The No. 11 Xavier Musketeers have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, after defeating the No. 6 Maryland Terrapins and No. 3 Florida State Seminoles in the First and Second Rounds. Throughout the month of March, and during Xavier’s journey through the tournament, the Musketeers’ locker room has contained a jar of ashes filled with ashes from the month of February.
According to ESPN.com, Musketeers head coach Chris Mack wanted to come up with a way for his team to move on from the troublesome month, which featured a 3-5 record including a five-game losing streak, and losing starting Xavier guard Edmond Sumner for the season to an ACL tear.
So what did they come up with? Burning the calendar’s month of February, and putting the ashes from it in an urn. They had to compromise slightly on that last part.
“Let’s not just burn it. Let’s keep the ashes, buy an urn,” Mack told his staff.
The coaches went onto Walmart’s website looking for urns, something none of them had ever done. They sent graduate assistant Allen Payne out to the store to pick one up, but the one they wanted wasn’t available anymore. So they settled on a jar that wasn’t technically an urn, but it was glass, and you can see inside of it. It would suffice.
Mack then called a meeting with his players and gave them all a calendar of the month of February, that included the games and the scores from the month, including three losses back-to-back-to-back to bubble teams on the road. He then told them to write something private on the back of it — one thing each player was willing to sacrifice in the coming weeks for the greater good of the team. Then, the burning of the calendars began.
“We had a big aluminum trash can in the middle of the locker room,” Mack said. “We made sure all the smoke detectors and alarms were off. Everybody burned it.”
Ironically, Xavier lost to Marquette at home the very next day, but since that loss the team has gone 5-1, with a 75-73 loss to Creighton in the Big East Tournament Championship game. But the last two wins for the Musketeers were over higher seeds in the NCAA Tournament, including a blowout 91-66 win over No. 3 FSU.
It looks like for now, the jar of ashes is working for Xavier. The Musketeers will take on the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats on Thursday night in San Jose, Calif.