Lance McAlister

Lance McAlister

Lance McAlister covers everything in Cincinnati sports! Host of sports talk on Cincinnati News Radio 700WLW and ESPN 1530!Full Bio


The return of Xavier basketball

Photo: Getty Images

The return of Xavier basketball

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the return of Sean Miller to Xavier University.

365 days ago Xavier basketball also returned.

To understand all that Miller has accomplished since March 19, 2022 takes an understanding of how far Xavier basketball had fallen over the previous four seasons.

After making the tournament 16 of the previous 18 seasons, Xavier had missed the tournament four consecutive years prior to Miller's hiring.

XU basketball, the most consistent winner in the city over the last 40+ years, had become a shell of itself and a non-factor in March. 

XU had become a victim of slippage, coaching slippage. 

The four decade chain of successful coaching hires had finally been broken. After Bob Staak, Pete Gillen, Skip Prosser, Thad Matta, Sean Miller 1st time and Chris Mack it was bound to happen. 

In four seasons under Travis Steele, who is an incredibly nice guy and someone I wish the best at Miami, XU went 70-50.

Yea, XU kept winning under Steele, but it always felt like there should have been more, much more. More from the coach, more from the players.

In the four previous season, the Musketeers suffered years with 13-8-13-16 losses. They didn’t produce a winning Big East record over four consecutive seasons….posting three losing seasons and a .500 season: 8-11, 6-7, 8-10, 9-9. In that span, Xavier went 1-4 in Big East tournament games, losing their first game three times…..losing to Butler twice and DePaul once.

Too often it felt like Xavier was bound to lose the X & O match up over a 40 minute game. Too often you wondered who was in charge. Too often ‘team’ felt like individuals. 

Then, March 19, 2022, it became Miller time, again. He brought immediate credibility and experience. He's a winner with a steely eyed edge to him. He restored order and brought toughness back to Xavier. His presence demanded instant respect from players, opposing coaches and referees.

Yea, he returned with an NCAA infractions cloud over his head. But, whether his critics like it or not, that cloud is now clear skies and sunshine. 

Miller made on court and off court nonsense unacceptable. He raised the standard of what was previously expected, to what is now demanded.

He’s made players better. He made them prepared. He provided the ability to adjust on the fly and the confidence to win close games. 

This isn't breaking news. Anyone who knew basketball knew Miller would win again.

One year to the day, 365 days later, Miller has XU back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2017.

If he did this in one year, think of what Miller will do in the years to come.

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