Heading into the weekend of Feb. 10, Xavier looked to be in a pretty good spot.
The Musketeers were ranked in The Associated Press Top 25, had won four straight and stood at 8-3 in the Big East with a chance to knock off defending champion Villanova at home.
It’s all gone to hell since.
Marquette dominated play for long stretches and defeated the Musketeers, 95-84, on Wednesday at the Cintas Center, furthering Xavier’s spiral from Big East contender to bubble resident.
The Musketeers have now dropped six games in a row, and it hasn’t just been a result of an unfavorable schedule. They’ve lost three at home and three on the road. They’ve lost to conference heavyweights Villanova and Butler, and they’ve lost to second-tier squads like Providence, Seton Hall and the Golden Eagles (twice).
Xavier is still probably in the field at this very moment, but they’re fading fast.
Of course, a big piece of their downfall is the loss of Edmond Sumner to an ACL tear, though the Musketeers did win their next three games after the injury. Still, Sumner’s loss was always going to be felt sooner or later. He was averaging 15.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.3 assists at the time of the injury, and was critical in quarterbacking Xavier from the point guard position.
Losing Trevon Blueitt for two games during this losing streak certainly was a major blow, but the Musketeers have had four other chances with him in the lineup to shake free of this funk. X also only had senior Myles Davis for three games due to first a suspension and then his departure from the program.
Offense has often been a problem – especially 3-point shooting – but against Marquette, the defense faltered.
The Golden Eagles shot 61.1 percent overall and made 12 of 21 (57.1 percent) from 3-point range. Andrew Rowsey went for 20 while JaJuan Johnson had 19 and Katin Reinhardt 17. The 95 points allowed were the most allowed ever in the Cintas Center. Winning in Cincinnati was probably as much a boon for Marquette’s tourney hopes as it was a boondoggle for Xavier.
Before the loss, Xavier was 26th in the RPI, a metric which could be its saving grace. They’ve got eight wins against the RPI top-100 and just one loss outside the top-100. A loss this weekend at DePaul, RPI rank 231, should be avoided at all costs.
The Musketeers aren’t sunk yet, but they’re taking on water fast with fewer and fewer tools at their disposal to plug the leaks. They might just have to hope they stay afloat for just long enough to hear their name on Selection Sunday.