So, what are we to make of Villanova’s 19-point loss at West Virginia last Friday?
It happens. Just ask Louisville, which got clubbed at Notre Dame by 33. If you looked at Villanova’s schedule way back when, you would’ve circled the trip to Morgantown as a likely loss anyway. Just because. It’s hardly an easy place to play, especially at 9 on a weekend. That musket fire does get loud. Plus, the Wildcats had beaten West Virginia pretty good up here last year. And Bob Huggins had been building this game into the biggest thing since Jerry West left. So what transpired was almost expected. Especially since Dwayne Anderson’s hyperextended knee still wasn’t ready to go.
Look at it another way: The Wildcats had probably gone throught their toughest stretch of the regular season and came away 3-1, with two wins over nationally ranked opponents. Think Jay Wright would have taken that before it started?
Now, the thing his team has to do is take care of business, particularly at home. Chances are, they’re going to lose again before the Big East Tournament. The only question is how many. They’re off until Thursday, when they host Rutgers, a team that embarrassed them up there last season. Then they go to Syracuse, which will be out for some revenge from Feb. 7. There’s a trip to De Paul, which really stinks, followed by a game at the Center against Georgetown. The Wildcats, of course, nearly won in Washington a year ago. They go to Notre Dame after that, and close with Providence, another team they’ve already beaten, at the Pavilion.
So what’s it going to be? Can they finish 4-2? That would probably mean losing at Syracuse and ND. If the Wildcats don’t lose at home that’s the worst they can do, because they should be able to handle De Paul. Or maybe they’ll slip at home but win two on the road. Or perhaps they’ve got a 5-1 run left in them.
Barring something unforseen, it looks like they’re headed for a third game against Marquette in the Big East quarterfinals. But there’s a lot of basketballs to be dribbled before then, and projecting usually only gets you into trouble.
As for the postseason possibilities, I think Dick Jerardi covered it pretty well in Monday’s paper. The Wildcats probably have about a 50-50 chance of playing the opening weekend of the NCAAs in South Philly. And some of that obviously depends on what happens to other teams that are in that 2-3-4 seed range.
I know this much: The Villanova team that beat Pitt, Syracuse and Marquette in the span of 2 weeks was playing well enough to hang with just about anyone. If the Wildcats can play that way when mid-March arrives, it should make for another interesting Madness, for a program that’s been to the second weekend 3 of the last 4 years.
But who didn’t already know that?