The latest in a recurring series of looks at Ohio college basketball teams and their standing in regard to the NCAA Tournament…
For Xavier fans, there’s a bit of good news to go along with the reality that the Musketeers currently have little shot of making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team.
With really big games against really good teams ahead, they can play their way closer.
Some team has to win what shapes up as a wild Atlantic-10 Tournament and automatic bid, too. And Xavier is playing well right now, having just stopped Memphis’ 18-game win streak Tuesday night.
Short of winning the auto bid, Xavier needs the wins to keep coming and needs a lot of help. With a record of 16-11 and an RPI of 89, the Muskeeters are outsiders. They’re closer to being on the bubble than they were a month ago but have lost to teams in a similar spot, and though they’re playing their best right now they have a lot of work to do to warrant much potential discussion from the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
They’ve played well in the beefed-up and rugged Atlantic 10 and boast impressive, tournament-resume wins over Memphis, Butler, Temple and LaSalle. It’s just going to be hard to overcome that four-game losing streak in December and early January that included a home loss to Wofford and road losses to Tennessee and Wake Forest. All the best wins, in and out of conference play, have come at home, too.
Xavier’s road/neutral record of 6-8 just isn’t good enough. A win at Butler next week and some Atlantic 10 Tournament wins could help that and would certainly help the RPI rise, but the Musketeers have lots of ground to cover and not a lot of games left to do it.
Xavier’s November win at Butler was a non-conference game, one scheduled before Butler’s move to the A-10. What Xavier needs to do now to get closer to the bubble and a potential at-large bid is beat UMass on Saturday, then beat the A-10’s hottest team, Saint Louis, on March 6, and win at Butler on March 9 in the regular-season finale.
That’s a really tall task. At 8-5 in conference, Xavier enters the home stretch in sixth place in the A-10 but just a game out of third place. The top four get first-round byes in the conference tournament, so that’s what the Musketeers are first chasing.
Considering what this team and roster went through last fall through December, both coach Chris Mack and his players should be commended for the way they’ve played in conference season and especially of late. To get to the NCAA Tournament, though, Xavier is either going to need to more big wins and a lot of help or to win the conference tournament.