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The Case for Hope: A game you can't lose

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Xavier has been battling to pick up big wins, now they face a different proposition.

Xavier v DePaul Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

It's almost impossible to describe how much Xavier's position has improved in a week. Last Wednesday the Musketeers lost to Marquette in a double overtime heartbreaker. At that point, staring down two straight Q1 road games, Xavier was in a world of hurt. Per Bart Torvik and his great teamcast app, the Musketeers were the 12th team removed from the tournament. That's not the bubble, it's barely having a home game in the NIT.

A week later, Xavier fans woke up elated. An enormous road win at Seton Hall was followed up by a less enormous but still very valuable win at DePaul. Adjust nothing, sim nothing, and end the season now and Xavier is in as the last ten seed with a 68.8% chance of being in at all.

A caveat: this is all based on Torvik's system. That very effectively projects a field based on historical fields, computer simulations, and all the current criteria. What it can't do is completely phase out the human noise involved in the selection of the field. The committee can always go crazy and decide UNC needs an auto-bid based on historical achievement or decide to cap entries from any given conference at four. Ok, back to Xavier and reasonable projections.

Let’s keep the projections we started with last week the same. Xavier beats Providence, but then drops two straight at Butler and St. John’s. This now has more of a worst case ring to it than the reality that seemed likely last week. It’s not unreasonable to see Xavier winning two of three there but, to allow for the vagaries of basketball, we’ll leave it. X then wins two, including a win over Nova, loses one, and wins two more to close things out.

Adjust for other factors likely to come with those results (ie. change the ranks based on the changed games) and Xavier lands all the way up on the nine line without any of the BET being simulated. That gives Xavier an 86% chance of making the tournament. That’s well off the bubble. We’ll leave all the ranks the same for now, just to normalize how we have been looking at it. That lands X as the best ten seed with an 81% chance of being in. Again, that is a pretty decent space off the cut line. Wins in the BET just pad the case.

There is one possible fly in the newly decent looking ointment: a loss to Providence. Right now Torvik has X as one of the last four byes with a 68% chance of making the tournament. Lose to the Friars and Xavier loses 6.3% of their tournament chances and drops right onto the Dayton cut line. That is literally as damaging as a loss can possibly be for the Musketeers this season. (Depending on what DePaul does). From desperately needing to win, Xavier now transitions to a game they can’t lose.