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  1. #1
    Supporting Member Xpectations's Avatar
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    Xavier's Recent History with THE BUBBLE

    I posted this on the 247 board and thought I'd share it here...

    X fans are salty we’re even close to being a bubble team this late in the season—on message boards, Twitter, Facebook, at home games, etc.

    Some have called for Steele’s firing. Some believe we’ve finally whiffed on a coaching hire—even though they were just as convinced that was the case with Miller and Mack.

    Those folks longed for the good old days under Mack. Ahhh, you remember, all those years we were a lock and didn’t have to worry about “the bubble.”

    I recall those seasons too. Except I didn’t remember how poorly I recalled them—until today.

    After all, it sure doesn’t currently feel like that in 4 of Mack’s final 7 seasons at the helm, Xavier ended the regular season in early March either dangerously teetering on the bubble to being likely to miss the NCAA Tournament completely. Did you remember that? Yeah, neither did I.

    Not only that, Mack was 100% responsible for every player on all of those rosters except for the first of those seasons (unless you also count Redford’s roster spot in 2013 as a redshirt senior).

    Despite my faulty recollection of thinking we had pretty much comfortably made the Tournament virtually every season—and believing that as February wound down, we weren’t concerned about our bid—Xavier was considered completely outside to nearly outside the bubble when each of the following regular seasons ended, prior to their conference tournaments:

    • 2012 – “The Brawl Year”
      Before the Shootout, Xavier had reached #8 in the AP Poll, a ranking they maintained after the Shootout. Within two weeks they had dropped out of the poll completely, losing three straight games to Oral Roberts, Long Beach St. and Hawaii. And the problem wasn’t just short term, as they continued to play inconsistently for the remainder of the year, ending regular season with a #60 Kenpom ranking. In March, when assessing Xavier’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament, Joe Lunardi said they were a “long shot”.

      Xavier went into the A-10 Tournament with work to do, beating a decent Dayton team and a very good (#14 KP) St. Louis team before losing the A-10 Final. They went from being considered on the wrong side of the bubble to being a 10-seed—going on to a Sweet 16 finish.

    • 2013 – “Post Tu, Kenny and Mark (and Dez)”
      Xavier lost a ton of talent after 2012. Tu and Kenny graduated. Mark Lyons transferred because he wasn’t going to play PG. And Dez was (wrongly) kicked out of school. However, Xavier had its first and only 5-star freshman coming in, Semaj Christon. Semaj was amazing, one of Xavier’s few stars as a freshman. Travis Taylor went from being a struggling junior PF transfer from a low major conference the year before to being named A-10 Third Team All Conference as a senior, and the conference's Most Improved Player of the Year.

      No doubt that team would have been much better with Dez. But whether he would have been enough to get the Muskies invited to The Dance is unknown, as their regular season KP ranking was #80, and their resume was still well outside of any consideration, and they played in no postseason tournament.

    • 2014 – “The Big East”
      Semaj was even better as a sophomore. Justin Martin had a breakout year. And Matt Stainbrook was a gift from the MAC, scoring and rebounding with high efficiency, and sporting an assist rate that was more in line with a PG than a C.

      Despite the improvements, Xavier remained at the bubble’s edge all season, and X’s fate was still uncertain at the end of the regular season. They beat Marquette in the 2nd round of the Big East Tournament and ended up with a 12-seed as one of the Last Four In. Marquette was only a decent team that season, had they lost that game, there’s a very real chance they would have missed the Tournament. They lost their Play-In game against NC State by 15 points, at Dayton. That marked the first time Xavier had not even made it to the First Round of the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons since the 2000-01 season.

    • 2017 – “A Disastrous Finish”
      Xavier legend and previous year’s leading scorer, Trevon Bluiett, was back for his junior season. So were Edmond Sumner, JP Macura and Sean O’Mara. Kaiser Gates took a nice step forward. And two freshmen—Quentin Goodin and Tyrique Jones—made nice contributions, combining for 9.3 pts, 5.1 reb and 3.7 ast. Malcolm Bernard, a grad transfer from a very low major school, came in and struggled early, but continuously progressed throughout the season. Unfortunately, Myles Davis was suspended and played a total of 34 minutes in 3 midseason games before getting permanently booted from the team.

      Even without Davis, X jumped out to a fast start, winning their first 7 games and were #7 in the AP Poll going into December. Sumner was hurt on and off early, but went down for the year with a devastating injury against St. John’s. However, Xavier won that game and the following three games before losing six consecutive games, each by double digits except one, in which they were beaten by nine points. Xavier snapped the losing streak by beating 183rd-ranked (KP) DePaul to close out the regular season. They were on shaky ground and really needed a signature win in the Big East Tournament, which they got by beating a 25th-ranked (KP) Butler team after also beating DePaul in the first round.


    So while it’s true Xavier would be in unusual territory if we missed the NCAA Tournament completely in two consecutive years, this season’s situation really isn’t that all that different than where we’ve been fairly often in recent years.

    In fact, from Matta’s final season in 2004 (our first Elite Eight year) through Mack’s final season, Xavier finished the regular season (pre-conference tournamment) on the bubble or worse in 7 of those 15 seasons: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017.

    It sure doesn’t feel like that though, especially when you consider that 2 of our 3 Elite Eights (2004 and 2017) were during those seasons, and one of our Sweet Sixteens (2012).
    "Xavier is Franciscan monkspeak for gonads."

    - Gregg Doyel on Twitter

  2. #2
    Senior Moderator xeus's Avatar
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    Great post xpec. Ugh, 2014.

  3. #3
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    It's funny what a few good runs in March can do to change your thoughts on the overall season. Hell, expectations with this team were soaring high after a really strong finish last year. I'd say there is a great coaching attribute to closing seasons out well but we know Mack didn't always have that..

