Making the NCAA tournament is about building a resume, and that's a work that starts from the opening tip of the season. Half of that is winning games, but the other half is scheduling, and Xavier has one of the best in the business heading up that department in Mario Mercurio.
The committee's pleasure is kind of a moving target, but they seem to generally favor wins in quadrant 1 and 2 games and value avoiding too many bad losses. Xavier shot themselves in the hind end in the non-conference last year, playing 3 Q1 games and losing them all and going 0-1 in Q2 games. To add insult to the injury of those missed chances, Xavier also picked up a crippling Q3 loss to SDSU.
Just looking at the schedule and the preseason projections Bart Torvik puts out, here are Xavier's non-conference games this year broken down by quadrant:
at Wake Forest
All games marked with an asterisk are part of the Charleston Classic. Xavier will play only three of those teams.
That's a schedule built to add wins and give the team some chances to take their shot. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-7 of Xavier's games will be in Q1 or Q2 in the non-conference; X probably needs to pick up 3-4 wins there to feel good going into Big East play. Just as importantly, they need to avoid Q3 and Q4 losses.
This is all framed in the context of the upcoming Big East schedule. Torvik currently has 15 of Xavier's 18 games being in the top 2 quadrants, with only home to St. John's and both DePaul games falling short. With 15 battles like that already lined up for conference play, Xavier needs to bank wins in the non-con. This schedule gives them the chance to do that while still being prepared when the calendar turns.