Every college basketball season for every team starts on the edge of a precipice. Each team spends from November to March trying to play themselves away from that edge, closer to safety, farther from danger, away from the bubble. Some teams are generally safe from the edge early in the year: Duke, UK, MSU, and Villanova aren’t worried about the bubble, but there’s always a chance that, like North Carolina, they plunge off and miss the tournament.
Other teams fall off immediately. Over in the MAC Akron knows that winning their conference in the regular season has mattered for hanging a banner, but they need the automatic bid to make the NCAA tournament. In that conference tournament and countless other smaller ones, teams will play with the desperation of the doomed. They can grab the one lifeline or they fall from the precipice permanently. The celebration that comes when Belmont, Bradley, or Winthrop clinches that bid is almost unmatched.
Finally a third set of teams exists that has spent the season racing along that edge. Sometimes a little closer, sometimes veering farther away toward safety. Xavier has been amongst those programs all season. As the major conference tournaments starts these teams come in with questions that only the crucible of early March can answer. Are X’s three Q1 wins enough or will the committee put more weight on 22 high quadrant games and no bad losses?
Xavier isn’t the only team still scrambling. Wichita State will be afraid of adding a bad loss, while UC alread has four and will be hoping their two Q1 wins will outweigh those. UCLA has coming storming back to relevance after their NET bottomed out at 183, but will that seven game winning streak and six Q1 wins overcome somehow losing to Cal-State Fullerton and Hofstra? NC State and Texas can play themselves in, while Northern Iowa desperately prays they didn’t play themselves out.
Starting today at 430, this all plays out. In just five days, all the questions will be answered and the first brackets will be rolling off printers. Xavier will no longer be running along that edge, they’ll either be in our out. The best three weeks of the year are here.