Xavier is going to play Houston next season. Go back 25 years and that sounds like two plucky mid-majors have scheduled a game that will be challenging for both of them and could really give someone a boost in the RPI. Now, it’s a matchup of Sweet 16 teams from power conferences on a night where only UConn v. Kansas will be drawing more eyes.
Houston finished second in KenPom this year, the second season in a row they have finished on the second step of the podium. The year before they were fifth. The Cougars are a serious contender for a national title each season they step on the court with Kelvin Sampson at the helm. He’s a good coach, they’re a program with money to spend. The combination makes them elite.
Another thing that makes them elite? Conference affiliation. This season, Houston romped through the American. The American is a mid-major conference that is being gutted by the big boys. To that end, the Cougars will be a Big 12 team when this game takes place. Houston is perennial tournament team, but they are dragging mid-major dead weight in UCF and Cincinnati along with them. Neither of those teams have made the tournament since the 2018-19 season.
“The Battle matchups are jointly determined by the two conferences.” The three big ones here are Texas at Marquette, UConn’s huge trip to Kansas, and the Xavier Houston matchup. The conferences clearly sat down with the intent of showcasing their best up against each other. That means that Texas Tech has to play in a barn and Iowa State gets the resume poison that is DePaul, but at least those teams got picked. UC and UCF, both new to the conference and not really adding any basketball value, aren’t playing in this clash.
The rest of Xavier’s schedule is some way off, but this is big news for the team. This will be a Quad 1 game when that sort of thing starts to matter, and a win over Houston is one of those things that has serious seed line implications. Xavier’s return to the big time shows in that when it is time to select marquee matchups, they’re one of the first teams off the board. Get those days off in early, this will be a good one.