You know the numbers by now. Xavier started the Big East 2-6 after dropping a winnable Q2 game at Wake. That left the Musketeers permanently out of Big East contention and temporarily so far out of NCAA contention that their bubble chances began with a 0.%. It was a grim January.
Enter the longest month. February is a wretched time for Valentine's Day, because all the weather brings to mind is a comprehensive list of reasons to hate everything. Xavier, though, warmed the hearts of their fans by roaring back into contention. After a double overtime loss to Marquette, the Musketeers have gone 5-2 and only lost to Butler and Villanova. No bad losses, all good wins, back in the race.
If the season ended now, Xavier would be in the tournament. Of the 126 brackets compiled by Bracket Matrix, Xavier features in all of them. Bart Torvik has X with a 75% chance of being in. That number isn't 100%, but it puts them well off the cut line for the bubble. For now, 75% is in.
But the season doesn't end now. Xavier can still improve their seed line or fall off the map. What can they do to improve and, more importantly, not land back in the NIT?
The best case scenario is, obviously, winning out. Go 3-0 and you tack on three Q1 wins and make the Big East tournament irrelevant in terms making the big dance. If X wins three straight, they are in with no issues, no matter if they lose to DePaul in the first round. They're in, it's done.
Go 2-1 and the Musketeers are a sure thing as well. That would mean that X either picked up two more Q1 road wins or a Q1 road win and a big resume win over Butler. Do that and once again the Big East tournament exists as an entity unto itself.
The most likely outcome
One situation exists that is neither a big boost nor a major loss and, of course, it is the most likely. If Xavier wins just one of the next three they should be in. If that is only Georgetown, the game most systems see X as most likely to win (48% on Torvik, 43% on KenPom), Xavier’s chances drop to a not quite as nice 69%. That’s still very likely in the field, but it drops the Musketeers from firmly in on to the very top line of last four receiving byes. Better than January to be sure, but not quite as good as where they sit today. Winning one of the other two games instead of Georgetown only matters in that if X loses to Providence, the Friars are likely in. 1-2 should do it without too much heartache.
What Xavier can’t afford to do is lose all three. If the Musketeers do that they fall all the way into the Dayton games with essentially a coin toss chance of missing the tournament altogether. For all the good work that Xavier has done to dig themselves out of their early season hole, it’s still incumbent upon them to get one more win. Drop three straight and the Big East tournament extends a lifeline back in, but also could prove a death knell. Xavier controls their own fate. They’ve played well enough to earn that right. All they need to do is win one more game. Then the dreams of March can commence in earnest.
For more in-depth discussion on where Xavier and the rest of the Big East sit on the bubble, give a listen to this week’s Banter on the Parkway where we spend most of our time talking tournament chances after a crucial win over DePaul.