You've probably heard by now - especially if you've been keeping up with your reading on this very site! - that there are rumors of a late-November start date for college hoops and a recommendation of "at least four" non-conference games per team. The Muskies generally play something on the order of a dozen non-conference games, so that means they need to cut some teams out to facilitate fitting this all in. Let's get into it.
The core four
Yeah, I'm doing this.
Neither rain nor snow nor dark of night should keep this game from happening. This pandemic has already taken too much from us, it shouldn't take our annual opportunity to defend the city's honor from the ne'er-do-wells up the road. To me, fitting this one in is priority 1A.
The Big East/Big 12 Battle landed Xavier a prime opponent this season. Oklahoma is the kind of team that is always a good win on the resume, missing the tournament just once in the last six years it has been played and looking like a lock last season before, y'know... The Muskies don't want to go into Big East play without any big tests under their collective belt; this game will fit the bill nicely. Plus, home game.
Wake beat X at their place last year; a return leg would be a nice shot at revenge and keep Skip's legacy alive. Wake is usually a solid but unspectacular opponent, and they'll be in a transitional year as Steve Forbes takes the reins from Danny Manning. There's no room on the schedule for buy games [spoiler, sorry], but this should be a good proxy.
Bart Torvik is usually fairly reliable in his preseason rankings, and he has Marshall at #102 right now. He does have Xavier at #55 though, so obviously he's wrong about at least one team. Nevertheless, Marshall should be a solid line on the resume, something like a Q2 game, and it would give X another chance to cut their teeth without getting them beaten in. Plus they're fairly local if travel restrictions are a concern.
The tier of convenience
The Orlando Invitational
Auburn, Belmont, Boise St., Gonzaga, Michigan St., St Louis, and Siena. Some of those teams will be very good, others will merely exist. All of them are scheduled to be in Orlando at the same time as Xavier. As much as I kind of hate to admit it, it makes a ton of sense to keep this as the main event on the non-conference calendar and maybe even add a round or two. It's not as exciting as the Shootout, but once you have all those teams together, why not get a whole mess of games in?
Morehead State, Oakland, additional buy games
Listen, I love watching Xavier boost their season averages by beating the brakes off some hapless mid-major as much as the next guy, but this is a compressed season and I'm just not sure it makes a lot of sense to bring any of these teams in. The only case I can make is that it gives a team that has a lot of new guys and limited practice time together an opportunity to shake things down in real time, but... meh. Give me some actual tests.
That's my take on it. Xavier is going to have at least 20 conference games by the looks of things; it makes sense to bank some wins in the non-con, but that's not my style because I don't think it's very fun to watch. Let's get out there and let these guys find their sea legs right away. It's going to be a weird season no matter what, I say we should make the most of it.