So, about last night. Xavier didn’t look good. An optimist might say that Xavier looked like a team that scrapped to stay in a road game against a hot opponent and then made enough plays to win at the end. A pessimist might write the article I did last night.
DePaul is not a good team. Their best win this season is obviously Seton Hall. That makes them 1-6 in conference with a best non-conference win lingering in the Q3 range. Still, they were a Q2 win for Xavier, no matter how heavy the weather X made it. They also aren’t even close to the worst team that a good team has struggled with in a season.
Xavier has been to the Elite Eight three times. You might think that those teams steamrolled their way through the regular season on their way to March glory. No struggles with the conference doormat for them, no. But that’s not entirely the case.
2003-2004: Struggles with Duquesne
You read that correctly. Right in the midst of the The Run, an immortal stretch in Xavier’s history, the Musketeers lost to Duquesne. That wasn’t the first time that X lost to the Dukes that season either. Somehow, the Musketeers, replete with Lionel Chalmers, Romain Sato, and Justin Doellman, also lost to Ball State. All of those would have been Q3 losses in this day and age. Those are resume poison. They also weren’t an issue when Xavier beat #19 Texas, #14 Mississippi St, and #17 Texas in the KenPom in the tournament.
2007-2008: Charlie Coles
This Xavier team, their best ever according to some fans, scored 57 against Miami (Oh) and lost. Miami didn’t make the tournament that year, they actually lost by 16 to Tulsa in the first round of the NIT. X also beat #157 Saint Louis by two. Fans may have hung the coach in effigy on Myspace after that, but I don’t remember it.
2016-2017: Where to begin?
There was a one point OT win over a terrible Missouri team that finished 8-24, a three point win over Lehigh, horrendous first halves against UNI and DePaul that nearly caused losses, a six game losing streak, and a loss to a Colorado squad that lost on the road in the first round of the NIT. In short, there were plenty of reasons to be unhappy. At least there were, in retrospect all I can remember is a gleeful Malcolm Bernard.
This isn’t a guarantee that this team goes to the Elite Eight. Obviously, winning games comfortably is much better than squeaking by a bad team on the road. Xavier was shorthanded last night because Adam Kunkel and Dieonte Miles were both ill. Zach Freemantle struggled on defense. Paul Scruggs and Dwon Odom turned the ball over too much. Ultimately, though, X won the game. Those details will hopefully fade into the memory of another great March run. Can you remember who played badly back in those Duquesne losses? I surely don’t.