When people start listing teams that deserve a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, immediately teams like Kentucky, Gonzaga, Duke, Virginia and even Wisconsin come to mind. However, there’s a team that deserves to be mentioned second or third on the list. That particular team is 26-2 and 13-2 in conference play.
Any idea who that team is? If you listened to this week’s Today’s U Podcast you know it’s No. 6 Villanova, which has won nine games in a row including three wins over ranked opponents at the time – Georgetown, Butler and Providence. Despite the 26 wins, Villanova doesn’t get talked about due to the lack of a star name on its roster.
However, the Wildcats do have three players averaging double-digit points, led by Darrun Hiliard’s 14.7 points per game. Joining Hilliard with over 10 points per game are Ryan Arcidiacono and JayVaughn Pinkston.
So, why does Villanova deserve a No. 1 seed outside of the 26-2 record? First off, the computers love the Wildcats. While the RPI is a fairly flawed system, it’s commonly brought up by the selection committee. Villanova currently sits fifth in the RPI while the Big East is rated as the second best conference behind the Big 12.
If you want to say Villanova has a weak schedule, you couldn’t be farther from the truth. According to KenPom, Villanova has the 42nd toughest schedule in the country, ahead of teams like Arizona, Gonzaga and Utah.
The two losses Villanova suffered aren’t terrible either. The Wildcats were blown out at Georgetown in a game the committee can forgive. The other loss came in overtime at Seton Hall, which looks like a bad loss as the Pirates go tumbling into a freefall. However, Wisconsin lost to Rutgers, Arizona has lost to Arizona State, Oregon State and UNLV while Duke lost by 16 at home to Miami. In terms of bad losses, Villanova wins that category.
There’s still plenty of time for Villanova to inflate its record. With three games left in the regular season – at Xavier, at Creighton and home against St. John’s – the Wildcats can get to 29-2 before the postseason. Once the Big East Tournament starts, there’s no doubt who the favorite will be and it’s not hard to imagine Villanova winning 15 straight games to close the season.
On the flip side, Wisconsin still has to play Michigan State at home and travel to Ohio State while Virginia goes to Syracuse and Louisville and Duke plays archrival North Carolina. The chances for a loss to happen are plenty for teams supposedly ahead of Villanova. Not to mention Virginia and Duke are guaranteed at least one more loss in the conference tournament.
So, while the Big East was starting to look like the next mid-major instead of a power conference, Villanova has helped flip the script on the conference. Thanks to a rise in talent by Georgetown, Butler, Xavier and Providence, there are plenty of quality wins now in the Big East.
So, when looking at bracket projections, don’t look past the small school from Philadelphia. The Wildcats should be the third team mentioned as a top seed after Kentucky and Gonzaga.