If you watch Xavier open the season with a less than comprehensive win over Robert Morris, you know they looked... well, they looked like a team with 10 new guys and nobody who had played together before. There was a reason for that.
No doubt that Coach Miller has his work cut out for him to mold this crew into the kind of team that can make a run in March, but the bottom line is that Xavier needed to go 1-0 and avoid an ugly loss and that's what they did. Whatever the next five(ish) months hold, this game isn't going to be a talking point when the resumes are read.
Some high-major teams weren't quite so lucky. Let's take a look at the power conference outfits that wet the bed the hardest in the season's first two days.
The entire Big Ten
Michigan State grabbed the headlines by falling to James Madison, but four Big Ten teams lost at least 10 positions in the KenPom. That's a slide that's really hard to accomplish at any point in the season, but especially with the preseason assumptions still backed in.
Northwestern was on defense up just 6 with a minute to play at home against KenPom #297 Binghamton; the Wildcats ended up having to win a buy game from the line. Ohio State did the same basic thing at home against KenPom #271 Oakland, not even taking the lead until there were under 10 minutes to play and finding themselves defending in a one-possession game with under 4 on the clock. They managed to execute just well enough from the line to escape with a win.
Rutgers went one worse and actually lost, albeit to a decent Princeton team on a neutral floor. The Scarlet Knights actually controlled about 28 minutes of the game, but in three separate four-minute stretches, they gave up 37-6 worth of total runs that kept the game out of reach for them.
It's vital for a conference's at-large hopes that their individual teams perform well in the non-con. The entire Big Ten lost out when what is surely 40% of their membership played poorly in their openers.
None of those teams dropped by more than 12 spots; OSU fell by 14. The Cowboys surely thought they could start the season with a walkover when hosting KenPom #169 Abilene Christian; instead they started the season by scoring 12 minutes in the first 11 minutes and went into the half down 11. The run you might expect never really came. It took them until there were 2 minutes left to cut it to a single possession, and they promptly failed to get a stop to give themselves a chance to tie. ACU finished the game from the line like they were the ones getting away with something.
Vandy's 17-place fall isn't the largest, but the way they did it might be the roughest. Hosting KenPom #315 Presbyterian - a team that went 3-27 against D1 opponents last year and hadn't won since December of 2022 - they were up 10 with 4 to play in the first half and looking comfortable. Then they fell apart. It was a 28-24 lead at the break and tied with 11+ to play. Vandy allowed a 13-1 run, got just 5 stops in those final 11 minutes, and did not have the ball with a chance to tie inside the final 10 minutes. Again, this was a buy game.
I know they technically won, but it cost them 30 places in the KenPom and any goodwill they had built with the fan base. They needed a furious fight back and a complete failure of clutch execution to escape a UMBC team that had a starter foul out in just five minutes. They've been awful since they canned Chris Mack and they will continue to be awful for at least the immediate future.
I said at the time that UConn's addition was the only thing that could keep DePaul from finishing 10th in the league, and I stand by that. They hosted KenPom #300 Purdue Fort Wayne and somehow escaped with a loss. Having come back from being down double digits in the first half, they looked like they were finally going to take control when a 16-2 run put them up 5 with 9 to play. Because they're DePaul, they then immediately gave up a 7-0 run.
To their credit, they responded with a 10-2 run of their own to lead 68-62 with just over 4 minutes left on the clock. They wouldn't be DePaul if the story ended there, though. They closed the game out by shooting 2-7 from the floor and committing 3 turnovers, neatly turning that 6-point lead into an 8-point loss, at home, against a miserable opponent. Great work, lads. That showing cost DePaul a staggering 53 spots in the KenPom.
So there you go, Xavier fans. No doubt our boys didn't bathe themselves in glory, but this season is going to be a work in progress. In the meantime, I hope this post does a little bit to help put things in perspective.