Opinion: This is the year for Xavier to change perceptions

By: Brent Raines ~Sports Editor~

Most of the top programs in college basketball are known for particular defining achievements. Kentucky is the winningest program of all time. UCLA has the most titles. UNC has produced NBA stars such as Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Vince Carter.

Xavier’s greatest achievement is a little more complex.

Perhaps it is its ability to turn out great coaches? Ever since Pete Gillen elevated the program to where it sits today, coaches such as Skip Prosser, Thad Matta and Sean Miller have gone on to find great success with traditional power conference teams.

Maybe Xavier’s tournament success is its greatest accomplishment? Xavier has been to 13 of the last 15 NCAA Tournaments and made it to six Sweet Sixteens while there.

The strength of this year’s team, combined with the elevated prestige from being in the Big East, might make this Xavier’s best chance to change its narrative for the better and establish itself as one of the best programs in college basketball with no caveats.

The downside of being known for turning out great coaches is that Xavier had to replace coaches who left for bigger and better programs on a regular basis. Chris Mack represents the best chance at keeping a great coach. He’s the only one of those coaches listed who either is a Cincinnatian or attended the school.

Despite his ties to Xavier, Mack’s commitment has never been tested as no blue-blood program has made a move to make him their coach. Reportedly, he turned down an offer to coach Cal after the 2013-14 season, perhaps signaling that he will not make the lateral-at-best move that Matta did.

This offseason might be the first time he faces an offer he cannot refuse, as powers like Indiana, North Carolina and Louisville could all be looking for coaches. The last option is the most intriguing, since Louisville has the resources and support to make it as attractive as any job in the nation.

Due to the ongoing scandal, the highest-revenue team in the country might also have the desperation to make Mack a godfather offer, should they target him. If that’s the case, we may finally get to see if Xavier can keep a great coach as a power program should.

While Xavier has had consistent NCAA Tournament success over the years, it has yet to reach a Final Four. Mark Titus of the late Grantland.com shared national sentiment about the Musketeers last year when he wrote, “They always provide a few awesome spots but then get out of the way when it’s time for the big boys to take over.”

As Xavier’s highest-ranking team, this year’s squad has the chance to join the big boys in the finals of the big dance.

While it would take decades of sustained success until Xavier is as highly thought of as Kentucky, Kansas or Duke, this year’s squad might be the one to take the next step up the college basketball hierarchy.