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Xavier comes back ferociously but can’t overcome mistakes

The Musketeers tried valiantly, but were doomed by 15 horrendous minutes.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Providence Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

“The Musketeers can fight with anyone in the second half of a game, but that doesn’t matter if they spot a good team a double digit lead. Providence is a good team with a great defense. Giving them an advantage like that is the recipe for a road loss.”

If the first ten minutes of games didn’t count Xavier would have won this one in a vintage Big East nail-biter. Road kill. Bid sealed. Fly back and get ready for Butler. If the first 15 minutes of games didn’t count, Xavier would have won this one in a walk. Huge Q1 win over the hottest team in the nation. Bid emphatically sealed. Bye in the Big East tournament.

Those minutes do count though, and Xavier was horrible for all of them. The vaunted defense was wrecked by Providence both executing at a high level and Xavier looking lost. The offense was excellent when it could get shots off, but turning the ball over seven times in those first ten minutes meant that actual shot attempts were few and far between. Fans can, and will, wax rhapsodic about the comeback and rant about the officiating, but Xavier walked on to the court at the Dunkin Donuts Center and committed a very public act of seppuku.

After the first 10 minutes Xavier’s win probability was under 10%. They fought back led by Naji Marshall (25/6/2) but never wrestled the game or their chances of winning back to even. You can spot some teams a 15 point lead by essentially forgetting how to play defense, Providence is not one of them. Xavier scored 1.09 points per possession to claw their way back, but spent the entire game unable to get stops when they needed them. Aside from a 12-2 Xavier run while the Friars shot 2-10, Providence had an answer every time Xavier got close. Rather than complete a stirring comeback X flies back to Cincinnati with Paul Scruggs still injured, an 8-9 conference record, and a Wednesday conference tournament game staring them in the face.

What does this mean for Xavier’s NCAA tournament chances? Not a lot. Their win over Georgetown still likely punched their ticket and this loss dropped them to a 78.5% chance of being in the field. Losing a Q1 game on the road to a team playing better than anyone in the nation right now doesn’t change that. Win at home on Saturday and it’s a moot point. Spot another good team another huge lead, though, and squeaky bum time gets a little closer.