STORRS, Conn. — Uncommon is the event that my energy rankings opens with a dateline, however I used to be within the constructing Wednesday evening for Xavier’s 82-79 win over UConn, a top-20 Large East affair.

So this week’s Hey Nineteen will begin there. 

What started as a Xavier bombardment led to a gripping Musketeers escape inside a bumping Gampel Pavilion, which at a couple of factors hit ear-splitting ranges after Connecticut managed to chop a 17-point second-half deficit right down to a one-possession sport.

“That was the loudest constructing I’ve ever been in,” Xavier affiliate head coach Adam Cohen advised me outdoors the workforce locker room after the win. 

Xavier led wire to wire, opening the sport 9-0 within the first 4 minutes, then bloating its result in 15 factors by halftime — a margin that will show pivotal after UConn made a few second-half pushes to deliver some much-needed drama to one of the best matchup of the evening in faculty basketball. 

UConn’s Jordan Hawkins had 28, the second-highest level whole of his profession. The truth is, if not for Huskies coach Dan Hurley calling timeout with 20.2 seconds to go, Hawkins would’ve gotten not less than 30. With Hawkins looking for house and Xavier up 80-77, Hurley had seen sufficient of the damaged play unfolding 15 ft in entrance of him. He referred to as timeout as Hawkins rose up for a 2-point shot. The try went in however did not rely. The Huskies missed their subsequent shot and Xavier held on. 

It was UConn’s sixth loss in eight video games. The Huskies have gone from 14-0 and No. 2 within the polls to 16-6 and sixth within the Large East (5-6). For all of UConn’s points — Andre Jackson’s inaccurate capturing; the dearth of manufacturing from bigs Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan on Wednesday; worries over bench gamers’ manufacturing scaling down; the weakening perimeter protection — Hurley wasn’t defeated after I spoke with him after the sport. 

“We are able to get this factor again on monitor,” Hurley advised CBS Sports activities. “We are able to win the Large East Match.”

I’ve spoken with Hurley after video games earlier than and seen him rather more annoyed and in determined need of solutions. This wasn’t that. He has confidence on this workforce, and regardless of UConn’s monthlong swoon, I agree with Hurley. Regardless of the place UConn is seeded within the league bracket at Madison Sq. Backyard, it is going to be a risk to beat all different groups. 

However Xavier will probably be favored to win that factor when all 11 groups convene in Manhattan in March. Sean Miller’s 17-4 Musketeers are one of many largest tales within the sport. Miller mentioned Wednesday’s win was his workforce’s better of the season, and it is onerous to argue (even with the house victory vs. Marquette). Xavier simply swept its season sequence with UConn for the primary time as Large East brethren. 

“They’ve a really, excellent workforce,” Miller mentioned of the Huskies. “Actually they’re onerous to beat right here. And the opposite a part of it’s, form of how the sport was. What number of instances do you see a workforce simply by no means be capable of recuperate within the second half? And we mounted ourselves about two or thrice, the place I am unsure each workforce is in a position to try this with what number of issues have been going nicely for them with the gang.”

Miller gave me an all-access take a look at Xavier in November on the PK85 occasion in Portland, Oregon. On Wednesday evening, he advised me his workforce has grown immensely from the one which went 1-2 in that occasion with a win over Florida and aggressive losses to Duke and Gonzaga.

“Desmond Claude and Jerome Hunter have actually develop into excellent gamers for us, Large East gamers,” Miller mentioned. “Souley (Boum) he is taken an enormous step, when it comes to his capturing and his efficiency.”

Boum, who got here by way of from UTEP, is likely one of the 5 finest transfers within the nation, averaging 16.8 factors, 5.0 assists and 4.1 rebounds. He is serving to information a workforce that’s elite offensively (fourth in factors per possession) and one massive pleased collective in the mean time. As I stood within the hallway within the bowels of Gampel Pavilion, Xavier gamers have been sporadically pouring out of the locker room and downright beaming. Goofing on one another, gassing one another up. Life’s grand once you’re 17-4 and alone atop the Large East. 

Miller’s made this all work instantly, and for a workforce that fell aside and missed final 12 months’s NCAAs. He appears like a person carrying much less on his psyche as nicely; in late December, he was cleared by the Unbiased Decision Panel of the IARP in its ruling on Arizona’s NCAA case from when he was coach of the Wildcats.

“Life is totally different, it truly is,” Miller advised CBS Sports activities. “It is totally different for my household. It is totally different for me. I actually can coach, you realize, since you like it. Coach gamers, plan follow. It is not straightforward when numerous different issues are taking place. So yeah, form of grateful that five-year-and-two-month time frame is closed.”

5 years, two months. A ridiculous period of time for anybody to await judgment in faculty sports activities, however that is how lengthy it took between the FBI case breaking in 2017 and Miller’s involvement within the matter lastly ending.  

Heading into this season, expectations for Xavier have been one thing like this: In all probability third-, fourth- or fifth-best workforce within the convention. Miller might get suspended a couple of video games, a cut price the varsity was greater than prepared to cope with. However above that, an NCAA Match displaying of any sort can be cherished after this system’s longest drought in a long time. 

Virtually three months into the season, the whole lot has shifted. Not solely is that this one of the best workforce within the Large East, it is rising right into a uncommon 12 months during which Xavier, among the best packages to by no means make a Ultimate 4, is molding itself right into a nationwide championship contender.

On account of its finest win of the season, the Muskies transfer up 5 spots on this week’s Hey Nineteen. Let’s get to the record. 

Hey Nineteen Energy Rankings

Reminder: My rankings aren’t solely about whom I feel is “finest.” It is a weekly encapsulation of the 19 hottest, most profitable and/or most *fascinating* groups, combining workforce high quality with win high quality but in addition having no disgrace for recency bias and rewarding important profitable streaks. All data proven are vs. D-I competitors.

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