It’s never too early for Bracketology! Now that the first month of the season has come to pass, tournament résumés are beginning to take shape. With Xavier already almost two-thirds of the way through their non-conference slate, it’s a good time to analyze how these games will help determine the Musketeers’ fate come Selection Sunday.
Just a quick refresher on the latest metrics that the NCAA uses. Last season, the NET replaced the RPI as the primary all-encompassing metric. Unfortunately, the NCAA has yet to release this season’s NET rating, so we’ll substitute Kenpom to determine what quadrant each game falls into. Without listing all of the exact parameters, remember that road wins skew more favorably than neutral court wins, which in turn skew more favorably than road wins.
*Teams Xavier has yet to play
Virtually Irrelevant: Likely Quad 4 wins
- Jacksonville (4-5, 254th in Kenpom)
- Siena (2-4, 191st)
- Lipscomb (2-4, 204th)
- *Green Bay (3-4, 206th)
- *Western Carolina (5-2, 163rd)
Of these, all but Jacksonville have a decent shot at being Quad 3 wins by the end of the season. Siena has perhaps the best small conference player in the country with guard Jalen Pickett and has lost a few very close games. Unlike the squads that Cincinnati schedules on a regular basis, none of these schools beyond Jacksonville will weigh down Xavier’s resume.
Not particularly significant: Likely Quad 3 wins
- Missouri State (3-5, 150th)
- vs. Towson (3-4, 147th)
For all of the possible Quad 4 wins that could turn into Quad 3 wins by the end of the season (and the adoption of a different metric), Missouri State is only 11 spots away from falling to a Quad 4 win. They were picked first in the solid Missouri Valley Conference, so they seem more likely to rise than fall. Towson is a pretty safe Q3 win at this point, as it’s resume is right in the middle of a neutral-court Q3 victory.
Solid wins/not terrible losses: Quad 2 Games
- Missouri (4-3, 43rd)
- vs. UConn (5-2, 53rd)
- *Cincinnati (5-2, 51st)
- *@ Wake Forest (5-3, 87th)
If UConn plays anywhere near the level it played against Xavier for the rest of the season, that win could easily become a Q1 victory by the end-of-the-season as the Huskies are three spots from boosting Xavier’s resume substantially. The fact that the Wake Forest game is somewhat near the threshold as a Q1 game shows the deficiencies of the system and its overvaluation of road games. The Demon Deacons are terrible, yet winning there would mean the same as beating Xavier at home.
The Big Ones: Quad 1 Games
- vs. Florida (6-2, 29th)
- *@ TCU (5-1, 49th)
That TCU game will be massive for Xavier’s resume. While the Musketeers resume is solid top-to-bottom, it might be Xavier’s only shot at a Q1 non-con win.
The good news is that Xavier will have plenty of opportunities to boost their Q1 win totals by March 15. Using KenPom as a guide, the Musketeers may have as many as 11 Q1 games in conference play, as every road game outside of St. John’s would qualify in addition to home games against Seton Hall (16th), Villanova (18th), and Butler (20th). That number might decrease as attrition strikes Georgetown and Butler faces a gauntlet of a non-conference schedule, but the Big East provides its members with plenty of opportunity for quality wins.
So what does all this mean for Xavier? For context, Marquette earned a No. 5 seed in last year’s tournament with a 10-5 record in Q1 games and a 6-3 record in Q2 games and a 249 record overall. With 17 of the Xavier’s 18 Big East games likely falling within the first two quadrants, Xavier has a good shot to finish with a similar profile.
Record: 3-4 (206th in KenPom of 353)
Head Coach: Linc Darner, 5th season (78-68 with NCAA Tournament appearance in 2015-16). Darner was a DII coach before taking over in Green Bay, leading Florida Southern to the 2014-15 DII National Championship.
Key Figures: Per Game, Rank of 353 Nationally (Xavier’s corresponding number)
PPG: 78.2, 43rd (72.4, 131st)
PAPG: 85.8, 343rd (61.4, 43rd)
3PT%: 38.5%, 38th (28.5%, 295th)
Possessions per game: 75.9, 51st (73.8, 107th)
Green Bay Phoenix Stats (All stats per game)
The Phoenix will have to live up to its name in a couple of years because this year’s team is extremely old. Every player playing decent minutes (an listed in the above) is a senior or junior, save for the freshman Davis and r-So. Chevalier.
Despite the experience, it’s been the youngest member of the rotation that’s stolen the show. Taken right from under Xavier’s nose, Davis (from the Dayton, OH area) broke into the starting line-up for the first time Saturday against Montana State and dropped 28 on the Bobcats. Despite being a 6’3” guard, Davis primarily gets his points by driving to the rim and has only attempted one three this season. While one would figure that he’d struggle against longer and more athletic competition, he was very efficient in games against both Purdue and Wisconsin earlier this season.
Travis Steele will likely try to kill the Phoenix down low and on the offensive boards. Schwartz is the only Green Bay player over 6’7” that plays more than 11 mpg, as a result the Phoenix rank near the bottom nationally at rebounding and block shots. Tyrique Jones likely records his 5th double-double of the season.
- Freshmen Kyky Tandy and Daniel Ramsey will both participate in the second game of their careers after debuting Saturday against Lipscomb. Tandy scored 5 points in 13 minutes, while Ramsey had one bucket in three minutes.
- While Xavier stills ranks near the bottom of DI in three-point percentage, senior guard Bryce Moore has been a consistent deep threat. Outside of an 0-3 performance against Florida, he’s hit at least one three in every game and went 3-6 against Lipscomb.
- Xavier’s 66.7% from the free throw isn’t great as it ranks 260th in the country. That’s largely due to the struggles of senior forward Tyrique Jones, who has gone 26-45 (57.8%) this season and attempted at least 12 more free throws than any other Musketeer. While Jones has struggled from the line throughout his career, this year’s percentage is just a tad below his career average as he had been continually improving and shot 64.1% from the line last season. Outside of a terrible game 7-15 performance against UCONN in the Charleston Classic, Jones’s FT% would be right in-line with last year’s improvement.
- Outside of Jones and senior guard Quentin Goodin, the Musketeers have shot free throws pretty well. Freshman forward Zach Freemantle, r-Jr. forward Jason Carter, and junior guard Paul Scruggs are all over 80%, while junior forward Naji Marshall is at 75.8%.
Time/Date: 7 p.m. Wednesday, December 4 at Cintas Center
While it’s tempting to say the Musketeers will be looking ahead to the Crosstown Shootout on Saturday, Green Bay just doesn’t seem like a team that can give the Musketeers much trouble. They don’t have much size, struggle rebounding, and generally defend well. Despite the defensive tendencies of this year’s Musketeers, they’ve played up-tempo and the Phoenix are a team that will try to outrun them. Xavier set a season-high point total against Lipscomb Saturday but they break it in a rout over Green Bay four days later. Take Xavier and whatever the over winds up being.
Xavier 92, Green Bay 65