Buh bye, Xavier.
That’s the only way we can react after seeing St. Louis dismantle the Musketeers in the second half, using a 22-2 run to open the second half and spark the Billikens to a 70-59 win over the Musketeers on Tuesday night.
Xavier is now 18-10 overall and 9-5, tied for third, in an Atlantic 10 that is looking more and more like a two-bid league. They have an RPI and an SOS over 50 and are without a notable road win since they came back from 10 down to beat Vanderbilt in overtime back on November 28th. That’s not going to get you into the NCAA Tournament.
The question that we now have to ask is whether or not Xavier was actually that good to begin with. Their two best wins on the season, the OT win at Vanderbilt and a three-point win at the Cintas Center against Purdue just five days later, were ugly performances that got masked by a tremendous comeback. How quickly we forgot that Xavier dug themselves a 19 point hole at home against a Purdue team that was far from impressive early in the season. If Tu Holloway hadn’t hit five fairly ridiculous threes late in those two games, Xavier never would have sniffed the top ten. That 23 point win against Cincinnati came at a point in the season where the Bearcats were losing games to the likes of Marshall and Presbyterian.
CBSSports.com columnist Jeff Goodman asked that very question after seeing Xavier get used as a mop at UMass last week:
They have the talent. In fact, I’d still say there are few — if any — backcourts that match up man-to-man with Holloway and Lyons. Frease has the natural and physical ability to earn a spot on an NBA roster — if he put his mind to it. Wells will be a star as soon as next season.
But take away The Fight and this group still lacks leadership and chemistry — two of the most important attributes of any championship-caliber team.
Personally, I believe that the fight had a lasting, damaging effect on the Xavier season. All you have to do is look at the way it changed Tu Holloway, on and off the court, to see that.
What I think is the fairer statement is that the leadership and chemistry that Xavier lacks made it that much more difficult for them to fight through the extenuating circumstances. And now that they have dug themselves this hole, the issues within their team are holding them back from climbing out of it.
Whatever the case may be, the one thing we can all agree on at this point is that, barring a the Atlantic 10’s automatic bid, Xavier appears destined for the NIT.