Over the last few days we have spent articles, tweets, and a podcast explaining the simple factual concept that there are no good losses. No one has ever built a tournament resume on going 1-3. In that avalanche of empirical analysis there was, naturally, some pessimism.
But all the news isn’t bad. Xavier did lose three games, but they lost them to three top 10 teams. The game they won was a solid Q2 that could rise to Q1 if Todd Golden can work some magic. Let’s take a break from the resume reality to look at the reasons why Xavier Nation should still be optimistic about this season.
This is the primary reason that Xavier fans have retained a positive outlook in a tough stretch. Travis Steele’s team unquestionably started last season better, but they had the lat season struggles of the previous years tempering expectations. That isn’t there this year. Sean Miller’s teams at Xavier tended to peak at the right time. Sean Miller coached national title contenders at Arizona. Sean Miller is the best tactical coach Xavier has ever had.
This turns into some In Sean We Trust nonsense that can blind people to the problems the team has now. The simple fact, though, is that Xavier has one of the top 20 coaches in the nation now. Even if that can sometimes get reductive, it’s a reason for hope.
Xavier has Jack Nunge, who just dominated Drew Timme, Zach Freemantle, who has owned the Big East when properly motivated, Souley Boum, who got Duke for 23, and the human firework known as Adam Kunkel. Oh, and a guy who may go in the first round of the NBA draft in Colby Jones. There are some real players here. X isn’t super deep, but neither is creme brulee. That doesn’t mean that what is there isn’t great.
Close losses do tell you something good
Listen to the podcast to learn how close losses impact the resume. Here’s the good news, though: close losses can tell you how good your team is on the court. Xavier played two national title contenders (Duke and Gonzaga) and darkhorse Final Four contender (Indiana) and lost by a grand total of 13 points. They played three of those six halves without Adam Kunkel, who is good for 11.5 points per game and has an offensive efficiency of 129.3.
After those performances, who in the nation do you think just walks away from Xavier? Maybe Purdue? Gonzaga is fourth in the Torvik and needed a four minute miracle of shot making to win. Duke is top 15 and needed the famous Duke whistle and horrendous games from Freemantle and Nunge. Indiana is 11th in the KenPom and had to pray an Adam Kunkel layup off the rim. X didn’t win those games, but they punched with the best in the nation. That’s a good thing.
There are chances left
X gets right on Wednesday with SE Louisiana, a team I swear I am not making up. West Virginia is tough but at home. UC is less tough. The Big East isn’t top to bottom great this year, but there are enough wins in there that if X can knock off the Mountaineers and go above .500 in conference, they’ll be dancing. Losses aren’t great, but the future still looks awfully good.