…to turn to college basketball for a moment.
I’ve somewhat purposely ignored my Villanova Wildcats this season. Initially I thought they were overrated. Granted, they did make the sweet 16 last year, before getting trounced by Kansas (correction: eventual National Champion Kansas), and had the nucleus returning this season. But they didn’t play anyone in the non-league schedule, and their only tough non-league game, was a loss against Texas.
Then I thought they were very overrated. I saw their Big East opener against Marquette by accident. It was on New Year’s Day, and I was waiting for the Rose Bowl to start. Nova couldn’t shoot from outside at all against the Warriors (er, Golden Eagles), and the Marquette players were bigger, faster, and better. Cats ended up losing by 9. They followed that by starting 2-3 in the league, and 0-4 against ranked teams.
But since a funny thing has happened. They beat a good Pittsburgh team by 10. They hung with UCONN at Storrs, losing by 6. They clobbered Syracuse this weekend. And they’ve managed to stay in the top 25 all season.
This week’s finds them #13 in both polls. They are 7-3 in the league, and of their 6 remaining games, 5 are very winnable:
tonight vs Marquette – the ol’ “Return the Favor” Game (20-3, 9-1 league)
2/13 at West Virginia (16-8, 5-6)
2/19 vs Rutgers (10-14, 1-10)
2/22 at Syracuse – the ol’ “Get the Favor Returned” Game (18-6, 6-5)
2/25 at Depaul (8-16, 0-11)
2/28 vs Georgetown (13-9, 4-7)
3/2 at Notre Dame (12-10, 3-7)
Granted, Georgetown and ND have disappointed this season but are very good teams, and the Mountaineers are always tough at home; but other than the almost assured loss in the Carrier Dome, Villanova quite possibly could finish the league season by winning 5 of their last 6 and have a 12-4 record overall in the league. That will clinch the #5 seed in the Big East tourney at a minimum, and probably get them a #4 or #5 seed in the NCAAs (depending on their Big East tourney finish).
So this is the first Villanova story of the season. Go Cats!