In terms of under-the-radar success, Xavier might be one of the most quietly impressive programs in both the Midwest and nation as a whole.
In eight years under Chris Mack, the Musketeers have had just one season with less than 23 wins and have qualified for the tournament seven times, reaching the Sweet 16 four of those times including on Saturday night.
After taking over following the departure of Sean Miller to Arizona, Mack has built up one of the best programs in the Midwest. But with a history that hardly deviates from Cincinnati, would Mack make the jump to Bloomington?
The near entirety of Mack’s life has been spent in Cincinnati. Despite being born in Cleveland, Mack grew up in the suburbs of Cincy and played high school basketball at St. Xavier.
After spending his first two years of college at Evansville, Mack transferred back to Xavier to finish his career. Immediately after graduating, Mack started coaching in the Cincinnati area at the high school level before taking an assistant job at Xavier.
Mack would take another trip away from Cincinnati, following Skip Prosser to Wake Forest from 2001 until 2004. Once Miller was hired on at Xavier, Mack returned as an assistant from 2004 until 2009 before taking the job after Miller’s departure.
Under Mack, Xavier has continually had one of the top offenses in the nation, like Crean. Unlike the former Indiana head coach, Mack’s offenses are not predicated on three-point shooting, but instead ball movement as his sides always rank high in assist figures.
Only once since taking over Xavier has Mack’s team been in the top 200 in the country in three-point distribution, meaning his sides don’t take many threes. Comparatively, since 2012 under Crean, Indiana’s has routinely not only been in the top 200, but inside the top 100.
Defensively, Mack has had a top-80 KenPom defense in each season since 2009, a stark contrast to Indiana under Crean.
Why he would be a good fit at Indiana
- Recruiting. Perhaps the strongest argument for Mack is his recruiting, especially within Indiana. This season, Mack has the 10th class nationally led by Indiana’s Paul Scruggs. In 2014, he landed the 14th-best class led by former Yogi Ferrell teammate Trevon Bluiett. He landed Darwin Davis out of Bloomington in 2011. Mack has done a good job of recruiting the state and, given the resources he’d have at Indiana, it’s hard to imagine it not carrying over.
- Sustained success. Mack has hardly wavered at Xavier. Save for one season when his team had a mass exodus, Mack has made the tournament every season.
Why he would be a bad fit at Indiana
- Would he leave Xavier? - Maybe it’s coincidence. Maybe not. But Mack seems entrenched in Cincinnati. Considering he grew up there, he has lifer written all over him. Would he make the jump back to Indiana?
- He’s never made it past the Sweet 16. Listen, it was one of the biggest criticisms lobbied against Crean and it’s one to lobby here. For all the sustained success he’s had, he’s never made it past the Sweet 16 at Xavier.