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The Big East is poised for a weird stretch run

Xavier is way behind in games played and isn't going to catch up. The last month of league play might be nuts.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at St. John
These guys might end up playing spoiler... or making a run for the top.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

When the Big East announced that it was adding league newcomer UConn, the conference schedule was expanded to a total of 20 games. When the ball next goes up for Xavier, they'll have 23 days to get in the final 14 games of Big East play.

That's obviously not going to happen.

Xavier has played just half a dozen Big East games so far; 6 teams in the league have played at least 13. According to the schedule on KenPom.com, Creighton is going to get all 20 games in and Seton Hall, St. John's, Butler, Providence, and Marquette will each get to 19. Xavier is currently scheduled to make it to 14.

The schedule as it is laid out right now presents Xavier with a golden opportunity to land a good draw in the Big East tournament that we're still planning will happen. The Muskies are projected by KenPom to finish the year at 9-5, 3rd in the league. Depending on tiebreakers and with the usual pandemic-related caveats, that would line Xavier up to take on likely one of Butler, Providence, or Marquette in the first round.

It's hardly that straightforward in real life. Pomeroy only gives Xavier more than a coin-toss chance at winning three of those games: home to DePaul (who was just in a one-possession game with Creighton with two minutes left), at Georgetown (who just beat Creighton), and home to Butler (who hasn't beaten anyone other than DePaul lately). Those are the "easy" games left, and they've tripped up solid teams in league play this season.

The rest of the games all fall between 47% and 55% in win probability for Xavier, which is just another way to say KenPom sees each one as a dog fight. Home to UConn this Saturday will be tough, especially if James Bouknight is back healthy and in form. St. John's on the Tuesday after will be a road game against a running team to cap off 3 games in 5 days for X. The Johnnie's have won their last 6, including a comprehensive thumping of Nova. Xavier last four games include three roadies and a home game with Creighton; tough tasks all.

There are no gaps in the schedule for Xavier, and only Thursday, February 17 and Thursday, March 4 offer chances to squeeze an extra game in without having to play on consecutive nights.

With 5 teams in the league on pace to miss at least four conference games - even if there are no more Covid pauses, which seems like a big assumption - and Big East flagship Nova looking like playing only 75% of its schedule, the conference leadership has to be feeling the pressure to make as many games as possible happen. The door is open for just about anyone to make a run at the top of the league, and we're poised for a crazy stretch run.