Xavier is 50th in the KenPom. While the NCAA tournament consists of 68 teams, the savvy watcher knows that the split between at-large and auto bids means that the cut line for auto bids is somewhere around the mid 40s. That spells trouble for Xavier, or it would if the bracket was filled according to the KenPom rankings.
It isn't. While KenPom and metrics like it are based on the process whereby teams perform, the actual committee is all about results, and Xavier's results have been good.
Bart Torvik calculates Wins Above Bubble (WAB) on his eponymous site. The metrics is basically configured to calculate how well a team directly on the bubble would have performed against a given team's schedule and then compares that to how the team in question has actually performed. A simple positive or negative value is returned, making it possible to easily compare resumes across teams.
In WAB, Xavier's performance shines. While they sit just 50th in the KenPom, they're 21st in WAB with 1.7, equal to Wisconsin and West Virginia.
Amazingly, three shots form the foundation of Xavier's WAB resume. The first is Dwon Odom's high-glass runner against Bradley. The Muskies were down one in their final possession - thanks to a dubious decision to attack 1 on 2 by Odom in the previous trip down the floor - but Dwon flipped the deficit with a clutch finish over oncoming help. Xavier only garnered .2 WAB from that game, but they would have gone nearly a full game negative had they lost at home to Bradley.
The second is Adam Kunkel calling game against Marquette. Xavier and the Golden Eagles had battled to a standstill through 39:52 in Xavier's last game before Christmas. X was still undefeated at the time and had a chance to pick up a good win in the league against a Marquette team that still looked pretty solid at that point. Paul Scruggs drove and missed, but he managed to tap the ball back out. Adam Kunkel beat Colby Jones to it, stepped back, and racked up nearly half a win above bubble in one flick of the wrist.
The last one was Xavier's last game. Having lain the groundwork for a painful home loss, the Muskies battled back thanks to some really poor execution down the stretch by Providence. Down 2 with one possession left to make the difference, the Muskies ran an action to get Adam Kunkel onto his left hand running down the lane. He leapt and found Paul Scruggs in the corner. Scruggs took one bounce and kicked to a rapidly relocating Colby Jones, who got his feet sorted behind the arc and splashed home the game winner.
Those three games combined to cost Xavier places in the KenPom rankings, but they saved the Muskies from Q3 losses in the cases of Bradley and Providence and gave them a Q2 win in the case of Marquette. Turn those three wins into losses and Xavier's WAB falls from 21st in the nation to 113th. That is - as if I have to tell you - the difference between being well-positioned for at-large consideration and needing a miracle run to get back into the conversation.
Ken Pomeroy is probably something like correct in having Xavier around the 50th best team in the country today, which is important information to have when trying to figure out how the rest of the season will play out. What will be important on Selection Sunday will be Xavier's WAB number, and it's looking solid so far.