Villanova has one last chance before tourney to make good impression

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Villanova head coach Jay Wright, right, talks with a player in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Pittsburgh, Sunday, March 3, 2013, in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh won 73-64 in overtime. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

After failing to hold leads in the final minute of regulation in excruciating losses last week at Seton Hall and at Pittsburgh, Villanova gets one more chance to make a fresh regular-season impression on the committee that selects the teams for the NCAA tournament.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that to make that impression, the Wildcats will have to defeat fifth-ranked Georgetown, one of the nation’s hottest teams, Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Wildcats never trailed in the second half Sunday against the Panthers, who have moved up in the rankings to No. 20, yet still found a way to end the period tied at 57-57 when they couldn’t get a shot to the rim in two chances over the final 33.3 seconds.

Pitt dominated the overtime, leaving the Wildcats with an 18-12 record (9-8 in the Big East) and, most believe, barely on the NCAA bubble.

While Villanova fans, and maybe even some players, wonder if the team already has blown its chance for an NCAA bid, coach Jay Wright wants his players' focus on the game against the Hoyas.

“I know we’re going to have to deal with it,” Wright said. “But we don’t talk about it, don’t think about it. We just think about next game. At the end of the season, we look back and say, ‘What did we do? What were our accomplishments during the season? What were our failures?’

“But in the season, we want to stay in the mode of next game, just keep getting better. That’s the way we do it. It might work other ways, but that’s the way we do it.

“That’s why you can’t look at the ramifications at the end. We just can’t do that yet. Why do that and pass up the opportunity to learn from this and prepare for Wednesday? That’s why we do it.”

The Wildcats have a lot to prepare for.

The Hoyas (23-4, 13-3), who have clinched a bye into the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament, are on an 11-game winning streak. They have been sparked by sophomore forward Otto Porter, who won conference player of the week honors Monday for the third consecutive week.

The 6-foot-8 Porter, a leading candidate for national player of the year, averages 16.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. However, during Georgetown’s winning streak, he is scoring 19.7 points per game.

Should Villanova defeat the Hoyas, it will be its 10th Big East win, and teams with 10 wins over the life of the conference have made the NCAA tournament more than 94 percent of the time.

However, a loss means that the Wildcats almost would have to certainly win two games in the Big East tournament, or win one and not lose to a team ranked lower in the next round.

For now, though, Wright and his team will concentrate on Georgetown.

“We’ve got a big game Wednesday,” he said. “We’ve got to bounce back and prepare for the next game. That’s what a season’s all about. I thought we responded great from the Seton Hall game after a very tough loss. We had great practices. I thought we played well (against Pitt). We just didn’t execute down the stretch.”

--Joe Juliano

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