Villanova in Philly for NCAA?

Among all the Division I schools in the Philadelphia area, only Villanova is a lock to make the NCAA basketball tournament at the moment. Wildcats fans would like nothing better to go with that invitation than a home date at the Wachovia Center when the city hosts first- and second-rounds games on March 19 and 21.

Our good friend Joe Lunardi over at ESPN. com -- a man who has made a living out of predicting the unpredictable -- doesn't think that's going to happen. At the moment, he has Villanova as a 3rd-seed in the tournament, but placed in the Midwest regional with opening games in Miami (which is pretty standard NCAA geography).

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Things could change, starting with Monday's game at Notre Dame, which can probably only hurt the Wildcats. They finish the regular season at home Thursday against Providence and the Big East tournament is next week in New York. A long run there -- or an unfortunately short one -- will affect the seeding, too. Villanova's conference tournament hopes would be helped by finishing among the top four in league standings, thus earning a bye to the Thursday quarterfinal round.

For that to happen, the Wildcats must win a tiebreaker with Marquette, if the two finish with identical records. The most logical path for that to happen is Villanova winning its final two conference games and Marquette splitting its final two, specifically with a loss Wednesday at Pittsburgh.

As for getting to the Wachovia Center in the first round, if Lunardi's seeding holds up, Nova would have to bump ahead of Wake Forest or perhaps Duke in the tournament committee's eyes. That might take a run to the Big East final and a good showing there. For now, it's all guesswork, but a home game doesn't seem that likely for Villanova.

In the current bracketology, the ACC and Big East lead the conferences with eight selections each, and 30 of the 34 at-large spots in the tournament will be going to schools from the "big six" conferences -- ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC. One of the exceptions is an at-large bid for an Atlantic 10 school, although at the moment it goes to Dayton, as a No. 9 seed.

Temple could have a good conference tournament run and jump into the mix. The Owls would probably have to make the championship to get a bid, however. As for St. Joe's and LaSalle, either would have to win the conference tournament and get the automatic bid to be in the NCAA this season. As least, that's the way it looks now.