As you pick this up on your phone or tablet there are 48 days until the tipoff of the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden. The last Big East game there stopped halfway through in what will forever be one of the most surreal moments in college basketball history. That season Xavier had played 18 games on their way to the tournament. All of them had come off without a hitch. That’s not the case this season.
Xavier has played five Big East games so far. They are, somewhat in accordance to preseason expectations, 3-2 in those games. The Musketeers are 10-2 overall and in pretty solid position for an NCAA tournament berth. They also haven’t played since January 10th or practiced since shortly after that.
To finish their appointed rounds this season, Xavier still has 15 games to play in their conference slate. The Musketeers cannot play a game until, at the very earliest, Tuesday. That would leave them 43 days to get their games in before the 10th. Assume even a shortened three day break before the tournament and that number drops to 40. That would mean the Musketeers play a game every 2.6 days if everything runs perfectly.
Should Xavier try to play all 20 Big East games this season?— Banners on the Parkway (@BannersParkway) January 21, 2021
Things are not running perfectly this season and, most likely, Xavier will not be playing a midweek game next week. The window for actually playing all of the Big East games is collapsing rapidly and is, frankly, no longer reasonably achievable. The options are something like this:
Damn the torpedoes, four bells, Captain Drayton!
Hey, it worked for Farragut in Mobile Bay in putting down the southern rebellion. Xavier (and the Big East) could just cram the games in where they fit, remove the rest breaks, and try to finish off the full schedule. There is a nice round number argument for playing all 20 games, home and home with everyone, and enjoying the basketball that Big East can provide. Get them all in, crown a champ, see you at MSG.
Make up none of them
If Xavier picks up where they are scheduled to now, on the 29th against Butler, they will still end up playing every Big East opponent at least once and finish having played 16 conference games. That’s not a full schedule, but it isn’t far off last season’s 18 and, realistically, the entire season was never going to happen anyway. The benefit to this idea is there is still rest built in. Even college kids cannot handle the strain that the first plan would entail. A game every two or three days is just not reasonable. People will get hurt, the quality of play will drop, and it will be a dead tired Big East that staggers into Indianapolis. It’s a fool’s errand and there just aren’t any open slots to do it.
Play two of the postponed games
The Big East had been 18 games coming into this season, why not leave it that way? There is also room in the schedule to do this. If the Big East actually reacts to the the situation, Xavier could play Villanova the 26th. That leaves three games to find. The rest of the way Xavier is playing midweek and weekend games, so there just aren’t any open traditional slots. You can either force a game in...somewhere or think outside the box. Every team is going to have games to make up, most likely, coming into the Big East Tournament. If MSG is open, or if they would have to be campus games, every team is off the Monday before the tournament. Put either UConn or Georgetown (since Xavier has at least one game with Seton Hall already) there and 18 games are in. So long as the Musketeers don’t play themselves into that Wednesday game at MSG, they still have three days off and then the long week before the tournament.
None of these are perfect solutions. There are no perfect solutions this season. It is all but foregone that X won’t be playing all 20. It would be almost impossible to do so as there just aren’t enough open dates on the calendar now. What does that matter is that Xavier will almost assuredly play enough games to qualify for the NCAA tournament. When Coach Steele can finally get his team together again this weekend, that will be the focus. What happens on the way still remains just over the horizon.