For the third consecutive time, the NCAA tournament will tip off without the involvement of your Xavier Musketeers. The Selection Committee was kind enough to reveal their first four teams out; Xavier wasn’t included there, either.
This seemed to be an almost unthinkable outcome six weeks ago. At that point, Xavier was sputtering a little bit, but they were sporting 2.7 WAB and about to host DePaul in a game that should have posed little threat. It turned out to be a significant threat, and the tailspin was on.
Xavier has -0.9 WAB right now. They played like a team that wouldn’t be in consideration for any postseason tournament basically from the start of February to Selection Sunday. They lost from dominant winning positions in the second half a staggering 6 times in their final 14 games of the season; converting any one or two of those games would have me typing a preview right now instead of this weird post-mortem.
Xavier will probably get an invitation to the NIT. In this moment, I’ll be honest in saying that the opportunity to watch this team play again doesn’t seem like any sort of a prize. The dire performances we’ve been subjected to over the past couple of months as the same group of guys that constructed the promising opening portion of the season systematically dismantled it have been joyless to watch.
From here - regardless of if the season is done or staggers on in the NIT - the question on everyone’s mind will be what the future holds for head coach Travis Steele. He has presided over four of the weirdest years in college basketball history. He has been trying to rebuild from the foundation; Chris Mack left the program in absolute wreckage when he chased a retirement payday to Louisville.
Despite that mitigation, Steele’s stewardship of Xavier has led to possibly the worst four-year stretch since Tay Baker was moved along. Whether or not Steele follows in his footsteps is not my decision to make, but it’s one I’ll be following with great interest.