One thing coaches truly value at the team level as much as anything: The inability to quit. An alternative to that idiom: The potential and desire to always come back. You can get a real sense of a team’s faculties if it can make a push on the road and overcome a huge deficit. Most teams lack this gene on a year-to-year basis.
So what happened in Winston-Salem on Tuesday night has to inspire Xavier’s coaching staff. The undefeated Musketeers extended the best start in school history (now 12-0) by roaring back from a 15-point halftime margin to whiplash Wake Forest 50-27 in the second half and fly home with a 78-70 win.
The Musketeers are ranked No. 6 in the country and are now being discussed as a Final Four contender. And rightfully so. This is the most surprising team in college hoops, all things considered. Yes, X was projected to be a top-three team in the Big East — but nobody saw 12-0 coming. How could you? It had never happened before.
Tuesday’s victory over Wake in the Skip Prosser Classic marks the first time in school history that Xavier has gone undefeated in nonconference play when it had more than 10 games scheduled prior to the league slate.
So let’s check in on coach Chris Mack.
Merry Christmas Xavier Nation! pic.twitter.com/DZDxpQWv1o
— Chris Mack (@CoachChrisMack) December 23, 2015
What’s superb about the Muskies has been the balance of the team amid the breakout campaign of freshman Edmond Sumner. Nobody, not even Mack, knew Sumner was going to be this good this fast. Sumner had 21 points and nine rebounds against the Demon Deacons.
His latest work:
He doesn’t need to be near the rim to make a highlight, either. Check it:
This is just filthy from Edmond Sumner. https://t.co/OahiNLLXDE
— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) December 23, 2015
Between Sumner, Trevon Bluiett, Jalen Reynolds, Myles Davis and J.P. Macura, Xavier’s developed one of the most balanced teams in the country. Top 15 in offensive efficiency and top 10 on defense.
With the team peaking, we get to see real challenges in the near-future, too. X starts Big East play with a road game against Villanova on New Year’s Eve and a home tilt against Butler on Jan. 2. The top three teams in the conference, all currently ranked, will get league play going with a bang.