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Xavier loses a game it couldn’t lose

You can wait until Selection Sunday to be sad, or you can get started now.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Tournament-Xavier vs DePaul Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Our dried voices, when/ We whisper together /Are quiet and meaningless

In a bizarre game played in bizarre circumstances at a Madison Square Garden so quite you could clearly hear the coaches, Xavier lost the game they couldn’t lose. 21 double doubles from Tyrique Jones, Naji Marshall tying and winning games on top of the key threes, Zach Freemantle demonstrating he was the star of the recruiting class, all of the travails of Quentin Goodin all led to tonight, when Xavier faced a simple task. Beat DePaul, perpetually the worst team in the Big East, and go to the NCAA tournament.

Shape without form, shade without colour, /Paralysed force, gesture without motion

That seemed to be Xavier’s offensive plan as the game entered its witching hour. A KyKy Tandy jumper with 7:41 gave Xavier a five point lead that it seemed like one of the elite defenses in the nation would be able to hold. Unless, of course, the offense simply disappeared. From that moment Xavier went 2-13 from the floor, turned the ball over once, and gathered just two offensive rebounds. Tandy himself went 0-5 in that stretch as he inexplicably forced shot after shot. Travis Steele, with the option of injured Paul Scruggs, banged up Bryce Moore, or Quentin Goodin could only stare in horror at his suddenly misfiring freshman.

The eyes reappear /As the perpetual star /Multifoliate rose /Of death’s twilight kingdom /The hope only /Of empty men

Xavier’s hope hung on winning this game. When that shot went with 7:41 to go, they had an 80.2% chance of hanging on for the win. Paul Scruggs, Xavier’s other hope, stood, then sat forlornly, then stood and started, then sat again. His hamstring never let him get in the game and, in the moments where his relentless ferocity would have mattered, in the moments where earlier this season he, snarling and clawing for every inch, hoisted them on his back and dragged them over the line, in the times where he was forever grabbing teammates jerseys, beseeching Naji, cajoling the freshman, leading from the front, he was instead a penned up force, betrayed by his own legs. As he watched it was DePaul that made the big plays.

There was no “Let’s go X!” chant in the Garden this year. It’s now likely it won’t be heard anywhere until November.

This is the way the world ends /This is the way the world ends /Not with a bang, but a whimper