When Villanova played Connecticut last season, the games were billed as epic duels.

Tonight, Villanova (19-9 overall, 7-7 Big East Conference) will visit the Huskies (17-11, 6-8) in a conference game - the only meeting of the season for these unranked opponents - that probably will not be TiVo'd by the casual basketball fan.

But from Villanova's perspective, this contest looms just as large as last season's must-see games.

"It doesn't matter what records are," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "It's a big game when you play in Connecticut."

Villanova and Connecticut have qualified for the Big East tournament, but Villanova can't afford to lose to the Huskies while it sits on the bubble for an NCAA Tournament bid.

If Villanova wins its last two regular-season games - including Saturday's game against Syracuse - it will have gone 7-3 in its final stretch. If the Wildcats lose the next two, they will have finished their season's regular season at 5-5 - not so impressive to the tournament selection committee - and fallen short of winning 20 games.

While Wright acknowledges the cliche value, he said that every game for Villanova is "our biggest game."

"When the season is over, we'll look back and see what we did," he said.

Last February, Villanova, ranked No. 2 at the time, staged one of the team's greatest upsets by knocking down No. 1 Connecticut, 69-64, prompting a rush of fans onto the Wachovia Center floor. A few weeks later, the then-No. 3 Huskies returned the favor, beating Villanova in Storrs, Conn., 89-75.

Both games seem so long ago now it almost feels as if they were played by two different teams.

And they pretty much were.

Villanova looks like a bunch of old geezers compared to Connecticut.

The Wildcats play three seniors, but their roster is stacked with freshmen and sophomores. The Huskies have no seniors or juniors who play.

Lack of experience has hurt the Huskies more.

Wright is not buying that the Huskies are a write-off team.

The Huskies lead the conference in defense, holding opponents to an average of 36.7 percent shooting. They are tops in the nation at blocking shots at 8.7 per game.

Offensively, freshman guard Jerome Dyson has heated up, leading the Huskies in scoring in each of their last five games.

Contact staff writer Shannon Ryan at 215-854-5503 or sryan@phillynews.com.