The Big East is one of the premier conferences in college basketball. With the addition of UConn the conference is loaded with top level programs that are essentially NCAA tournament locks before most seasons start. Villanova, Creighton, Xavier, UConn, Seton Hall, and Marquette comprise the backbone of a conference that usually place all of its teams in the KenPom top 100 and is one of the top three conferences in the nation.
But not this year. Xavier can usually rely on the Big East to not do any significant damage to a tournament resume so long as they navigate it without a complete disaster. Last season the worst possible loss, which Xavier somehow managed, was DePaul. That loss in the Big East tournament was still just a Q2 loss. DePaul at home was a Q3 game, but no reasonable team should be losing to DePaul at home.
This season things are different. Quadrant 3 losses are damaging and the wins add gloss to the schedule but not much to the resume. They are the classic lose-lose situation. Win and all you’ve done is hold serve, lose and you are doing damage. As things stand right now, Xavier has several of those games left. Last season there was one, this season there are a lot more, and they present a serious issue.
Quadrant 3 conference games:*
Jan 6th- St. John’s (win)
Jan 10th- Providence (win)
Jan 26th- Georgetown
Jan 29th- @Butler
Feb 3rd- DePaul Q4
Feb 21st- Butler Q4
Mar 2nd- @Georgetown
That is potentially seven remaining bad losses on Xavier’s schedule. There are still plenty of Q1/2 games to be had, but the weakness of the Big East in non-conference play this season has damaged Xavier’s chances of creating a great at large resume. A win over Seton Hall would be more than outweighed by doing something like losing to Butler at home.
There is a vast difference in how the NET and how the computer metrics see the Big East this season. Georgetown is 157th in the NET but only 110th in KenPom, DePaul is 171st in the NET, but 91st in KenPom. Bart Torvik thinks Butler is the worst team in the Big East at 121st, NET has them down at 163rd. Xavier’s hope would be that some of those lower level teams pull big upsets and significantly raise their NET. Xavier, of course, just can’t afford to be one of those teams.
The Musketeers have only lose two Q3 games since the NET became a thing. Both of those were in the 2018-19 season. In that year Xavier landed in the NIT in large part because of their bad losses despite the 10 Q1/2 wins they had. Last season Xavier had no Q3 losses and was still clinging to tournament life after dumping their first round Big East matchup against DePaul. Q3 losses are resume killers. One could potentially be survived if it’s balanced out with some big wins. Two becomes a serious problem for any team harboring serious NCAA tournament hopes. For Xavier this season, unlike most, the trap games still lurk.
*All NET numbers pulled from Warrennolan.com