The computers have taken over college basketball. This is, in almost every circumstance, a good thing. Gone are the days of some guy from New York who never stays up past 10 trying to tell you how good Gonzaga is or isn’t. The KenPom, Torvik, Sagarin, and a host of other rankings have provided a way of actually measuring how good each team is with adjustments made for tempo, venue, and competition.
You might be pleased to know that, even after Xavier’s stuttering start, the Musketeers are still ranked 37th in the KenPom and 32nd in the Torvik rankings. That’s not sure thing tournament bid numbers for a bubble team, but it’s really close. If Xavier ends the season there, Selection Sunday will be stressful, but maybe not ulcer inducing.
But those numbers aren’t real. Both KenPom and Torvik bake preseason predictions into their rankings that take a little over a month to sort out. This prevents their rankings from being incredibly fluid to start the season, allows for some measure of preseason calculation for the other systems, and keeps us from seeing low-majors who get off to a hot start ranked number one. What that means for Xavier is that the preseason optimism is still showing in the rankings. The reality is far less rosy.
Xavier’s offense has been a serious problem. How bad is it? The Musketeers effective field goal percentage is just 44.9%, good for 242nd in the nation. Still, KenPom shows X as having the 31st best offense in the nation. That’s with preseason built in. The reality? Xavier’s offense isn’t 31st in the nation, it’s 158th after just two games. When you rank the Musketeers based solely on what they’ve actually done, they’re atrocious offensively.
If you prefer Bart Torvik’s numbers, Xavier is even worse. The Musketeers offense in his computer system has an efficiency is 96. That’s four points per 100 possessions worse than average and good for 218th in the nation. That lands X just above Rider and Northwestern St. Neither of those teams received votes in the AP poll or will factor in the postseason at all. 218th is the land of the also rans.
Defensively things are a little better. Both KenPom and Torvik have Xavier ranked in the top 100, though both have them well below where the numbers show them with the preseason bias still in. KenPom’s raw numbers have Xavier with the 68th defense in the nation, Torvik has them at 56th. That’s not world beating, but it does go to show that the Musketeers offense has been what is holding them back so far.
Overall, the situation is grim. If you eliminate the preseason bias out of both ranking systems and adjust for Xavier’s leaden offense, the Musketeers are not anywhere near the solid bubble resume that they show. With just the season’s raw numbers factored for, Xavier is 112th in the KenPom and 113th in Torvik. Last year the teams that finished in those spots were Akron and Rhode Island. Neither played a postseason game. Xavier’s computer numbers look good on the surface, but the reality is currently very grim.
For our discussion on this and more, including the state of the Big East so far and why there is reason to think Xavier can get better, give a listen to our podcast here or on your favorite podcast app.