Let’s start with the very simple: Xavier needs to start winning games. Close losses to Purdue, Houston, and Villanova may be encouraging, but all they are doing is burnishing an NIT resume right now. X is 53rd in the NET, 41st in KenPom, and 43rd in Torvik. They are the definition of a nearly there team right now.
53rd in the NET isn’t great. In fact, a team that finishes the season at 53rd in the NET is very, very unlikely to go to the NCAA tournament. There’s a silver lining here, though, in that this isn’t the day after Selection Sunday. (Sorry if you thought it was.) Xavier still has time to play their way into contention.
Let’s have a look at last year on January 7th. Sitting at 53rd were the Kent State Golden Flashes. They made it to the tournament, but on the back of an auto bid. 52nd, though, was another major conference team off to a start that wasn’t impressing anyone. Those MSU Spartans ended up in the Sweet 16. Arizona St (55th), Northwestern (57th), Penn State (64th), Pitt (68th), USC (74th), and Texas A&M (82nd) were all ranked lower than Xavier is now and still made the tournament as at-large teams.
You’ll note that those are mostly major conference teams. No mid-major stuck this low has the chances to make up ground without basically running the table. Xavier isn’t a mid-major, though. The Musketeers have a Q1 coming up on Wednesday. Then another one Saturday. Then a Q2. Then... ok, then it’s Georgetown. Still, you get the idea.
The Musketeers were thisclose to grabbing a Q1 nearly a week ago. They almost had Houston and ran Purdue close. They can get the games that they need and the opportunities are out there. All that separates Xavier from the tournament is execution. It’s possible, it’s not even terribly unlikely. Don’t despair, Musketeers fans, this can still happen.