"We're never going to apologize for a road win."
That's how Travis Steele opened the postgame press conference last night. If there was any doubt as to whether or not he grasped how entirely gruesome the game was to watch, that line erased it. Xavier led the game for 2 minutes and 8 seconds. In the end, it was enough.
There were troubling developments aplenty for Xavier. Defensive rebounding was bad, ball security took a major step back (chiefly through Paul Scruggs), and Zach Freemantle's inability to contribute on defense is becoming untenable. This isn't an analysis of any of those things.
What it is is the observation that the result is king. It's Travis Steele's job to fix what we watched last night; it's the selection committee's job to tally the wins and losses and rate teams accordingly. X put one more data point in the correct column.
The Muskies also threw themselves a lifeline in the Big East. Marquette did at the Pavilion what they couldn't do at Cintas and completed a comeback, handing Nova their second conference loss of the season. According to Bart Torvik's numbers, X came into the night with an 11% chance at a share of the league title and came out of it with a 21% chance. If Justin Lewis's game-winning three is the one that rims out and Jalen Terry's falls, the league is dead and buried. Instead, Xavier still has a shot. Such are the margins these things are decided on in the Big East.
Xavier had a chance this week to take a major step towards solidifying their resume. The difference between sweating out Selection Sunday and playing for seeding can be measured in scraping out road wins against DePaul on nights you play like garbage. Xavier picked up a vital Q2 win (or .4 WAB, if that's more your speed) while underachieving for about 38 minutes. Now they ride to Marquette with the chance to punctuate a quietly massive week. The ugliness of this performance is irrelevant history almost immediately; by March, only the result will matter.