Here's the rest of Xavier's schedule:
KenPom only favors Xavier in the home games - and the ones against Nova and Butler are basically toss-ups - and sees a 3-4 record down the stretch for an 8-10 finish in the league as the most likely outcome.
That's actually not a horrible position, as Xavier had flirted with falling into the 60s in the KenPom and was staring down the barrel of something like 6-12 in league play as they sat at 1-4 on January 21st. Since then, however, Xavier has gotten hot, winning 4 of 6 and surging from dead and buried to the bubble. During that time, the defense that had led Xavier early and then abandoned them through the middle of the season suddenly reappeared.
Over the past 6 games - according to Bart Torvik and his wonderful website - Xavier has been playing like a top-10 team. They've had the #3 defensive efficiency rating in the nation during that time and gotten just enough help from a top-75 offense. They've added 1.2 Wins Above Bubble over the last 6, which is a dang good return.
There's one other thing to consider: during that same time frame, Xavier's opponents have also been playing. Here's what their tempo-free profiles look like over the time since the Big East day off on January 21:
|Rank since 1/21||Change||Opponent||Site||Quad|
Nova and St. John's have been themselves, for good or ill, but Butler, DePaul, and Georgetown have all taken big steps back. Suddenly some games that looked like really big asks when Xavier was drowning at 1-4 look like much more attainable challenges. As Xavier has locked in, some other teams in the league have lost their respective strides for various reasons, and the path to 9-9 or even 10-8 looks meaningfully more open.
As kind of an aside, that road game against a Providence team that Xavier just fought tooth and nail for a home win may well be one of the toughest games left on the schedule. It's tough to see a path back to the tournament conversation for Providence that doesn't include at least a 6-1 finish in league play, but they're fighting to give themselves a chance.
Of course, all this is based on a small sample, and all of it can change in the blink of an eye. Teams that were loving the idea of playing Xavier a couple of weeks ago when they were floundering have just gotten their eyes blackened by the Muskies; I can't promise you similar turnarounds aren't coming for any of the teams on X's upcoming schedule.
On the other hand, if Xavier keeps playing like this, it may not matter. Travis Steele has the team unified and motivated, and the returning players will still remember what it felt like to go into MSG with so much work to do last year. March's foundation can be laid in February, and I wouldn't bet against X taking advantage of their opportunities down the stretch.