  4. #4
    Supporting Member GIMMFD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xavier View Post
    It's funny what a few good runs in March can do to change your thoughts on the overall season. Hell, expectations with this team were soaring high after a really strong finish last year. I'd say there is a great coaching attribute to closing seasons out well but we know Mack didn't always have that..
    I definitely was in the group of "drinking the Kool Aid" after the way we finished last year, I knew we had a great recruiting class coming in, and figured the Core 4 would grow much more. The variable there was the Core 4 growth however, I think it's reasonable to assume that these guys were going to cut out the dumb turnovers becoming upperclassmen, that hasn't really happened. So it's kind of left us as fans frustrated, and wondering wtf is going on. Closing out a season strong is very important though, everybody knows you want to peak in March. With X playing well right now, it looks like we have the possibility of another good end to the season with Coach Steele, which I didn't expect to happen just like I didn't expect us to get it together last season.

    Ultimately, people calling for Coach Steele's head are ones that base themselves in instant gratification. Every single one of our coaches have gone through growing pains, but there are some bright spots in Coach Steele's ability to get something out of these guys. The thing is, he hasn't even had a roster strictly of guys he's recruited, yes he was on roster, but ultimately Mack brought those guys in as the head man. As Coach Steele grows into the head man role, he's going to be able to fill the roster with the style he wants to play, and firing before giving him a fair opportunity to do that is bad. A bad coaching hire can really screw over a program. Look at Pitt, once Dixon left they went downhill incredibly fast. The biggest thing I want to see is growth, this team is playing a little better (still too many turnovers and dumb mistakes) but they're getting wins which is important. I have full faith that Coach Steele and staff will keep X at a competitive level, and with their recruiting chops find a way to bust the door down to the Final 4 eventually.

  5. #5
    Supporting Member paulxu's Avatar
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    Good points all. And I would hope he recruits players that shoot a good % from the FT line.
    And don't have massive TO nights.
    All our starters average more TO's than assists; except Naji...who might as well join them since he leads the team in TO's per game at 3.1.
    ...he went up late, and I was already up there.

  6. #6
    When just one isnt enough X-band '01's Avatar
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    Thanks for the recap Xpectations.

    2015 wasn't exactly a picnic either - that was another bubblish team that had the good fortune of beating both Butler (#3) and Georgetown (#2) in the Big East Tournament before parlaying that into a 6 seed and eventual Sweet 16 team. Ever since Xavier lost to Marquette back in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, the only seasons where Xavier was completely safe all season were in 2016 and 2018. Neither one ended well.

    That was the senior where Matt Stainbrook was a senior, you also had James Farr, Jalen Reynolds and Dee Davis and also emerging freshmen Trevon Bluiett and Myles Fox Morrissey.

  7. #7
    Supporting Member noteggs's Avatar
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    Yes very nice post. Amazing how our memory works at times.

  8. #8
    Voice of Reason Masterofreality's Avatar
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    Fantastic post Expect!!
    #TwoThumbsUp
    "I Got CHAMPIONS in that Lockerroom!" -Stanley Burrell

  9. #9
    Supporting Member UCGRAD4X's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GIMMFD View Post
    I definitely was in the group of "drinking the Kool Aid" after the way we finished last year, I knew we had a great recruiting class coming in, and figured the Core 4 would grow much more. The variable there was the Core 4 growth however, I think it's reasonable to assume that these guys were going to cut out the dumb turnovers becoming upperclassmen, that hasn't really happened. So it's kind of left us as fans frustrated, and wondering wtf is going on. Closing out a season strong is very important though, everybody knows you want to peak in March. With X playing well right now, it looks like we have the possibility of another good end to the season with Coach Steele, which I didn't expect to happen just like I didn't expect us to get it together last season.

    Ultimately, people calling for Coach Steele's head are ones that base themselves in instant gratification. Every single one of our coaches have gone through growing pains, but there are some bright spots in Coach Steele's ability to get something out of these guys. The thing is, he hasn't even had a roster strictly of guys he's recruited, yes he was on roster, but ultimately Mack brought those guys in as the head man. As Coach Steele grows into the head man role, he's going to be able to fill the roster with the style he wants to play, and firing before giving him a fair opportunity to do that is bad. A bad coaching hire can really screw over a program. Look at Pitt, once Dixon left they went downhill incredibly fast. The biggest thing I want to see is growth, this team is playing a little better (still too many turnovers and dumb mistakes) but they're getting wins which is important. I have full faith that Coach Steele and staff will keep X at a competitive level, and with their recruiting chops find a way to bust the door down to the Final 4 eventually.
    Good points but I'm pretty sure most of those calling for firing Steele were doing so with tongue firmly in their cheek. Many were just venting frustration, exhibiting a 'knee jerk' reaction - but upon further mandatory reflection sessions knew that was not a realistic option for this particular team, for the next or for the program in general. I'm betting the (very few) who actually thought that was the answer either forgot a season is a lifetime, that a coach needs to balance working with the hand he has been dealt and putting a plan in place which will let newer players work into his framework for winning, and how a strong finish can help erase some of the early misfortunes (which is part of the too prominent instant gratification syndrome you mentioned).

    Most of us recognize that it is the players that are not performing up to expectations. Sure some of this might land in the HC's lap, but recognizing how there players have played, or misplayed in the past, and recognizing that difficult balance of the program transition, it is easy to see the common denominator.

    It's amazing what a little winning will cure. Look at the mood and tenor of the posts after a win compared to a loss. Xavier fans are very passionate (fanatics, if you will). That's ok. It just comes out a little ugly sometimes. Would we really want it any other way. Except for Snipe.
    You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning.

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