CINCINNATI -- Xavier came up with a pretty dramatic way to keep themselves motivated through tournament time: They carry around an "urn" filled with the ashes of the month of February.
"We sat in one of those infamous staff meetings and tried to figure out how to turn the page," coach Chris Mack told ESPN's Jeff Borzello. "Let's not just burn it. Let's keep the ashes, buy an urn."
Xavier has carried an ash-filled jar for weeks. It contains the month of February. And it explains why they're alive https://t.co/btzLzJwmy6
— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 22, 2017
February was kind of ugly for the Musketeers. The team entered February without point guard Edmond Sumner, who was after tearing his ACL against St. John's at Madison Square Garden.
What proceeded were losses against Villanova, at Providence, Marquette and Seton Hall. The team's Feb. 26 loss to Butler was their fifth straight loss, a low the muskies hadn't hit since the '80s.
But as far as Mack and the team is concerned, that's all dead and gone.
"We wanted our players to understand that February was over," Mack told ESPN.
The "urn" isn't actually an urn, Mack said. It's a glass jar from Walmart. The team gathered in the locker room, turned off the smoke detectors, and burned pieces of cardstock with the February schedule and scores written on them.
"It's played out well for us," Mack said.
Of course, that's an understatement.
The next day, Xavier lost to Marquette. But since then, Xavier's suffered only one loss (to Creighton). Thursday night, they upset Arizona for a spot in the Elite Eight.
— Xavier Basketball (@XavierMBB) March 24, 2017
If the team wins, they'll be the first Xavier men's basketball team to make the Final Four.
Xavier plays Gonzaga Saturday at 6:09 p.m. in San Jose. The game will be shown on TBS.
WCPO freelancer Shannon Russell contributed to this report.