resume.
On the other hand, Roy Williams has taken UNC to the NIT, John Calipari has taken Kentucky to the NIT, Scott Drew has taken Baylor to the NIT, Tony Bennett has taken Virginia to the NIT... This is a team that figures to have four starters back for next year. The strong finish to the season and a good run in the NIT could lay the groundwork for a great 2019-2020.
Speaking of the NIT (they call that a segue in the biz), the selection show is at 8:30pm on ESPNU, after the NCAA bracket is set. As weird as it feels to care about that, I also remember distinctly some old conference mates hiring a coach and announcing him as they guy they expect to have them competing for an NIT bid when he gets rolling. I’m glad this is a down year consolation prize for us and not the apogee of the program.