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Playing the projections game

With no games to break down, we might as well look ahead.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Cincinnati
“I think one of these sites has us playing too many games.”
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier will, hopefully, play basketball again this weekend. As of now there have been no further positive tests in the Tier One personnel and the team is preparing (not as a group) to play against Marquette on Sunday.

Sunday is a long way off, though. The weekend of football has just ended, midweek soccer games haven’t been played yet, and school is sort of in session. With so much that can happen between now and a 2pm tip, it’s a bit early to start counting chickens. With the schedule out now though, there’s no harm in looking ahead.

Big East play has started. St. John’s has somehow managed to already lose two games and Georgetown has actually won one. Villanova and Creighton are both in the top 15. Butler, DePaul, and UConn remain undefeated but have combined to win three games less than Xavier. In all of this the projections for the rest of the season have been released. No metric has any team in the Big East ranked lower than 97th.

KenPom hasn’t factored in the games to be rescheduled yet. In his system Xavier’s preseason projections are still baked into the rankings. The Musketeers are still sitting 50th in the KP despite that scorching 7-0 start. Usually the preseason would have washed out of the rankings by now but obviously this season is a bit different than usual. Over at Bart Torvik the Musketeers are 34th. Torvik’s metrics were higher on the Musketeers to start the season and remain that way. Speaking subjectively, somewhere in the 30-35 range feels about right for Xavier right now.

What both systems agree on is that Xavier’s brief stint under .500 in conference is over. KenPom has Xavier at 9-8 in Big East play, Bart Torvik sees the Musketeers going 11-9. KenPom does not add postponed games back in until they are scheduled. Bart Torvik has Xavier’s games back in and being made up on March 1st in what would surely be an exhausting day of basketball (and classes). If those numbers hold Xavier would finish the season 16-8 or 18-9. That falls short of the 20 win number, but remains impressive for a truncated season. Xavier has lost six games in the non-con from last year that won’t be made up. 18 wins would be a huge number.

Where does that leave the Musketeers come March? Since the rearranging of the Big East 29 teams have finished conference play above .500. Just one of those teams, St. John’s in 2013-14, has failed to make the tournament and their resume would have been considered more than good enough in today’s method of selection. Four more teams have gone 9-9 and made the tournament and one team, St. John’s again, has done it at 8-10. In short, being above .500 in the Big East all but guarantees you a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Basketball should resume this weekend. When it does Xavier will find themselves thrust into arguably the best conference in the nation against teams that are spread across the spectrum in terms of preparation and practice. How much practice time even Xavier will have remains a mystery, as does whether DePaul will even get on the floor this year. All there is to do is project. At the end of last season the projections weren’t kind to Xavier, as this one starts to get rolling, they are.