The Xavier Musketeers play in one of the best conferences in college basketball. Of the ten teams currently in the Big East, none are lower than 81st in NET, none is lower than 80th in the KenPom, none is lower than 68th in Bart Torvik's rating system. The Big East is loaded. Xavier relied on this and now, three games into conference play, that's a problem.
In non-conference play Xavier scheduled conservatively. TCU was the sole guaranteed Q1 game. UConn was out there as a possible Q2, UC in a down year hovered between a Q2 and Q3, and Florida represented a long shot at another Q1. Xavier handled UConn, who hangs on the Q2 border, thumped UC, generally a Q3 right now, and lost a great chance against Florida. Missouri has been good this year and played themselves up to a Q2. Still, that left Xavier exiting non-con play with just one marquee win and two lesser lights. No matter, because Big East play offered plenty of chances.
Three games in to conference play and Xavier isn't taking those chances. At Villanova the Musketeers surrendered a 17-0 early and never regained even a 10% chance of a win. A meaningless win over St. John's was followed by another Q1 opportunity going by the wayside. Seton Hall slapped X 21-5 in the first half and Xavier once again was never really back in the game. Per KenPom Seton Hall's win expectancy never stopped a steady climb once it crossed 50% and, even down four with the ball briefly in Paul Scruggs hands, Xavier's win probability only hit 15%. Another chance, another game decided early.
That leaves Xavier at 1-2 in conference and suddenly looking at the resume of a bubble team. Of the 10 teams in the 68 team tournament era, five made the tournament, none higher than a nine seed. Teams with similar efficiency profiles make the tournament at a 40% clip. Bart Torvik sees Xavier's chances about 54% and hanging as the last team in. Chris Dobbertean also has Xavier in Dayton. Joe Lunardi has Xavier in an 8/9 game, which is where Jerry Palm had them before the Hall loss. (Update: he now has Xavier out). NET has X 52nd, well below the NET 33rd and 35th teams that missed out last year.
So is there good news? Yes. Xavier has five Q1 and five Q2 games remaining. Win four of those and you have to like the chances if at least moving off the bubble. Right now Warren Nolan thinks Xavier will win two, as does KenPom. Bart Torvik thinks they can get three. Xavier's road is still there but they've made it unnecessarily challenging. So, are you worried?