CBSSports.com Bracketology expert Jerry Palm believes Xavier’s men’s basketball team has a “pretty good” chance of earning an NCAA tournament at-large bid as long as it takes care of business in its last six games. “They need to avoid bad losses, but they don’t really have a lot of them left on the schedule. It’s a pretty tough schedule,” Palm said Monday, hours after tabbing XU as a No. 9 seed in his latest mock bracket. “If they can beat DePaul and Seton Hall, they’ll be in pretty good shape. It would be nice if they beat a Creighton or a Villanova.” The one thing missing from the Musketeers’ resume, Palm said, is a quality road win. Xavier’s strongest win was over now-No. 7 Cincinnati, ranked 14th in the NCAA’s RPI, but that was on a neutral court. The Musketeers’ best true road victory came against an Alabama team rated 114th in the RPI. “Everything they’ve done, they’ve done at home,” Palm said. If the Musketeers defeat DePaul and Seton Hall and lose the rest of their regular-season contests – at Georgetown and St. John’s and at home versus No. 9 Villanova and No. 11 Creighton – that doesn’t necessarily mean a bid is out of reach. They might be sweating it out if they drop four of the six games, but so much can happen down the stretch that it’s impossible to analyze a team in a vacuum, Palm said. Beating the Hoyas or Red Storm would put Xavier in a more comfortable position. For now, XU (17-8, 7-5 Big East) is No. 41 in the RPI with four losses in its last six games. It’s 1-3 against opponents in the Top 50 and has a pair of bad losses, to Southern California and Seton Hall. That’s enough to land it on Palm’s “Bubble Watch” for teams on the brink. But again, Palm said, there are opportunities ahead. “The conference tournament is still there. There are still so many teams in the same position with a month to go,” Palm said. Of course, winning the conference tournament and claiming the Big East’s automatic bid would put the Musketeers in the Big Dance. Even a win or two at Madison Square Garden in March would enhance XU’s portfolio for the Selection Committee. Palm believes three to six Big East teams could land in the NCAA field on Selection Sunday. He has four in his current bracket: Villanova, Creighton, Xavier and Providence. ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi has Xavier as a 10-seed in his latest mock bracket and includes five Big East teams overall – the ones Palm lists, plus St. John’s.
Strong finish likely puts XU in tournament
Cincinnati Enquirer | Feb 18